Posts Tagged ‘Eldred Norman’

(SLSA)

A group of cars await the start of the New Years Day 1926 Light Car event at Sellicks Beach, 55 km from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is a photograph but almost painting like in its softness…

Many thanks to reader ‘hoodoog53’ for helping to identify the cars, drivers and date.

Competitors from the left are the #8 NA Goodman Ceirano N150, also in the shot below, then the PM Pederson Amilcar and HH Young, Amilcar Grand Sport’s, F Beasley’s Gwynne and D Dunstan, Austin 7.

‘Pederson, Young and Bowman made regular appearances on the sand at Sellicks and also on the local speedway tracks in the 1920’s. Pederson also broke the Broken Hill to Adelaide Speed Record in May 1925 using an earlier Grand Sport Amilcar.’

(Jennison)

Doug Gordon writes ‘I’m pretty sure this photo was taken on the same day in 1926- H Young racing the Grand Sport Amilcar with a small Amilcar roadster and motorcycle spectating on the sand’

The ever reliable Adelaide newspapers consistently provided the best local coverage of early Australian motorsport events in their state right into the post WW2 period in my opinion.

Adelaide’s ‘The Register’ reported the Twenty Mile Light Car Handicap- ‘Young won by about a mile. F Beasley’s Gwynne had a front tyre blow out at the north end of the beach, and the car skidded and overturned in the sea. The passenger (Miss Watt) was severely shaken and suffered a few bruises, while the driver was not injured. Miss Watt, when asked about how she felt, showed a sporting spirit by saying that her injuries did not matter if the car were all right.’

H Young Amilcar 1074cc, off 90 seconds, won the race from P Pederson Amilcar 1074cc off 50 seconds, then D Dunstan Austin 7 748cc, off 240 seconds. Other starters were F Beasley, Gwynne, 130 seconds and NA Goodman, Ceirano 1460cc off scratch.

‘Percy Pederson was the Service Manager and did the car demonstrations to customers at Drummonds, who held the Amilcar franchise in Adelaide’ wrote Amilcar GS owner and enthusiast Doug Gordon. ‘He was called upon to prepare Amilcars for competition and drive them for sales promotions. He used the same car in May 1925 to set a Broken Hill to Adelaide speed record. Anecdotally Pederson had these cars running at ridiculous compression ratios and burning methanol like the mororcycles- his job was to win, high demand for such cars was created by events such as these.’

Motorcycle racing or hill climbing first took place in the area on the rough road above the Victory Hotel on Sellicks Hill, in the early 1900’s but the activity was banned in 1913 as the sport was interfering with what was then the main arterial road from Adelaide to Cape Jervis.

The Victory Hotel is a mighty fine place for a meal by the way- and affords wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coast towards Aldinga Beach and beyond. Whilst being tour guide, and its all coming back to me, do suss the ‘Star of Greece’ at Willunga Beach, an Adelaide standard and make a day of it- you can have some fine food and wine at a McLaren Vale winery and within 20 minutes hit the beach at Aldinga or Sellicks for a swim. Not many places in the world you can do that, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Western Australia’s Margaret River regions duly noted.

The intrepid South Australian motorcyclists then turned their attention to the wide, hard expanses of the Sellicks Beach sand, the location was used either on the January Australia Day, Christmas and October Labour Day long weekends for time trials and racing continuously from 1913 to 1953 on a very simple ‘up and back’ circa 3 km course around drums at each end of the course.

During the 1930’s light aircraft also used the beach during raceday to provide joy flights for spectators- now that would have been something, to see the racing from the air!

Unknown and undated bike racer but the twenties feels good as an approximation (Advertiser)

 

Racing paraphernalia and truck at Sellicks, date unknown (K Ragless)

Sellicks attracted international attention for record breaking in 1925 when American rider Paul Anderson topped 125 mph over a half-mile aboard an eight-valve Indian taking ‘Australia’s One Way Speed Record’, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin reported in November 1925.

Whilst many of the Sellick’s bike meetings included an event or two for ‘Light Cars’ (read small cars), ‘…that trend started at the Gawler racetrack in April 1925, this comprised a demonstration or match race between the Pederson Amilcar and an Austin 7. The first Grand Sport Amilcars arrived by ship in Adelaide in October 1924, the bodywork on this car appears to have been hastily prepared for the Gawler match race, with the rear tail not yet painted. By the start of the beach racing season in 1926 Pederson had a new GS Amilcar ready to go with a beautiful, locally made polished aluminium body. The Austin 7 was driven by Jack Moyle who was better known for his exploits on an AJS 350 at the Isle of Man, so he had a lot of track experience. The Austin won but the lead changed a number of times and the spectators loved it’ said Gordon.

Percy Pederson Amilcar and Jack Moyle Austin 7, Gawler April 1925 (D Gordon)

‘As with Jack Moyle’s move from the AJS to the Austin from time to time, so it was to become a trend for ageing speedway motorcyclists to gradually transition to light-car racing with Fergusson, McGillvray and McLeod being others who moved from two to four wheels- in the case of these three riders to Amilcars.’

‘Amilcars were popular on dirt tracks and on beaches because they had no differential- just a locked rear axle that didn’t lose traction on loose surfaces. It is for this reason that Jack Brabham built his first speedcar using Amilcar axles, he wasn’t the only one to do it in the early development of Australian speedway midgets’ said Doug Gordon.

‘The trend to include light-cars at motorcycle events continued from that Gawler day with fields gradually increasing over the years- this led directly to cars racing at Sellicks.’

The first meeting exclusively for cars was organised by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia and took place on 10 October 1934.

Billed as the ‘Grand Opening Speed Meeting’ over the Labour Day long weekend the entry list included Ron Uffindell who later successfully contested the 1938 Australian Grand Prix at Mount Panorama, Bathurst- he finished the handicap event eighth in his Austin 7 Special- and drove the little car to Bathurst and back from his home in Adelaide.

Other stars of the day entered that pioneering weekend- it was actually the very first speed meeting organised by the wonderful SCCSA, included Ash Moulden, Tony Ohlmeyer, John Dutton, Judy Rackham, Ron Kennedy with Cec Warren making the long trip from Melbourne in his supercharged MG.

The ‘Bryant Special’ at the SCCSA’s Buckland Park Beach meeting in January 1935- it ran with engine troubles but still did good times and in one race lapped the course at more than 70 mph. If anyone has a clearer picture of this car it would be gratefully received (Advertiser)

The ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ estimated the crowd at 10,000 people, the largest ever to a Sellicks meeting at that point. Niggles included a late start due to a breakdown of the electrical timing gear and as a consequence a rising tide!

Whilst Ron Uffindell won the 20 Mile Handicap feature race, the sensation of the meeting was the twin-engined Essex Special which owner-driver Peter Hawker, variously named the ‘Bryant Special’, after its builder, or more fondly, the ‘Bungaree Bastard’- Bungaree being the name of his family’s sheep station (farm) first established in the north of South Australia by Hawker’s forebears in 1840.

Despite conceding 7 minutes 20 seconds to Uffindell, Hawker finished second only a few yards behind Ron’s little Austin 7. The Advertiser reported that ‘…whilst the beach only permitted a 2 mile straight, and in consequence (Hawker) had to negotiate nine hairpin turns in the race, he averaged more than 73 mph for the distance…reaching about 100 mph on the straights.’

‘The big car scared spectators badly when it developed severe front wheel patter…for a moment it appeared the car would get out of control as the front see-sawed rapidly, making the wheels wobble and lift six inches off the ground in quick succession…slowing down cured the problem with A Moulden coming third, within a hundred yards of the winner.’

This extraordinary special was built by Max Bryant at Clare together with Hawker in 1934 and had two Essex ‘L’ or ‘F’ head 2371cc/2930cc four-cylinder engines- both of which were rated at 55 bhp.

The car was raced by both Bryant and Hawker at Buckland Park Beach, Sellicks and the SCCSA’s first hillclimb at Newland Hill’s Waitpinga in 1935 (another great but dangerous beach not too far from Victor Harbor) before being sold to the incredible Eldred Norman who was very competitive in it. This intuitive engineer, racer, specials-builder and raconteur was to be a mainstay of Sellicks throughout the venues long existence.

(Norman)

Norman is shown above in his stripped 1920’s Lancia Dilambda- 4 litres of OHC V8 power at Sellicks in the mid-thirties- what became of it I wonder? Its said Eldred got his passion for V8 grunt from this machine.

In a February 1935 record breaking exercise for cars saw three members of the Adelaide Establishment tackle the Sellicks sand.

John Dutton achieved 92.34 mph in his Vauxhall 30/98 ‘Bloody Mary’, so named for its blood red duco.

It was a car which achieved local fame and notoriety in February 1936 when the young, wealthy racer was forced off the road whilst returning to his home by an oncoming drunk driver. The Vauxhall plunged 60 feet into the icy waters of Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake whilst the intrepid pilot watched his beloved car gurgle downwards from above- he had been thrown clear of it and clung to a tree on a cliff until rescued. Lets return to that amazing story towards the end of this article.

Warren Bonython extracted 76.49 mph from his little 748cc MG J2, ‘the first MG sportscar in South Australia’ whilst the ‘Bungaree Bastard’ topped 110 mph before a broken piston put an early end to Peter Hawker’s day.

Warren, John and Kym Bonython preparing for Warren’s record run at Sellicks in 1935- MG J2 (SCCSA)

I’m not sure how many meetings involving ‘bikes and cars took place down the decades but Rob Bartholomaeus’ research at the Sporting Car Club of South Australia library uncovered many programs and the newspaper reports are extensive for the best part of fifty years.

Rob recalls seeing Jack Brabham listed amongst the entrants for one of the early fifties meetings but a trawl through ‘Trove’ has not yielded any evidence that the great man actually raced at the venue in one of his Speedway Midgets or Coopers.

(B Buckle)

 

(B Buckle)

Two photographs above of MG T Types during a meeting in 1947- it’s summer, check out the people swimming in the shallows beyond the cars, not everyone was there for the racing! Bill Buckle, MG TA is in car #17.

The course was not without its challenges, whilst start times were of course programmed by the organising club, ultimately the elements determined things.

Officials arrived early in the morning and asessed the likely conditions for the day with the vagaries of the tide sometimes bringing an early end to proceedings- the position of the mile or more long course itself changed dependent upon the prevailing sand and other conditions, weather forecasting being not quite as sophisticated as it is today!

(D Gordon)

 

(D Gordon)

Proceedings were not as serious as today either, ‘…it appears to be have been very much a picnic atmosphere with wives and girlfriends in attendance showing off the ‘fashions of the field’ almost like a Melbourne Cup day. The article above focuses almost entirely on the girls fashions and nothing to do with the racing!’ Doug Gordon observes.

‘The casual drivers attire gives an idea that it was nothing like the professional racing we see today, certainly not in the sportscar ranks anyway. The group shot on the back of Don Cant’s MG TC is typical of a group of friends out for a fun picnic on the beach with racing to add a bit of excitement to the day.’

Don Cant in helmet and racing shorts, no socks and tennis shoes, Don Shinners in old school cap, Molly Foale on the tank, Jill Cant and Max Foale in togs ready for a dip (D Gordon)

 

(unattributed)

The photograph above appears to be during the 1950’s given the spectators cars, the panoramic view looking towards Myponga Beach gives us a bit of an idea of a spectators view back in the day.

(A Wright)

Harry Neale, above, during the Easter Monday meeting in 1950 driving Eldred Norman’s formidable Double Eight Special.

This extraordinary twin Ford sidevalve 239 cid Mercury V8 powered beastie based on a Dodge weapons carrier chassis must have been mighty quick out of the stop-go type corners with its prodigious 7800 cc of torque and 200 bhp’ish pushing it along the two straight bits. Putting the power to the ground even on the hard sand cannot have been easy, to say the least.

Click here for some information on this car;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/10/1950-australian-grand-prix-nuriootpa-south-australia/

In an interesting tangent it seems that the Bryant Special’s sale by Hawker to Norman in 1936/7 was precipitated by poor Peter contracting cancer, from which he died way too young shortly thereafter. Clearly Eldred Norman’s thinking in concepting the post-war Double Eight was influenced by the Bryant/Hawker machine he owned and raced earlier.

At this Easter Monday 1950 meeting the Double Eight was driven by speedway legend Harry Neale who was well in front of the pack when he lost control. Albert Ludgate wrote in ‘Cars’ magazine, ‘Before the crowd realised what was happening, the Ford was out of control and with a mighty splash charged into the sea. Such was the force of the water that the body was ripped off the chassis, leaving Harry sitting on the chassis, unhurt, but very wet.’

Turning to Eldred Norman, he was a larger than life character in every respect.

He once retrieved the telephone cables laid out for communication between officials at each end of the beach by fitting a bare wheel rim to the Double Eight’s rear axle, jacked up the car, fired it up, cracked open the throttle and post-haste reeled in a mile or so of line. The sheer efficiency of the process is to be admired even if modern O,H & S folks would be aghast at the dangers!

Hang on Harry. Neale in, or more particularly on the Double Eight at the South Australian Woodside road circuit in 1949. Look at that way back driving position- two engines to package of course! Note the big, heavy truck wheels and tyres (unattributed)

 

(D Cant)

Don Cant #7 and Steve Tillet In MG TC Spls with Eldred Norman just ahead, lapping them no doubt, in the Double Eight, 1952. In the later Sellicks years Norman also raced his Maserati 6CM and a Singer 1500 production tourer there, often with success.

During the same October 1952 meeting Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins’ Lancia Special leads Greg McEwin’s HRG around a drum which marks one of the two hairpin bends in the photo below.

(Advertiser)

All good things come to an end of course.

Mixed car and bike meetings were run until the local Willunga Council cried enough in 1953.

Sellicks was a long way from Adelaide in 1915 but a ‘lot closer’ by 1950 with the cities burgeoning population and mobility of its populace as car ownership grew exponentially post war- and most of those motorists wanted to use the beach for traditional aquatic pursuits not have them interrupted by motorsport.

The sport was changing more broadly in South Australia as well.

The state had a great tradition of road racing on closed public roads at Victor Harbor, Lobethal, Nuriootpa and Woodside but the death of a rider and spectator at Woodside in 1949 was a catalyst for the State Government banning road racing until the relevant act was repealed or amended to allow the Adelaide Grand Prix to be conducted on the city streets in the eighties.

In short, South Australia needed a permanent circuit, a role Sellicks could never of course fulfil. Initial work on putting this in place began with the incorporation of a company named Brooklyn Speedway (SA) Pty Ltd in August 1952.

Local racing heavyweights involved in the venture were determined not to let the sport die in South Australia included Steve Tillet, RF Angas, ES Wells, Keith Rilstone, TC Burford and of course Eldred Norman.

They soon secured a lease on 468 acres of flat salt-bush scrubby land at Port Wakefield on the Balaklava Road, 100 km from Adelaide.

Plans for a 1.3 mile circuit were drafted by Burford and circulated to the SCCSA and amongst drivers with the plans then modified and a circuit and support infrastructure built

The tracks first meeting was held on New Years Day 1953, star attractions included Melburnians Stan Jones in Maybach 1 and Lex Davison who brought over his Grand Prix Alfa Romeo P3. Lex rolled the car without injury only days before he and Jones jetted off to join Tony Gaze in Europe to contest the Monte Carlo Rally in a Holden 48-215.

Significantly, the circuit was the first permanent race-track constructed in Australia putting aside Speedways and appropriated airfields. South Australia had a new home for motor racing, hosting the 1955 AGP which was won by Jack Brabham’s self-built Cooper T40 Bristol ‘Bobtail’.

In more recent times their have been several ‘bike Sellicks re-enactments, the first in 1986 attracted over 40,000 spectators! and involved some racers who had run at the beach in period.

Eric Cossiche provided these photos from the February 2017 Levi Motorcycle Club run at Sellicks and commented that it was a bad move ‘salt and sand took forever to get sorted’ from the car, but fun no doubt!

Car is Eric Cossiche’s wonderful 1954 Wolseley Flying W Special (E Cossiche)

Postscript…

A couple of days after uploading this article Adelaide enthusiast/racer/historian Doug Gordon got in touch with some more photos and information which I have reproduced below- many thanks to him.

‘I have a particular interest in these early SA venues – Sellicks, Smithfield Speedway, Gawler Speedway (Racetrack), Lobethal, Woodside, Nuriootpa, Victor Harbor, Glen Ewin Hill Climb, etc.
Some are very hard to find information about – especially Smithfield Speedway (from October 1926- built and run by the Motor Cycle Club of SA) which was also one of the earliest speedway venues in the country and the first purpose built, but usually overlooked.
I have a couple of Grand Sport Amilcars and also own Don Cant’s MGTC from the photos you have. Don placed fourth on handicap in the AGP at Nuriootpa in 1950 and was also at Sellicks in October 1952, along with my Amilcar (driven by Max Foale).

(D Gordon)

The other interesting SA beach racing venue (for motorcycles) was Hardwicke Bay, about which I have found very little, except for speaking to the old locals (we have a place there) and a couple of photos from the community centre. I have a 1924 Douglas and have made contact with the Yorke Peninsula V & V Motorcycle Club and hope to find out more about Hardwicke in future – one of my buddies over there is trying to track down some more photos before the old fellows die out!
Hardwicke Bay racing – both official and “UN-official” (both on and OFF the beach, apparently – not too many cars on the roads back then- boys will be boys, went on for years, whilst the better-known venue at Sellicks was still going in Adelaide.
This was on a beautiful stretch of hard white sand stretching from Longbottoms Beach to Flahertys Beach (named after local landowners) for about 4 kilometers. I’m not exactly sure where the track layout was, but in many ways it was better than Sellicks and the boys from all over Yorkes would come down for it, along with the Adelaide mob. Possibly more a clubby arrangement with very little publicity!

Ready for the off at Hardwicke Bay (D Gordon)

Jake Cook at Hardwicke Bay in the 1930’s (D Gordon)

Boys looking pretty casual and ready for the off at Hardwicke Bay (D Gordon)

It is also widely known that not ALL the racing on Sellicks Beach was “officially sanctioned” events, but motorcycles pre-dated cars there by more than a decade. The early motor-cycle clubs invited “Light-Cars” in the mid-1920s, but the Sporting Car Club of SA did not invite motor-cycles after they started their car meetings in 1934.
The precedent for this was set at Gawler racetrack in April 1925, when the motor-cycle speedway invited an Austin-7 and an Amilcar to a match race on the turf track there. After this, Light Cars often appeared at motor-cycle racing events and speedway – principally at Sellicks and Smithfield, along with a few night trials and reliability trails. So these early venues were a critical link in the formation of motor sport in this SA as well as Australia as a whole.

(D Gordon)

Its also interesting that the Harley-Davidson MCC had their club-rooms high on the Sellicks cliffs overlooking the beach in the 1920s – known colloquially as “The ‘Arley ‘Ut”.
Note that both the Sellicks and Hardwicke venues were only used in the early months of summer from late October to February, owing to the tides going out further at these times to keep the sand exposed for most of the days. If tides came in too far, the racing had to be abandoned.
Eldred Norman was said to ease the big Double-V8 into very shallow water at times to cool off the brakes in the spray after serious fading following some panic stops at the hairpin bends at the end of each long straight! Later he fitted windscreen washer spray jets with push-button control to squirt the brakes when needed to provide the same effect in long road-races.
Sellicks IS a very special venue and it has been packed for the modern re-enactments run by the Levis Motorcycle club in recent times – bikes and riders come from every state. It’s huge and you have to get tickets pre-booked and paid through Venutix etc- there are only a limited number available and are sold-out in days! These events are now fully backed by local councils and environmentalists are (sort-of) OK with it, because no damage has been proven to result – Sellicks has a unique layer of pebbles just under the sand to keep the surface very stable, which is why it lasted so long and even into the present day.’

Etcetera: Sellicks…

(unattributed)

 

Bill Buckle’s MG TA during the 1947 meeting, the racer/businessman made the long trip from Sydney for the event, casual nature of the beach clear from this shot as is the importance of MG’s to Australian motor racing- and not just at Sellicks Beach.

 

(Levis)

 

Harry Cossiche getting ready to boogie in the 1930’s (E Cossiche)

 

(D Gordon)

The Don Cant and Steve Tillet MG TC’s hard at it during 1952. By the look of the soft sand in the foreground one needed to not stray too far up the beach- or down it.

Cars on beaches is a strongly entrenched Adelaide tradition- parking ones car on the beach before popping up the beach umbrella and knocking back a couple of tinnies continues to this day on some of their coastline, a practice very strange to we east-coasters.

 

(Norman)

Eldred Norman’s much modified Maserati 6CM chasing Tom Hawkes’ Allard J2 above at the first all-car Sellicks meeting post-war in October 1952.

Norman had a dim view of this car which was never very fast and had an insatiable appetite for pistons, inclusive of this race meeting!

 

(Jennison)

Etcetera: Mystery ‘Sellicks’ car…

John Alfred Jennison built this racer at his garage in Salisbury, South Australia, which sold and serviced Chevs in the twenties. The clever Engineer was later a pioneer of caravan construction in Australia.

The car raced at Sellicks in the late twenties but I can find nothing about its mechanical specification, in period race record or its ultimate fate.

It would be great to hear from any of you who may know something about it. Neat isn’t it?

(Jennison)

 

(ABC)

Etcetera: ‘Bloody Marys’ 300 foot Blue Lake plunge…

The story of John Dutton’s lucky escape from the seeming death of his Vauxhall in February 1936 is too good to leave alone and is well told by Kate Hill in this ABC South East’s ‘Friday Rewind’ published on 7 November 2014.

‘Wealthy young racing driver John Dutton owned a property on the outskirts of Mount Gambier when he purchased one of the last Vauxhalls produced in 1927, nicknamed ‘Bloody Mary’ for it’s blood red duco and known for its speed and racing pedigree.

In fact, Dutton and the Vauxhall landed the Australian National RC Speed Record over one mile on Sellicks Beach in February 1935 and he was booked to compete in the 1936 Australian Grand Prix with another car, a supercharged MG (he finished tenth)

The Mount Gambier resident used his cars for both competition and daily transport, frequently spotted at hill climbs and tearing the cars around country roads.

On the Blue Lake Aquifer Tours website, Linton Morris, who purchased the Vauxhall in 1993 obtained what he calls the most ‘accurate version of the incident’ in a letter from John Dutton’s younger brother Geoffrey.

Sometime after 2am one wet February morning, Dutton was driving the Vauxhall around the lake home, when a drunk man came around the tight bend on the wrong side of the road.

The Vauxhall was forced through a fence and tipped over the edge but luckily the seriously injured Dutton had been thrown out, landing some way down the cliff before his fall was stopped short by a tree.

Watching his beloved car plunge past him into the depths of the Blue Lake, John later told his brother Geoffrey how the car spun around in the water with the headlights still on, ‘leaving an eerie lemon light’ cutting through the murky water.

Dutton, clinging to life with severe internal injuries, was stretchered back up the cliff in a dangerous night operation by police and rescue services and taken to Mount Gambier Hospital.

(ABC)

 

The restored ex-Dutton Vauxhall 30/98 at its point of entry into the Blue Lake crater in 1958. Armco barrier more substantial than the 1936 variant and doubtless it is even more substantial now (SLSA-Arthur Studio)

There are varying reports of whether Mr AC MacMillan, the veterinary surgeon who caused the crash, drove straight to the Mount Gambier police station to report the crash, or as a later report suggests, simply drove into town and had another few beers at the Jens Hotel.

The Border Watch newspaper reported the sensational crash with the front page of next edition screaming: Racing car drives 300ft into Blue Lake – Driver’s miraculous escape from death.

With Dutton recovering in an Adelaide hospital, the city’s council was left with a problem – how to salvage the car from the city’s famous ‘bottomless’ water supply.

In fact it would be over 13 months before a plan of action was put into place, including construction of a pontoon to support the vehicle at the lake’s surface and a 10-tonne road roller to haul the car to the top.

A steel cable was attached to the rear springs of the car, which had been stripped of its wheels and bolted to wooden cross bars to stabilise the vehicle.

A huge crowd gathered around to watch the spectacle, which was not without incident.

A workman’s fingers were crushed after he was distracted by the crowds and his hand drawn under the steel rollers.

When the car reached the top, onlookers noted the clock inside had stopped at 2.40am, probably the exact time of the accident.

The Vauxhall was put on display at local garage May & Davis and became a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Believe it or not, after nearly a year underwater, the car went on to have a further racing career in Victoria and South Australia under a succession of owners.

Bought by Morris in 1993, the famous car that went into the Blue Lake has now been fully restored and lives a quiet life.’

(ABC)

Bibliography…

Adelaide Advertiser 11 October 1934/9 October 1954, Adelaide ‘The Register’ 2 January 1926, article by Tony Parkinson in the Spring 2014 issue of ‘Fleurieu Living’, Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’, ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ Eldred Norman threads, communique from Doug Gordon

Photo and other Credits…

State Library of South Australia, Rob Bartholomaeus, Arnold Wright, Ken Ragless, Sporting Car Club of South Australia, Don Cant Collection, Bill Buckle Collection, Doug Gordon, K Ragless, Jennison Family Collection, Norman Family Collection, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Eric Cossiche, Doug Gordon

Tailpieces: Sellicks Beach fuel depot ‘in period’ and the drivers view in 2019…

(unattributed)

 

(D Gordon)

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)

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

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…