Posts Tagged ‘Ford V8’

(Blackwood Times)

Osborne Scott ‘Ossie’ Cranston (1899 or 1903 – July 1, 1982) was one of Western Australia’s aces at a time Perth was a long way from the eastern seaboard (sic).

To race his Ford V8 Special in the December 26, 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix (the 1936 Australian Grand Prix) at Victor Harbor required shipping his car on the interstate passenger liner, the Manoora, on the Tuesday before the race, from Fremantle to Port Adelaide. A trip to Melbourne is a lot further and Sydney even more. So race-fans in the more populous states of the nascent country of Australia didn’t see many of the faster West Australian cars, despite their thriving motoring scene.

Cranston and passenger en-route to victory, Ford V8 in the 10 Mile race at Lake Perkolilli in 1936. Standard wheelbase, chassis and hubcaps! clear. Wearing his dealer hat, Cranston’s modifications trod a sensible path between performance and familial connection to Ford’s standard offerings on his dealership forecourt. It’s attractive, the fin and stylised V8 logo are neat touches which take the eye off that long wheelbase. Fast car indeed (Kalgoorlie Miner)
Osborne Scott Cranston in his mid-thirties, as the Sunday Times artist saw him in 1937

In that sense, Cranston’s Victor Harbor (correct spelling) achievement was a great one over the more fancied Bugatti T37As, MG K3s, Frank Kleinig’s Kirby Deering Special and Hudson Special (he raced the latter) and Jack Phillips’ Ford V8 Special. Not that Cranston won the race.

Australian Grands Prix, until the dawn of the 1950s, were handicap events given the shortage of racing cars spread across a huge space – Australia is a big joint, have a look at a map one day – and the vast disparity in performance between those cars. Cranston did the fastest elapsed time but finished sixth on handicap. Les Murphy won the 250 mile race in an MG P-Type. See here for a long epic on this race around a rectangular 7 4/5 mile, sandy-gravel course, between Victor Harbor and Port Elliot. ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ 26 December 1936 aka 1937 Australian Grand Prix…… | primotipo…

Cranston, Ford V8 Spl, Lake Perkolilli date unknown (unattributed via Graeme Cocks)
Arthur Colliver, Chrysler 70 ‘Silverwings’, Bugatti T37 driven by the Perth importer, Cyril Poole (or AN Other), Cranston in Ford T Heza-Henry and Jack Smith, Buick Spl, Lake Perkolilli 1927 (SLWA))

Cranston’s car started life as a 1935 model (1933 in some references) Ford V8 utility. It was then modified with a light racing body – the long tapered body with fin atop was fitted in 1935 – magneto ignition, competition exhaust manifold, flattened road springs and two Winfield carburettors in place of the single standard item. “Otherwise”, the ‘papers of the day reported, “the car is identical with the Ford V8s sold by Lynas Motors Ltd”, the Hay Street, Perth, Ford dealership of which Cranston was a partner/shareholder with V Lynas and J Victor Pascoe. Later fitted the with a ’36-model radiator, it was then erroneously and continuously called a ‘1936 car’.

I won’t repeat the successes of the car at Lake Perkolilli and other Western Australia venues already outlined in the opening image.

Cranston grew up in the comfortable surroundings of Swanbourne Beach. He began his working career as an apprentice mechanic with Grave and Dyer, working on Standard and Imperial cars. The business was Perth’s first Ford Dealer, over 15 years he rose through the ranks to become Works Manager. From there, Cranston was recruited by Ford as Works Superintendent of their assembly plant at North Fremantle. Later, he and his partners, former colleagues from Grave and Dyer, formed Lynas Motors Ltd.

Cranston with 3.5hp Triumph circa 1920 (Sunday Times)

In 1917 (or 1919) Ossie took up motorcycle racing, he won his first competitive race, the three-mile Charity Handicap at the WACA, riding a Triumph “in a brilliant performance for a novice.” He raced mainly on the grass tracks at Claremont Showground, Loton Park and on the road riding Indians and Triumphs for the Armstrong Cycle and Motor Agency. Six track/road championships followed, one “was recognised by Triumph in England with a gold medal and a particularly eulogistic letter of appreciation,” the Sunday Times wrote.

A large crash at Claremont in 1922 encouraged a shift to four-wheels. While still at Grave and Dwyer, he initially drove a Ford Model-T in hillclimbs, setting many fastest times in a car affectionately nicknamed ‘Heza Henry’. Hez had a hand-formed, torpedo-shaped rear which incorporated ‘guards for the road which were removed for competition work. It did 68mpg on the Perkolilli claypan in 1927.

With the introduction of the Model-A, Ossie built up ‘Cactus’. It had a less refined vinyl boat-tail body than Heza, from the dashboard back, two bucket seats and a fairing in front of the driver. Various engines were fitted along the way but the body was a constant.

Cranston in the Ford T-Spl Heza-Henry and JC Smith, Buick Spl, Lake Perkolilli 1927 (SLWA)
Ford A-Spl Cactus at Perkolilli, year unknown. Intrigued to know which of the Perth artisans built the various Cranston bodies (G Cocks Collection)

Well suited to hillclimbing but not so much Perkolilli’s long curves, he still finished third behind the Armstrong driven Auburn and Colliver Chrysler in the RACWA State 20 Mile Championship in 1929. He won the 10 Mile handicap that day too, claiming that the car was capable of 100mph. Cranston went one better in 1930 taking 10 Mile Lake Perkolilli State Championship.

The 3.3-litre, four cylinder, side-valve – for a while supercharged – engine had a range of modifications to the cylinder head, carburetors, intake and exhaust systems and a taller top (third) gear fitted to Ford’s coupe.

Further success ensued throughout 1931-32 at Whittakers Hill, North Dandalup, Lake Pinjar, Bunbury Beach, and Whittakers and Greenmount Hills. By late 1931 Cactus maxxed out at 89 mph to win the flying quarter-mile event at Wattle Grove.

In 1932 the Brooklands Speedway opened (on the West Subiaco aerodrome site), where Perry Lakes and the Uni WA sportsgrounds are today. Brooklyn had only a short commercial life, but Cranston – belted pretty hard by the handicappers – set a four-lap record for the one-mile, limestone track in 4 mins 38 secs in 1932, not too long before Cactus was retired.

Perth’s finest with their Bentley Speed Six’ (chassis LR2783 and LR2785) during their long period, 1930-1947, of service. Coachwork by Bryan’s Motor Body Works, 522A Hay Street, Perth, close to Lynas Motors. Cars extant, ‘Bentley Patrol’ is a whole story in itself! (WA Govt)
(The Daily News, September 21, 1933)

One of the more bizarre days of Cranston’s long life was a police invitation for he and Cactus to join a posse of cars to help catch some baddies in September 1933. Said crooks were committing smash and grab robberies in the country, then escaping in a stolen, fast, ‘high powered car’.

The police generals figured they needed more pursuit cars capable of in excess of 80mph, than their two 6.5-litre Bentley Speed Sixes. Yes folks, the WA police were the only wallopers on the planet to have these expensive blue-bloods as patrol cars. The plan was to create a cordon around Perth to chase down and catch the dirty-rats. So, some racers were recruited as Deputy Sherriffs including OS Cranston.

While Cactus wasn’t involved in a high speed chase, the four-perps (police talk I believe) ran off the road alongside where Cactus was parked, near the gate of the national park at Greenmount (23km east of Perth). They were arrested with a cache of stolen goods found close by.

In another bizarre, only-in-Australia moment, the handcuffed crooks were kept warm beside a fire lit by the coppers while Cranston high-tailed it back to Perth in Cactus. The Bentleys had radios, no other WA police cars did, Ossie’s mission was to give the good news to senior police and organise a patrol car to take the shaken, but warm robbers back to the city lock-up…

Sunday Times, June 30, 1935

By 1934 Cranston was quite the man about town too. In addition to his Lynas responsibilities he was a director of Rural Motors Ltd, Bunbury Motor Estates Ltd and General Investment Co Ltd, which provided consumer finance for Fords. He was also the director of several companies outside the motor trade.

Wearing his Lynas Motors hat Ossie travelled to ‘The Orient’ (is that term a no-no these days, one never hears it used?) in mid-1934. “Wherever you go you’ll see a Ford,” he quipped to the Perth Mirror on his return.

Cranston was amazed by the number of baby Fords in Singapore and amused that the first news he received in Ceylon was about the success of a small Ford in a local hillclimb. In Java he observed that cars were ancient, “the post Depression prices of sugar and rubber are low.”

Things were better in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Siam made the railways pay, “with no roads between the principal centres people are forced to use the trains!”

Asked about the new Datson (sic, the machine would have been the Datsun – Nissan – Type 13) car, “a new light job similar to the 7hp units with which we are all familiar, being built in Japan.” Cranston said “I didn’t see one on the trip. Agents have been appointed in various centres of the orient, but it’s unlikely any are expected in Australia.” Not for three decades or so, in any event!

The Daily News, November 19, 1935

In 1934 Cranston returned to racing with the Ford V8, setting a new Australian record at Perkolilli over 10 miles (16 kilometres) at an average speed of 97.61mph (157 km/h), and later a new State record of 111.1mph (178.8km/h) over a flying quarter-mile on Nicholson Road, Cannington, beating the record set in the Model-A.

After success in the South Australian Centenary Grand Prix, held at Victor Cranston told the Motorist and Wheelman that he was retiring from racing because he was “too old”.

Ford recognised his contribution to the sport and polishing the marque’s brand via his racing exploits over a long period with the presentation of a ‘gold wristlet’ at a function of dealers in Perth in April 1937.

His final motor racing event – just before the lights-went-out in WW2 – was the Patriotic Grand Prix, held on the Applecross streets of Perth in November 1940.

Following Cranston’s decision to retire, he sold the Ford V8 racer to Bathurst Ford dealer and 1920-30s intercity record breaker Norman Aubin. John Medley wrote that Aubin prepared the cream and green car for 27-year-old local driver, George Reed to race in the 1938 AGP held at Bathurst.

Reed’s race was brief as the big car spat its fan through the radiator early on. It would be interesting to know what the young driver thought of Cranston’s car. He was to build some very fine Ford V8 Specials of his own, including the George Reed Special Warwick Pratley raced to AGP victory around-the-houses at Narrogin, Western Australia in 1951.

The ’38 AGP was won by British international Peter Whitehead’s ERA B-Type. After that Easter meeting, Aubin sold it to a Sydney buyer, who repainted it red, but it never raced again.

Another report has it that the car was sold to an eastern states competitor who was killed in it at Bathurst. The engine was fitted to a speedboat and the chassis stored for a bit before being destroyed. Does anybody know the facts?

In 1983 Clem Dwyer started the build of a replica which remains a welcome competitor in historic events.

Cranston and passenger (who?) in the Ford V8 ahead of a Lagonda at Albany in 1936. This downhill stretch would have been a serious test of the brakes of the day (K Devine)
Ossie’s Ode to the Backmarkers. Perhaps Max Verstappen could try that approach in next March’ Albert Park programme (Albany GP programme)

Cranston hadn’t lost his passion for motorsport though. He had built ‘Miss Frances’, a Ford V8 powered speedboat which generally “spreadeagled rivals in much the same fashion as he had been doing for years on the terrain.”

“When not tied up with one or other of the multitudinous business matters which occupy his attention, Mt Cranston golfs, his one vice.” There was another though, with the encouragement of his wife he commenced horse riding at about 40. So keen and proficient was the Mosman Park resident, that he became Master of The Hounds for the West Australian Hunt Club.

Ossie remained involved and close to motorsport. An Ossie Cranston Trophy was contested in West Australian Sporting Car Club events for years, Cranston was a stalwart of the club, formed on November 17, 1929. Together with Eric Armstrong, CS Dyer and Claude McKinley he kept the very successful organisation together in some of its more difficult years.

Cranston was ‘the official driver’ at Caversham (first used on March 13, 1948) and into the 1970s at Wanneroo Park. He died on July 1, 1982 – born in either 1899 or 1903 – his remains are at the Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth.

PS; Most of this piece was written via extractions from period newspapers. Of their nature they are light-on with the specifications of the cars. If any of you can assist in that regard, or in fleshing out Ossie’s story, do get in touch.

Oopsie, a bit of PE from the front of the Gas Producers Stock Car grid before the start of the 4-lap 10-miler. Patriotic GP meeting, Applecross, on a hot November 11, 1940. Car ID’s folks? (K Devine)

Etcetera…

It’s a Gas

Pretty much the final motor race of any size in Australia before motorsport was set aside for the duration of World War 2 was the Patriotic GP, attended by a “huge crowd” at Applecross on November 11, 1940.

In his return to racing, Cranston ran a ’38 Ford in the novel, Producer Gas Race for stock, or standard cars. Ossie finished second in this handicap behind WJ Stitt’s De Soto straight-eight.

Interesting, perhaps – in the context of fuels of quite dissimilar quality, and the use of gas to power cars during the conflict – is the difference in performance between Ron Possetts’s petrol fuelled ’39 Ford V8, which won the stock (standard) car race and Ossie’s machine. Possett’s (rated a very good driver) best lap was 3 min 12 sec, and Cranston’s 3.44.

“The hilly course was a good test, the contest admirably fullfilled its purpose, which was to demonstrate that the sacrifice of performance made by the use of producer gas, is small,” wrote the South Western Advertiser.

The ‘Tisers’s journo continued, “A most interesting feature of Cranston’s car was that the ‘gas-works’ were all enclosed; producer, cleaners, pipes etc were all hidden, in the luggage trunk, beneath the bonnet or under the floorboards, and, except for cooling-louvres in the lid of the rear compartment, the big modern sedan had the appearance of a standard petrol model.”

All we need now is a happy-snap of the car, can anyone oblige?

Jack Phillips and Ted Parsons aboard their Ford V8 Spl during the 150-mile 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal, South Australia. They were third behind Allan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl s/c and Bob Lea-Wright’s Terraplane Spl (N Howard)

Top Gun?

Looking at the performance of Ossie’s car, it has to be a contender for fastest-best Australian Ford V8 racer in that pre-war period?

Jack K Phillips’ similar machine (above) has to be in the mix too. He too was a Ford dealer, in Wangaratta, Victoria. Yep, I’ve heard of Black Bess, while built pre-war, Whiteford didn’t get her performing well until after the conflict.

The Cranston and Phillips cars were Special Ford V8s rather than Ford V8 Specials. That is they were modified Fords, rather than a concoction of parts of various makes powered by modified Ford V8s.

I’m interested to hear from those of you who know about such things, which car was the quickest-best Ford V8, and quickest-best Ford V8 Spl pre-war?

Cranston and passenger on the hop – he did fastest race time remember – during the South Australian Centenary aka AGP at Victor Harbor in December 1936, Ford V8 Spl. #25 is the H Abbott, Austin 7 Spl s/c (SLWA)

1936 Australian Grand Prix

I’ve got my great mate, Tony Johns, to thank for the wonderful loss of a couple of days researching this piece.

During his weekly State Library of Victoria research visitations, Tony came upon a snippet about the Light Car Club’s endeavours to run the 1936 AGP on a road course at Mornington, then a quiet, seaside village, 70km from Melbourne.

The Phillip Island road course which hosted the AGP from 1928-1935 was on-the-nose given its dangerous nature for cars of less than 2-litres, let alone the unlimited cars which should also have been included in the fun.

I’ll get to Mornington in due course.

There was no AGP called, promoted and run as such during 1936. The December 26, 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix was later appropriated as an AGP – I’ve no issue with that – but the nincompoop(s) who did so, determined that a race held in 1936 was the 1937 Australian Grand Prix. WTF etc.

I’m on a one-man crusade to right this wrong, that is, the 1936 AGP event was the one at Victor. There was no AGP called, promoted and run as such in 1937 either. If we want to anoint one significant race held in 1937 as a part of the pantheon of AGP’s I’ve an open mind, send me your ideas and justifications…See here; 1936 Australian Grand Prix, Victor Harbour… | primotipo…

Anyway, in Troving (Trove is a digital record of Oz newspapers) with search-words like ‘Mornington 1936 Australian Grand Prix’, up popped the article which starts this piece. I’ve very much enjoyed writing it, knowing little about Mr Cranston and his achievements two days ago…

(R Bartholomaeus)

Port Victor

The poor old South Australians can’t make their minds up about Victor Harbor.

We Australians adopted the Pom’s version of English on the basis that as they invented it they should have half-a-clue about how stuff should be spelt.

Despite that, the township of Victor Harbor, rather than Victor Harbour, was proclaimed in 1914, for reasons almost as obscure as those related to the year in which the 1936 AGP was held.

Clearly the author of the South Australian Centenary meeting programme was confused too. Despite the race being held in Victor Harbor, the event was contested, seemingly, on the Port Elliott-Victor Harbour Circuit.

Credits…

The Blackwood Times, Friday January 15, 1937, Sunday Times Perth June 30, 1935, Mirror Perth July 7, 1934, Kalgoorlie Miner, various many other newspapers via Trove, ‘Cactus-Work in Progress’ Graeme Cocks, State Library of WA, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Ken Devine Collection, vintagebentleys.org, Norman Howard, Rob Bartholomaeus Collection, Bob King

(Recorder, Port Pirie, February 21, 1938)

Tailpiece…

When you’ve spent a good chunk of your annual capex-budget on a couple of Bentleys, the Perth Polizia PR department worked the local papers hard to ensure the Bentley Patrol bagged as much of the crime-solution-limelight as possible, however tenuous the connection between the misdemeanor and WO’s finest.

Doubtless the lissom Subiaco lass slept easy knowing the Bentleys were prowling the streets with as much stealth as Merv the Perve…

Finito…

‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ race, Lobethal 1939 (SLSA)

The first official ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ was held at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales on 1 February 1960, the one race title was famously won by David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 3.4.

I wonder whether the first Australian Touring Car Championship is not that ‘Official’ as in CAMS sanctioned event at all- but rather the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ race held during the January 2 1939 Australian Grand Prix meeting at Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills won by Tom Bradey’s Singer Bantam?…

The racing of ‘run-what-you-brung’ production cars goes all the way back to the dawn of racing in Australia- to Intercontinental City to City record breaking, the ‘Car Trials’ run out of major towns and the speed events held within them, on dirt ‘speedways’ and ‘Around the Houses’ racing in Western Australia.

‘Stock Car’ or touring car racing at Applecross, Perth during the 1940 Patriotic GP meeting- the Bill Smith Humber chases a Chevrolet (K Devine)

 

Steamin’: More Applecross action, gas producers Stock Car race!, with one competitor boiling on the line, magic shot (K Devine)

The Monday 2 January Lobethal 1939 AGP event program comprised a 10.45am ‘curtain-raiser’- the 75 mile South Australian Grand Prix, and then ‘an innovation, the Australian Stock Car Road Championship, in which all manner of stock car models, from sedans to tourers, and small engine roadsters have been entered’ over 50 miles held at 1pm. Finally the blue riband Australian Grand Prix contested over 150 miles of the ultra challenging, dangerous, demanding Lobethal road circuit commenced at 2.30pm.

These races, consistent with Australian motor racing practice well into the sixties were run to handicaps- I’m not suggesting that all races into the sixties were handicaps, but some were. The last handicap AGP was the 1948 Point Cook, Melbourne race won by Frank Pratt’s BMW 328.

The entry for the Lobethal stock car title race was diverse and comprised, as suggested above both ‘touring cars’ and ‘sports cars’. This too was the case in Australia until well into the fifties, ‘Sportscars were still seen as a natural part of a production car field, although the arrival of the Jaguar XK120 tended to stretch the friendship’…’The combination of sports and sedan cars to make up production car fields plus the frequent resort to handicapping, meant there were very few predictable winners amongst the touring cars of the early 1950s…’according to HATCC (The Official History of The Australian Touring Car Championship).

John Snow in his Hudson 8, a roadie as well as a car he competed in- inclusive of hillclimbs and at Mt Panorama, Bathurst (N Howard)

The ‘Geoghegans, Brocks and Lowndes’ of that 1939 day were Frank Kleinig in Bill McIntyre’s Hudson 8 and the similarly equipped John Snow, with Jock McKinnon, J McGowan and Ted Parsons in Ford V8’s. In amongst the ‘heavy metal’ were cars such as the Austin 8 raced by local ace of that marque Ron Uffindell, K Brooks’ Wolseley, D Hutton in a Morris 8/40 and Tom Bradey in a Singer 9 Bantam.

The sportscars comprised MG T Types of Owen Dibbs and S Osborne, the MG ‘Tiger’ of Selwyn Haig and the fast Jaguar SS100 of G Brownsworth- he was off scratch as were Kleinig and Snow, the latter two blokes aces in the ‘Grand Prix’ machinery also racing that day. The winner of the AGP was Allan Tomlinson, the prodigiously quick and superbly prepared Perth ace aboard a supercharged MG TA, a wonderful story for another time. Soon actually, it’s completed.

G Brownsworth Jaguar SS100 (B King)

The Adelaide Advertiser’s reporter was not particularly impressed with the touring cars in practice. ‘The entrants in the Australian Stock Car Championship had trouble at almost all of the corners on the course, as the cars, not built for racing, swayed and threatened to overturn with the heavy loading imposed on the bodies imposed by the racing speeds’.

Despite that, Kleinig lapped in 7:32 min/secs, Snow 7:35 and Phillips in 7:45- by way of comparison the lap record was held by Lobethal-Meister Alf Barrett in a 2.3 litre supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo Monza in 5:41- so in relative terms they were not too shabby.

Perhaps modern comparisons are instructive. The F1 lap record at Albert Park is Schumacher’s 2004 Ferrari time of 1:24.125, the V8 Supercars record is Scott McLaughlin’s Ford FG X Falcon’s 1:54.6016. Kleinig’s time as a percentage of Barrett’s is 73%, McLaughlin’s of Schumacher’s is 80%- and so it should be, the V8 Supercar is a racer whilst the Hudson 8 was very much a production car. The point is that the relative production lap time of the Hudson relative to a Grand Prix car of the period is not too bad at all.

Lobethal crowd taking in the stock car race 1939 (SLSA)

The Advertiser reported the race as follows…

‘Chief interest in the Australian stock car championship centred on the possibility of J McKinnon Ford V8 (3 mins) catching the leader, TM Bradey who was off 11 minutes in the little four cylinder Singer. The speed of the race was very slow in comparison to the SA Grand Prix’ the Advertiser’s reporter ‘Differential’ observed.

Bradey went into the lead from the Uffindell Austin 8 on the third time around with Hutton, Morris 8/40 a long way back in third. Brook’s Wolseley, Mrs Jacques MG T (Owen Gibbs driver) and the Osborne MG T retired at Kayannie after about three laps each, and McKinnon and Parsons in Ford V8’s moved up into fourth and fifth places respectively’.

Jock McKinnon’s second placed Ford V8, his handicap was 3 minutes (unattributed)

 

Ron Uffindell’s Austin 8 placing is unclear but he had a good weekend winning the South Australian GP in his Austin 7 Spl (B King)

‘Brownsworth with his low-slung racing type car (Jaguar SS100) was the best of the scratch men, and he left them to chase the other five. Lapping consistently at more than 70 miles an hour he moved up several places in successive laps and was gradually overhauling the leaders.

Bradey, however maintained his lead to the finish’.

Tom Bradey was a motor mechanic from Barmera in South Australia’s Riverland, he and his mechanic, Charlie Sheppard, who owned the car, towed it the 200 Km to Lobethal.

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard on their way to a Lobethal Oz Stock Car Championship win’ locally bodied Singer Bantam (unattributed)

 

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard after their historic win, Singer 9 Bantam. It is fair to say that the (non-championship) Group A Touring Car race held as a support event at the first Adelaide F1 GP held just down the road in 1985 was a higher profile race than this one! (J Redwood)

In a weekend of surprises for the Bradey family, James Redwood, Tom’s grandson wrote that ‘Uncles Peter and Don Bradey say he may not have told his wife (my grandmother) the whole truth about about his intention to race at Lobethal’.

‘Tom had set off with the family under the assumption that he was part of the support crew. The race was broadcast on the radio and it wasn’t until mention of Bradey on the call that the family realised he was the driver’.

Bradey returned to Lobethal the following year and raced a Bugatti Brescia in the 1940 ‘South Australian 100′, but failed to finish the race won by Jack Phillips’ Ford V8 Spl. Years later, in 1958, he bought the ex-Bira/Colin Dunne MG K3 which won the Junior GP at Lobethal in Colin’s hands in 1938 and failed to start the ’39 AGP that weekend with engine troubles. Many Australian enthusiasts will recall the Bradeys ownership and use of the K3 for decades.

In a nice bit of symmetry, Tom Bradey was approached by a North Adelaide man with the offer of sale of a Singer 9 in similar specification to his winning 1939 title car, that car passed to James Redwood in 1972 and in restored condition is still used regularly- the Bradey family-Singer connection lives on.

D Hutton’s fifth place Morris 8/40 (B King)

Race Results

1st TM Bradey Singer 9 Bantam in an actual race time of 54:08 minutes. 2nd J McKinnon Ford V8 . 3rd Ted Parsons Ford V8. 4th G Brownsworth Jaguar SS. 5th DE Hutton Morris 8/40.

The placings below Hutton are unrecorded in both the Advertiser’s contemporary race report published on 3 January 1939 and in more modern reference sources. The fastest lap fell to Brownsworth- 7 min 27 sec at ‘just over 71 miles an hour’.

Most results listings of the race have Jack Phillips as the driver of the third placed Ford V8. Whilst entered by him the car was raced by Ted Parsons according to The Advertiser. Jack and Ted were partners in a Ford service and sales agency at Wangaratta in northern Victoria.

Phillips drove, and Parsons was riding mechanic in the Ford V8 Special the pair owned and raced so successfully in this period- inclusive of third place in the AGP held later in the day and wins at the Interstate Grand Prix at Wirlinga, Albury that March and in the 1940 South Australian 100 at Lobethal.

It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade that scorching hot South Australian day- perhaps Phillips made a late call early in the sweltering weekend to preserve his energies for the AGP which immediately followed the stock car race, and allowed his partner to race in the support event.

Phillips was one of the aces of the period, it does make you wonder what Jack could have done with the car had he been the driver- and also whether Parsons raced with Phillips’ handicap, which would have been tougher than that applied to him given his level of racing experience, or whether he was given a different handicap.

I wonder if the Ford V8 raced by Parsons was off the Phillips/Parsons dealership floor in Wangaratta or supplied to them by FoMoCo?!

Surely this isn’t the first factory racing Ford entered in an Australian Touring (Stock) Car Championship race?! Harry Firth where are you?

Jack Phillips and Ted Parsons, Ford V8 Spl during the ’39 AGP. No doubt Parsons was a tad weary when he climbed into the the Big Henry’s passenger seat after his 3rd place in the Stock Car Championship race which preceded this event (N Howard)

The interesting thing is why the Lobethal race isn’t regarded as the first Australian Touring Car Championship given both the race’s name- the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’, the ‘national’ entry list (Victoria, NSW and SA?) and that the race was run in a manner consistent with common practice right through to the end of the late-fifties- that is, a mix of touring and sports cars in a handicap event…

The ‘HATCC’ devotes several paragraphs to the race in its introduction but the emphasis of that part of the book is more about the rules of the time, ‘the race (the 1939 Lobe race) the programme explained was “open to standard touring or sportscars fitted with standard equipment and operating on standard first-grade fuel. The only alterations allowed will be raised compression ratio and alterations to the suspension in the interests of safety. In some cases, alterations to the suspension will be insisted upon”.

Then the much respected authors of the book moved on to a discussion about racing after the war.

Selwyn Haig’s MG ‘Tiger’, placing uncertain (B King)

 

Tom Bradey’s Singer being rounded up by Frank Kleinig’s Kleinig 8 Spl during the 1939 Lobethal weekend. This is Kleinig’s outright Hudson 8 MG chassis special he raced in the AGP, not the road car in which he contested the stock car race (J Redwood)

 

Bradey and Sheppard again (J Redwood)

 

Surely you missed the point blokes?!

Which was or is a debate about the merits of Lobethal as the first Australian Touring Car Championship race rather than Gnoo Blas- which held the CAMS created ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ title race under the then new ‘Appendix J’ rules which commenced on 1 January 1960.

It is intriguing that HATCC authors Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson and David Greenhalgh didn’t debate the topic in their book’s introduction, in the early 2000’s Australian Motor Racing History was being re-written after all…

The honour of the first Australian Grand Prix was reallocated from the 31 March 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’, a race for cars of under 2 litres held on the original, rectangular, 6.5 mile gravel road course at Phillip Island, to the 15 January 1927 ‘Australian Grand Prix’, a six lap, 6 miles and a bit race between two cars around an oval, dirt, 1 mile 75 yards horse racing course at Goulburn, NSW’s second largest city.

To be clear, the Phillip Island event was two races, the cars split into classes based on engine capacity, consisting of a total of seventeen starters from several states, with the quickest time winning- Captain Arthur Waite in an Austin 7 s/c was famously the victor. The Goulburn contest was amongst seven competitors from New South Wales- two heats and then a final amongst the quickest pair over 6 laps- the victor was local racer, Geoff Meredith in a Bugatti T30.

My point is that if the attribution of ‘the first’ AGP can be reallocated on such debatable grounds- that the two-contestant Goulburn 6 minute 14.8 second race is an AGP in name only- then surely it is far from tenuous to assert that the first ATCC was the 2 January 1939 Lobethal race amongst competitors from two or three states won by Tom Bradey’s Singer 9 Bantam over 50 miles of the toughest ever race track in Australia, to rules or practices of the time which prevailed until the end of 1959?

Don’t get me wrong, I agree- just, depending upon the number of Coopers ‘Reds’ consumed on the night, that the first AGP is the 1927 Goulburn race, but it is very easy to argue the other way given the entire nature of the event other than its name.

1939 Lobethal program (S Dalton)

John Blanden in his 1981 ‘A History of The Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ writes in his introductory comments about the Lobethal meeting that ‘Immediately preceding the Australian Grand Prix were two other events, the 75 mile South Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Stock Car Championship which in later years would have had the title of Australian Touring Car Championship’.

Whilst on this jolly I rather suspect that had a Ford V8 won the Lobe race there would have been agitation from Ford/Ford fans/enthusiasts/historians to appropriate the 1939 championship as their first ATCC win but given the victor was a Singer- a long gone marque, there has been no such pressure applied.

Then of course there is my conspiracy theory, there always has to be one of those surely!?

The CAMS view of the world started with their existence in 1953, with all due respect to the serious historians spread across the CAMS Historic Commission, what happened in the past pre-1953 does not matter to the CAMS mainstream hierachy much.

‘The Official 50 Year History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ published in 2011 to celebrate 50 years of the ATCC from the 1960 Gnoo Blas race has CAMS fingerprints all over it.

A CAMS promo banner appears on the cover, a Foreword by V8 Supercars CEO Martin Whitaker tells how wonderful that mob are and there is a second Foreword from CAMS President Andrew Papadopoulos (don’t mention Formula 4 folks, I did once and I think I got away with it…) ole’ Papa points out in his homily that ‘The ATCC is the second longest running national touring car championship in the world…’, include the ’39 Lobethal event and you have the oldest in the world matey…

I can’t help but wonder that even if the HATCC authors thought their was merit in recognising the 1939 Lobethal race as the first such title, and I’m not saying that is what they think/thought- I rather suspect the CAMS view is that the ATCC started with ‘their’ title in 1960- the ‘Official’ one, whereas the Lobethal race wasn’t an ‘Official’ championship but rather a concoction of the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, the organisers of the Lobethal meeting and is therefore ‘Unofficial’ rather than ‘Official’.

So, there you go, it’s all a CAMS conspiracy not to recognise Lobethal 1939 as it suits their dialogue and view of the world not to- even if the recognition of ’39 would make ’em the big swingin’ dicks of the touring car world by instantly giving them the oldest such title on the planet.

But let’s move on from CAMS, it’s always best to move on from CAMS. Quickly and with plenty of distance.

(S Dalton)

It’s just as easy to come up with reasons why the Lobethal meeting isn’t and wasn’t the first ATCC of course.

Just like a good lawyer, I can argue the case either way depending upon who is paying me the most. And no, I am not a lawyer, I’m not cursed by the misplaced sense of superiority which afflicts those poor souls.

So here are the arguments against Lobe ’39 first ATCC recognition, and rebuttals in relation thereto.

1.The race wasn’t called ‘The Australian Touring Car Championship’, if it wasn’t literally called just that, it doesn’t count as that.

Rebuttal.

Well yep, ya got me sunshine.

However, in Australia we happily call the 1928 ‘100 Miles Road Race’ at Phillip Island the 1928 AGP and the 26 December 1936 ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’ the 1937 AGP (WTF, LOL, go figure etc) so calling the ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ the ‘Australian Touring Car Championship’ is consistent with our flexibility in flicking around titles as and when it suits us.

2.A 50 mile race isn’t championship distance.

Rebuttal.

Bugger off! The ’61 and ’63 ATCC’s at Lowood and Mallala were both 50 miles and they were tracks for ‘girl guides’ compared with the rigours and perils of Lobethal.

3.Thirteen starters isn’t championship numbers.

Rebuttal.

Nah not really. Longford in ’62 only had only 14 cars and Sandown in ’65 only had 18- far fewer per head of population than Lobethal managed in ’39.

4. It wasn’t a touring car race with all those lid-less cars?!

Rebuttal.

Well, sorta, maybe but not really. Since 1960 the ATCC has been held to numerous sets of rules- Appendix J, Group C, Group A, V8 Supercars etc. In 1939 touring cars included those with lids, what we now call a convertible and sportscars. ATCC rules have evolved over time, what happened in 1939 is consistent with changes along the journey made by CAMS.

CAMS get confused every now and then too, about individual cars- for example, the Porsche 911, which most of us call a GT Coupe was ATCC eligible for a couple of years, then became a Sports Sedan and another two or so years later a Production Sportscar. Dimensionally during that period the car didn’t change but CAMS view of it did. Go figure. Don’t actually, because you will never figure it.

5.But Lobe was a handicap race, come on, surely not?!

Rebuttal.

Yeah, well maybe. But what is the difference between the class structure used for 20 years or so to give everybody a fair go and handicaps? Don’t even talk about CAMS rule changes here and there in every other year as their tummies were tickled by the politically powerful to create ‘equalisation’ or ‘parity’ between cars. Good try but that argument doesn’t knock us out of the ring either.

6. You are just trying to knock off the ‘first’ ATCC from New South Wales and give it to those undeserving South Australians.

Rebuttal.

I’m no more thieving a race from you mob than theft of the first AGP from the poor, smug, self righteous Victorians! My motives are as pure as any Canberra politicians.

Here endeth the diatribe.

And so my friends, I put it to you that the one race, 50 mile 1939 Lobethal ‘Australian Stock Car Road Championship’ contested by thirteen or so cars and won by Tom Bradey’s Singer Bantam are indeed the first ATCC champion driver and car- official or otherwise.

As many of you know I am not in the slightest bit interested in touring car racing of any sort so my impartiality in relation to all of this is absolute.

Let’s hear your views!

In the meantime i look forward to a reprint of the ‘History of The Australian Touring Car Championship’ and a letter from CAMS in confirmation forthwith…

Tom Bradey and Charlie Sheppard, Singer 9 Bantam, Lobethal 1939 (B King)

 

Bob Lea-Wright and Jack Kennedy on lap 30, on the way to a 1934 AGP win, they had their difficulties as the car was jammed in top gear for much of the race (S Aspinall)

Etcetera: Singer in Australia…

The marque is largely unknown in Australia today but had plenty of competition success in period, Bob Lea-Wright and Jack Kennedy won the 1934 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in a Singer 9 Le Mans, as below. This car is currently being restored by Nathan Tasca and his father in Victoria and may break cover at Motorclassica shortly.

(S Aspinall)

Sue Asinall, Bob Lea-Wright’s daughter recalls; ‘Dad and Jack Kennedy are outside the Singer dealership he managed in Melbourne after winning the ’34 AGP.

It was an incredible achievement given during practice the engine blew up. Dad and Jack took the car back to Melbourne and worked all night to instal a new one. They wearily drove back to the ‘Island where they had to “run the engine in” over 8 hours around the track on the Sunday and then race on the Monday!

My father also brought back other engine parts needed by fellow competitors! A true gentleman and genuine sportsman/competitor’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lets not forget Noel Campbell’s win at Lobethal the year before, below.

The Adelaide youngster won the 1938 South Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal in the circuit’s first car racing meeting that January driving his self built and modified Singer Bantam Special.

Not too long after the win he moved to Sydney where the car provided daily transport after conversion back to more standard form, it too, most of it, is in Nathan Tasca’s hands.

There is much, much more to the marque’s history in Australia but these two wins are just a couple of snippets to remember.

(N Howard)

Photo Credits…

Norman Howard, State Library of South Australia, Nathan Tasca Collection, Bob King Collection, James Redwood Collection, Sue Aspinall, Stephen Dalton Collection

Special Thanks…

To Singer enthusiasts and owners Nathan Tasca and James Redwood for research material, photographs and anecdotes

Bibliography…

Various Adelaide Advertiser newspaper articles, ‘The Official History of The Australlian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard, Stewart Wilson, David Greenhalgh, ‘A History of The Australian Grand Prix 1928-1939’ John Blanden

Tailpiece: No Lightweight in Performance: Singer Bantam, winner of the first Australian Touring Car Chanpionship…

(N Tasca)

 

Finito…