Posts Tagged ‘George Abecassis’

(J Manhire)

Tony Gaze in his HWM Jaguar ‘VPA9’ at Ryal Bush in New Zealand’s South Island on 11 February 1956…

Isn’t John Manhire’s photograph a fantastic one? He has captured the car, the physicality of hustling these machines around a road circuit, and of course the crowd so well to add some drama and perspective- its a beauty which inspired an article.

Later in the day Tony was second in the first ‘Southland Road Race’ run over forty-one 5.87km laps of a course laid out around the hamlet of Ryal Bush 20km north of Invercargill, at the very south of New Zealand’s South Island. He drove his ex-Ascari Ferrari 500 powered by a 3 litre 750S sportscar engine, in front of him was Peter Whitehead in a similar car.

By 1956 Australia’s first Formula 1 driver was a committed HWM pilot having first raced an ex-Moss 2 litre HWM Alta F2 car in Grands Prix during 1952 with good results given the nature of his privateer campaign. This chassis was later acquired by Lex Davison, fitted with a Jaguar XK engine it won the 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast, its still in Australia in sportscar form but very original in terms of its componentry, in the loving hands of the Hough family- article pending.

Tony aboard his HWM Alta at Charterhall in October 1952- the ‘Newcastle Journal Trophy’. DNF in the race won by Dennis Poore, Connaught A Type. Gaze’ last race in the car as it transpired.

 

Tony was despatched to New Zealand by John Heath and George Abecassis together with the supercharged GP HWM Alta 2 litre in the Antipodian summer of 1954 with a brief to win a race or three and then sell the Formula Libre car before returning home- whilst he didn’t win any races he did well and also fulfilled the second part of his brief, the lucky Kiwi’s had the machine for the rest of its ‘in period’ racing life- click here to read a story about that tour and background information about HWM; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/13/tony-gaze-hwm-alta-new-zealand-1954/

Sportscar racing, make that every type of racing exploded in England as the shackles of war were progressively cast aside with grids of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lotus, Cooper, Lister, HWM and other marques making sportscar grids every bit as large and competitive as the single-seater categories.

Faced with the difficulty of finding a competitive car for the 1953 GP season- the reliability of the Alta engine was a major concern for Gaze- Enzo Ferrari would sell Tony a Ferrari 500 but without works support that would have been a very expensive proposition, so he looked to sportscars for the next phase of his career.

Gaze was invited to be part of a pre-Le Mans 24 hour test of the Aston Martin DB3 at Monza- in the snow, at the end of which he and Graham Whitehead were offered cars, Tony recalled ‘Wyer stitched us up. We were promised that Aston Martin wasn’t going to come out with something new to make us obsolete the moment we got these things. So the first race meeting I go to Reg Parnell turns up in a works DB3S which was a lot lighter and more powerful!’

Tony Gaze, Aston Martin DB3 at Dundrod during the 1953 TT- excellent fourth place sharing Graham Whitehead’s car. The Collins/Griffith and Parnell/Thompson Aston Martin DB3S were first and second (Gaze)

 

Tony and Kay Gaze with Tony’s new Aston Martin DB3, looking immaculate, before the off at Oporto, Portugal (Gaze)

 

Gaze’ Aston Martin DB3 chassis #9, or the charred remains of it, in an Oporto Street after his high speed contretemps with a Ferrari and a stout tree- a lucky escape during the 1953 Portuguese GP (D Coelho)

He first raced his car, chassis ‘DB3-9’, one of ten DB3s built, at the Silverstone International Trophy meeting in May finishing fourth in his class. He then took the car to the Cote d’Azur for the Hyeres 12 Hours in June, that race was held on the Iles d’Or 7km road course- sharing his car with Graham Whitehead the pair ran fifth in the pouring rain but retired after two hours with a broken timing chain.

His small equipe then headed south to take in the Portuguese Grand Prix which was held on 21 June on the 7.4km Boavista street circuit in Oporto.

The race started badly for the contingent from the UK on the very first lap when Duncan Hamilton’s Jaguar C Type ‘was punted off by an amateur driver who was apparently banned for life’ but got considerably worse when Gaze came close to losing his life in ‘DB3/9’.

Italian sportscar specialist, Pietro Palmieri’s Ferrari 250MM collided with the Aston on lap 3 catapulting it into a tree, at which point it broke in half and burst into flames leaving our former fighter-pilot ace semi-conscious in the middle of the road ten metres from the remains of his machine which was completely destroyed- absolutely rooted, it was written off (and somewhat surprisingly has not been re-birthed all these decades later). Palmieri’s Ferrari lasted until he had completed 7 laps when engine failure intervened, the three hour, 60 lap race was won by Jose Nogueira Pinto in a Ferrari 250MM Vignale Spyder. Click here for a piece on the DB3; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/19/1952-goodwood-9-hours-and-aston-db3/

After his recovery, Tony sought to buy a works Aston from Wyer who refused to sell, after attempts by the insurance company to purchase a second hand Aston DB3 to replace the destroyed car failed- and he received his money, Tony then tried to buy a Jaguar from Lofty England but could not agree terms- and so it was that he approached his buddies at HWM who had just built a Jaguar engined car for company co-owner George Abecassis to race. The racer was immediately quick with Heath’s triple-Weber fed Jaguar engines and ‘Indianapolis style quick change Halibrand spur-gears’ to allow easy change of gear ratios to suit the demands of different circuits, were both competitive aspects of the cars overall design.

Tony in HWM1 during the very wet May 1954 Aintree Daily Telegraph International meeting heading for fourth behind Duncan Hamilton, Jaguar C Type, Carroll Shelby’s Aston DB3S and Jimmy Stewart’s C Type (Gaze)

 

Tony Gaze during the 1953 Hyeres 12 Hours in HWM1- shared with George Abecassis (S Lewis)

 

Tony in VPA9 during the British GP sportscar support race, Silverstone, July 1954. DNF with the Collins, Salvadori and Shelby Aston DB3S up front of the 118km race  (Gaze)

Whilst VPA9 (the first registration number of HWM sporties is generally the number by which they are recognised) took a while to be built so Tony raced Abecassis’ ‘HWM1’ at the Aintree opening meeting in May where he was fourth in the sportscar ten lapper- Duncan Hamilton’s C Type won.

In the Hyeres 12 Hours in early June he co-drove with George- they ran second until pinged and disqualified for a minor pit infringement by Abecassis- Trintignant/Piotti won in a Ferrari 250 Monza.

‘VPA9’ (‘CH 105′ is the chassis number attributed to the car by John Blanden and some other sources online) is the third HWM Jaguar built, the first was built by Oscar Moore who converted his Alta engined HWM- fitted with a 3.4 litre, and then later a 3.8 litre engine, the package was mighty quick, managing to stay in front of Abecassis’ works Aston Martin  in the Jersey International Road Race until the engine broke. Gaze car was finally delivered to him in June 1954 just prior to the Reims 12 Hour, which he contested with Graham Whitehead as co-driver.

Powered by a works Jaguar 3.4 litre XK experimental engine the pair finished seventh in the 270bhp machine ‘despite extremely poor handling’ which was finally diagnosed twelve months hence as front shock absorbers which were fading- the problem was cured by adding some friction dampers. Up front the Peter Whitehead/Ken Wharton Jaguar D Type won- it was an historic day as it was the first of many wins for Jaguar’s most famous racer.

In July, Tony’s car, which was always entered by HW Motors, was twenty-second in the British GP sportscar support race at Silverstone, with various problems- up front of this 25 lapper which concluded the day’s proceedings was a trio of Aston Martin DB3S’- Peter Collins won from Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby.

In a very busy August Tony won at Crystal Palace from pole, but he missed a gear leaving the tell-tale at 6900rpm.

VPA9 crossed the channel to Zandvoort on 15 August where Tony failed to finish after a huge spin at Hugenholtzbocht behind the pits- he then took a shortcut to the other side but the grass was so wet the car became bogged- when he stopped he could see Duncan Hamilton in the pits overcome with laughter at his plight. Ninian Sanderson’s C Type won that day with three other C Types in line astern.

On 22 August Gaze took VPA9 to the French Southern Brittany seaside resort town of La Baule to contest the sportscar handicap race finishing sixth- two D.B. Panhards were up front, then Jacques Peron’s 1350cc Osca MT4 with Duncan Hamilton fourth in his Jaguar C Type, then Jean Lucas in a small D.B. Renault with Tony next best of the ‘big cars’.

After about an hour, with 9 laps completed of the demanding 11 September RAC TT at Dundrod, sharing the car with John Riseley-Pritchard, VPA9’s engine dropped a valve- with nowhere to exit the circuit- surrounded as it was by slab walls the engine was fairly rooted by the time Tony came upon a cross-road to exit the track. Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant won in a works Ferrari 750 Monza and Piero Taruffi/JM Fangio Lancia D24 were second in this 1000km World Sportscar Championship round.

Tony oversees the preparation of his Ferrari 500/625- ‘500-05’, or as re-numbered by the factory when modified as Formula Libre machines ‘GP.0480′ in Australasia during 1955/6. Gaze’ car, when fitted with a 750S engine later in 1955 had a flat spot which was not cured until Alan Ashton (at right) ade some new jets for the Weber carburettors during the early period of Lex Davison’s ownership circa later 1956. Reg Hunt at left ‘top’ (MotorSport)

 

Tony in the Oulton Park paddock prior to the British Empire Trophy sportscar practice in May 1955. #44 is the Bertie Bradnack Cooper T33 Jaguar and the car behind that is George Abecassis in HWM1. Archie Scott-Brown won in a Lister Bristol (Alamy)

 

Tony Gaze in the Aston Martin DB3S he shared with David McKay to second place in the May 1955 Hyeres 12 Hours. With DB3S/102 he also contested the 1955 Circuito do Porto, Monsanto, Charterhall International, Snetterton International, Goodwood 9 Hour and Tourist Trophy meetings that year (Gaze)

It was time for an engine rebuild back at Browns Lane and whilst a replacement was provided Tony never did get back the trick engine, the motor he used at Goodwood during the BARC Autumn 25 September meeting ‘was not the original but Jaguar’s worst old engine’.

The team asked Tony to race the HWM 54 Jaguar GP car instead, this was the Alta engined car Lance Macklin raced in the July 1954 French Grand Prix- DNF after 10 laps on the day Mercedes Benz arrived back in Grand Prix racing in rather emphatic fashion. Gaze was to race in the Formula Libre Woodcote Cup, and after some confusion with the pedals in practice (which were clutch/throttle/brake rather than the clutch/brake/throttle of his sportscar) or a mechanical failure got to the bottom of Lavant Straight into Woodcote the car wouldn’t stop, ‘Whatever the reason it wasn’t going to stop so i spun it down the escape road and hit the eight feet high dirt wall and got tossed over the top of it and ended up in the crowd’ Tony recalled. Peter Collins won the race in one of Tony Vandervell’s Thinwall Ferraris whilst MotorSport observed that ‘Practice was notable for Tony Gaze ground-looping the HWM Jaguar when going too fast into Woodcote Corner, thereby bruising himself, and incidentally providing Fairman with another drive’.

‘The car was a write-off. There was a bit of a joke about the car because they salvaged what they could of it- the engine and things- and put the rest of it up against the factory wall ready to try and straighten it and sell it to some unfortunate bloke. But the scrap metal man arrived and took it without asking!’

Jack Fairman raced VPA9 whilst Tony was recovering from his Goodwood shunt, a week later John Riseley-Pritchard used it at Aintree- committed to other race commitments in 1955, primarily his ex-Ascari Ferrari 500-625 F Libre/GP car in the early months of the year, and ‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S races (a story for another time), VPA9 didn’t race in Europe again, Tony’s final entry in it, at Oulton Park, for the British Empire Trophy meeting in April 1955 met with mechanical failure in practice which precluded racing.

‘John Heath had found a cheaper way of doing up Jaguar gearboxes…George Abecassis had a problem in practice with HWM1 and had changed the box, using the team’s only spare’ so when Tony changed down to third for Old Hall corner…everything locked up. He thought the engine had seized and let the clutch out which didn’t make the slightest difference and then found himself spinning around and around about five times. The corner marshall didn’t know which flag to wave so much was happening…the gearbox had slipped into two gears at once and solidly locked up…’ Gaze recalled.

Tony and Peter Whitehead raced their ‘twin’ Ferrari 500/625’s in New Zealand with great success in early 1956, by then fitted with 750S sportscar engines- both took two-seaters along for the ride to use in the support events and to raise some cash at the end of the tour by selling them, Tony took VPA9 and Peter the very first Cooper T38 Jaguar (CJ-1-55) he and his half-brother Graham raced at Le Mans in 1955- using VPA9, at Ardmore Gaze was third and took a win at Christchurch during the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting at the RNZAF airfield the following weekend. (happy to hear from any of you Kiwis who may be able to fill in the gaps of the HWM’s placings in other events that summer)

The tale of this tour is told here; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/05/the-gp-aston-martin-dp155/

NZ GP, Ardmore Airfield, Auckland 8 January 1955- that’s Bira in the #1 Maserati 250F ‘2504/2509’ on the way to a victory with Lex up front in his ex-Moss/Gaze HWM now Jaguar powered, with Tony in his ex-Ascari Ferrari 500 and soon to be Lex’s in March 1956. Bira won from Peter Whitehead and Tony in their identical Ferraris. Lex must have been eternally grateful to his great mate Tony as three of his four AGP wins were courtesy of cars Tony sold him!- 1954 at Southport in the HWM Jag and 1957 Caversham and 1958 Bathurst in the Ferrari. Mind you that HWM Jag was in many ways quite a different machine to the rolling chassis Tony sold to him in early 1953(unattributed)

 

Tony Gaze applying a touch of opposite lock at Albert Park in March 1956, this meeting his final one in VPA9. He was a big tall bugger! I only ever saw him as an older man- and a mighty imposing bloke he appeared- he had a real presence about him, he always looked friendly enough but I was never game to say gedday- I’ve always reserved my awe for real heroes, and that he most certainly was. That shitty background is hessian trying to stop free-loading Melburnian’s checking out the action without paying but nicely stuffs up the background (G McKaige)

At the end of the NZ Internationals Gaze shipped his two cars across the Tasman Sea to Port Melbourne contest the Moomba Meeting at Albert Park over the March Labour Day long weekend, winning the 48 lap 150 mile Tourist Trophy event from Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar D Type and Ron Phillips’ Austin Healey 100S.

He was third in the Argus Cup, also at the park, a week later behind Stillwell’s D and Stan Jones ex-Whitehead Cooper T38 Jaguar, before this meeting Lex had acquired both the Ferrari and HWM from his great mate- Lex’ first meeting in the Ferrari was this weekend.

Graham Howard wrote that Tony’s only condition upon sale of the cars was that ‘he urged Lex to have Alan Ashton, from AF Hollins, (A.F. Hollins Pty. Ltd. were motor engineers with a workshop at 694 High Street, Armadale, the building still exists not too far from the Orrong Road corner) who had been preparing Tony’s Australian racing cars since the 1940’s and who had been looking after the Ferrari in New Zealand. The combination of Lex, Alan Ashton and the Ferrari was to become one of the great partnerships of Australian racing.’ Lex placed second twice in the Ferrari to Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F that weekend.

Davison was a busy boy in 1956 racing the Ferrari, contesting the Mobilgas Round Australia Trial with Peter Ward in a Peugeot 403, racing his Phil Irving fettled Cooper-Vincent at Collingrove Hillclimb and at Part Wakefield, Templestowe and at Mount Panorama where he defeated Bruce Walton to win his second Australian Hillclimb Championship. Then there was the small matter of the AGP being organised by the Light Car Club of Australia, of which he had just been elected President, his ‘Paragon Shoes’ business to run and a large family!

Lex raced VPA9 in the 32 lap Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park in the November/December 1956 ‘Olympic Meetings’, a wonderful fortnight of racing in which Stirling Moss won both the Australian Grand Prix in a Maserati 250F and the Australian Tourist Trophy in a 300S- Lex was seventh in the HWM.

During it’s lay-off the HWM had been modified by fitment of a fibreglass ‘Ausca’ body bought from Paul England in place of the aluminium alloy original in an endeavour to make it a tad lighter and more slippery.

Davo got caught up in the avoidance of Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax’s attack upon the Park’s straw bales finishing the first lap in fourteenth place- Lex did well from that position finishing third of the local residents and lapping a couple of seconds quicker than Tony had in March, but the two D Types of Bill Pitt and Bib Stillwell were 2 laps ahead of the HWM at the races end. Moss won from Jean Behra, both in 300S Maseratis from the ill-fated Ken Wharton’s Ferrari Monza then Pitt, Stillwell and Davison.

‘The HWM was the only racing sports car Lex ever owned, and it was becoming daily more outdated: he ran it just a few times more, its best performance being a class record 27.08 seconds at Templestowe in mid-1957’ Howard wrote.

Lex aboard VPA9 in the Caversham paddock during the 1957 AGP weekend- note the fibreglass ‘Ausca’ body, the styling of which was heavily influenced by, if not a direct copy of the Maserati A6GCS body (K Miles)

 

Caversham AGP sportscar support race. #10 Ron Phillips Austin Healey gets the jump from Davison #30 HWM VPA9 and Derek Jolly, Decca Mk1 Climax, #24 Austin Healey raced by Anderson (austinhealey100s.com)

Davison took both the Ferrari and HWM across the Nullarbor to contest the March 1957, Caversham, WA AGP.

Lex won his second AGP, sharing his Ferrari 500/625 with Bill Patterson on a scorching hot summers day and after a lap-scoring dispute with Stan Jones- who had taken the chequered flag having driven solo in his 250F fitted that weekend with his spare 3 litre (300S) engine.

The HWM finished well back in the Saturday support sportscar race but looked the goods for the 40 lapper on the Monday where the temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade by the time the event started in the early afternoon.

‘Lex had only a ten second lead when he bought the HWM into the pits after 15 laps, the car overheating so badly onlookers said the engine was almost visible through the bodywork. Unscrewing the radiator cap released a geyser of steam’, and Patterson (his relief driver in this race too) rejoined the contest and very soon to retire.

Not long after returning to Melbourne the car was damaged in an accident on the way back to town when driven by one of the mechanics from Templestowe Hillclimb- taken to Lyndon Duckett’s workshop in Toorak the car’s body was removed, where the remains, ‘including the bent front end, suspension and buckled wheels’ stayed until acquired by Gavin Sala in 1974.

Sala started the process of acquiring the missing bits, the project progressed through the hands of Simon Ramsay, Noel Robson and Julian Phillips in Perth who engaged Cliff Byfield to finish the project which created great interest when it made its ‘public debut’ in the inaugural F1 AGP at Albert Park in 1996.

In 1998 ‘VPA9’ left our shores for the UK where it makes regular appearances in historic events inclusive of a demonstration by Tony Gaze in the Goodwood reopening meeting in September 1998.

Technical…

(S Dalton)

 

(S Dalton)

John Bolster puts the first HWM Jaguar ‘HWM1’ to the test for Autosport magazine in April 1955.

Of conventional construction, the chassis was a twin-tube affair with independent front suspension by upper and lower wishbone, coil spring/dampers with a de Dion rear axle again suspended by coils and coaxial shock absorbers.

Engines were all Jaguar XK of varying capacity as was the gearbox which used ‘C Type’ ratios, Bolster gives a comprehensive explanation of the ‘quick change’ diff.

Girling provided the brake drum componentry, Borrani the wire wheels and the somewhat slab-sided body- all of the HWMs were drawn and styled by the talented Abecassis, was constructed in aluminium.

(J Ross)

 

(Autosport via S Dalton)

HWM Jaguar awaits its body in the factory at Walton-on-Thames————————.

A second series car, perhaps Heath’s ‘HWM1’ 1956 ill-fated Mille Miglia car, which was the second time the plate was used.

Simon Taylor said that a total of nineteen HWM’s were built of which six were sportscars- four ‘First Series’ machines, the Gaze car is one, and two ‘Second Series’ cars styled by Abecassis along Aston Martin DB3S lines.

(J Ross)

de Dion axle housing being fettled in the machine shop with what appears to be the remains of a transmission in the container under the ‘Webster & Bennett’ turning and boring machine. Any ideas as to the technician?

(J Ross)

I wonder if it’s some type of press occasion or John Ross there taking his shots and ‘interrupting the troops’.

Perhaps John Heath at left and George Abecassis well rugged up behind what I think is the new chassis of ‘HWM1’, the completed car is Abecassis’ ‘XPE2’, given the front air intake as shown in the photograph below- it evolved from the cars first meeting in May 1955 this group of shots were taken in early 1956, most certainly it is winter!

I really must buy Mr Taylor’s two volume book set, if any of you have a copy, assistance with chassis numbers would be considered very favourably by The Editor- a complete list would be wonderful.

‘XPE2’ displaying its lissom lines outside the Hersham and Walton Motors Ltd Aston Martin Dealership and workshops, the company is still a very successful Astons dealership having first taken on the concession in 1951.

(J Ross)

Do watch this ‘interview’ of Simon Taylor by Steve Cropley about HWM generally as part of the promotion of his two volume tome ‘John, George and the HWM’s’ on the marque, a couple of years back.

Held at Brooklands, the thing runs for one and a half hours but stick with it- very entertaining and chockers with facts and anecdotes Taylor is a natural story-teller.

Australian’s of a certain age will remember Steve Cropley as one of the ‘Sports Car World’ magazine guys which helped get us interested in cars- his career has been very much in the UK since the late seventies mind you.

 

Etcetera…

(S Wills)

Another ropey background shot at Albert Park during the 1956 Moomba meeting- Southern Command Army HQ in the background. It’s still a nice angle of a car- is it that the HWM is very low or Tony very tall, or both!?

Arcane and sorta relevant…

An afterthought really but too good a colorised Gaze photograph to waste!

Tony Gaze #6 (chassis ‘F2/1′ according to his book) and Gordon Watson’s Alta F2 cars in the sunny Silverstone paddock during the 5 May 1951 BRDC Daily Express International Trophy weekend.

Not a good time for the Alta boys as Tony DNS and Gordon DNF in the race won by Reg Parnell in one of Tony Vandervell’s Thinwall Ferraris- in fact it was Gaze’ first race in the car, the start of his season.

The shot is included to show the car Tony Gaze raced throughout 1951, his results in brief were as follows- 5/5/1951 Silverstone Intl Trophy F Libre 13th in heat 2- DNS final, 13/5 GP di Monza 12th, 20/5 GP Centenario Colombiano- Genoa 8th, 3/6 Eifelrennen Nurburgring 8th, 10/6 GP di Roma- Circuito Caracella Roma DNF, 24/6 GP di Napoli- Posillipo Naples 16th and DNF, 1/7 AVUS-Rennen AVUS 17th and DNF where the engine threw a rod, punching a nice big hole in the block.

The DNF’s appear as Tony’s short, two month season moves on and the equipment was perhaps getting a tad tired. Gaze’ book records that the Avus blow up was the end of his season as the two HWM Altas of Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin also had broken cranks and they were further up the Geoffrey Taylor repair queue than Gaze.

The class of the F2 fields, whenever they appeared, were generally the Ferrari 166F2/50, then Alberto Ascari raced the Ferrari 500 for the first time at Modena in late September and the die was cast for the next two years!

Beautiful cars- the very keen eyed will spot the ‘Light Car Club of Australia’ badge on the lower edge of the grille of Tony’s Alta- a little bit of Oz onboard far from home- see below for a better shot. Luvvit, but despite trawling through Tony’s results I can’t work out where the photograph below is, assistance welcome.

Look how far he sits outta that cockpit, gotta be a 500rpm penalty on every straight!…

(unattributed)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, ‘Glory Days Albert Park 1953-1958’ Barry Green, ‘Almost Unknown: Tony Gaze’ Stewart Wilson, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, Supercar Nostalgia, F2 Index, oldracingcars.com, MotorSport, racingsportscars.com, John Ross Motor Racing Archive

Photo Credits…

John Manhire, Tony Gaze Collection, George McKaige from his book ‘Beyond The Lens’, Spencer Wills, Ken Miles Collection, Duarte Coelho, austinhealey100S.com, MotorSport, Classic Auto News- ‘CAN’, Adam Gawliczek

Tailpiece…

(CAN)

Kids just wanna have fun. Just offloaded from a ship, the racing cars get plenty of attention in a Wellington, New Zealand back street in January 1956.

Gaze’ VPA9 is at left alongside Peter Whitehead’s Cooper T38 Jaguar, David McKay’s first Aston Martin DB3S and Stirling Moss’ 1956 NZ GP winning Maserati 250F.

The Cooper Jag is the first T38 built, chassis ‘CJ-1-55’ it was raced by Peter (and his half-brother Graham at Le Mans as a Cooper works entry) during 1955, and was sold to Stan Jones who quickly moved it on after not too many drives- Ron Phillips and John Ampt did well with it ‘in period’, beautifully restored by Ian McDonald in the eighties it is still in Australia but rarely seen.

The Aston is the car raced by Gaze and Gaze/McKay in 1955, chassis ‘DB3S-102’ before being acquired in full by McKay for use in Australia and New Zealand; see this story for details of the racer/Scuderia Veloce supremo/journalists two DB3S; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

The Moss Maserati is the family 250F ‘2508’, the performances in which throughout 1954 won him his spot beside Fangio at Mercedes Benz in 1955, the car returned to England after its Ardmore win.

Finito…

(unattributed)

Tony Gaze during a pitstop for plugs, HWM Alta 2 litre s/c, chassis ’52/107′ during the New Zealand Grand Prix, Ardmore January 1954…

Hersham & Walton Motors (HWM) came to prominence in the immediate postwar years. Based in New Zealand Avenue, Walton, where the business still is today as an Aston Martin dealership- the company was a partnership between two great motor racing enthusiasts – driver George Abecassis and engineer John Heath.

George made his name aboard a single-seater Alta pre-war. When racing resumed post conflict both Abecassis and Heath campaigned a variety of Alta single-seaters and sportscars. John Heath developed Alta-based sports-prototype cars in 1948-49 and since George Abecassis had been racing his postwar GP Alta internationally with success – the pair planned a team of dual-purpose Formula 2/sports-racing cars to campaign at home and abroad in 1950.

The duo were adept talent-spotters recruiting along the way Stirling Moss, Lance Macklin and little later Peter Collins.

In 1950 the new HWM works team of three, or four HWM-Alta ‘F2’ cars were entered in a hectic program of racing, the team was well organised and its cars competitive with all but the best Continental factory machines.

HWM’s mechanics, including such later prominent names as Alf Francis and Rex Woodgate were capable and dedicated to putting the cars on the grid. They worked horrendous hours, transporting the cars from race to race in epic journeys overcoming all odds.

George Abecassis, leaning on the fuel tank and John Heath at left with one of the single-seaters coming together at Walton, which one I wonder? (unattributed)

 

Men of the moment- HWM’s John Heath and George Abecassis Alta ‘GP1’ and Alta’s Geoffrey Taylor at Goodwood on 18 April 1949. George was 6th in the Richmond Trophy won by Reg Parnell’s Maserati 4CLT (S Lewis Collection)

 

Lance Macklin, HWM Alta F2, Crystal Palace Coronation Cup May 1953. Fourth in the race won by Tony Rolt’s Connaught A Type. Doug Nye attributes the sexy bodies of the HWM’s to Leacroft of Egham (Getty)

In a hand to mouth, time honoured existence, start, prize and trade-bonus money from one weekend’s racing financed the next, under Heath’s technical direction and leadership HWM built a fleet of Formula 2 single-seater team cars for 1951, followed by developed variants into 1952-53.

In face of Ferrari, Maserati, Connaught, Cooper-Bristol and others HWM results deteriorated as time passed, 1951 being the teams best season, but in 1952 Lance Macklin and Tony Rolt drove their HWM Alta’s home first and second in the prestigious BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone. The cars held together for two hours and won from the Emmanuel de Graffenreid Plate-Maserati 4CLT/48 and Rudy Fischer’s Ferrari 500.

The chassis campaigned in New Zealand was originally built as an F2 car in 1952 powered by an unsupercharged 2-litre 4-cylinder Alta engine and was later re-equipped with a supercharged GP Alta motor specifically for Formula Libre racing in New Zealand in 1954.

In 1952 HWM entered cars for George Abecassis, Peter Collins, Macklin, Stirling Moss, Paul Frere, Roger Laurent, Yves Giraud-Cabantous, Duncan Hamilton, Johnny Claes and Dries van der Lof- many of these drivers gained good start money in their home-country GP’s.

Lance, the ‘playboy’ son of Sir Noel Macklin was said to be the most stylish and glamorous British racing driver of that period, team-mate Stirling Moss credits him with having taught the new boy “an enormous amount, not just about racing, but also about how to enjoy life in general…”.

Chassis ‘52/107’ was predominantly the car raced by Macklin in 1952 and 1953.

Bonham’s spiel about ’52/107′ before its June 2016 sale relates that ‘Lance Macklin was relaxed about which car he drove – too relaxed according to George Abecassis. Each of the drivers had specific and often different requirements which extended to tyre pressures, final-drive ratios, seat position, they were not readily adjustable- bolted down, steering wheels etc. Macklin retained the pre-selector gearbox for the early part of 1953 as opposed to the ‘C’ Type Moss box adopted on the other cars.’

‘There is evidence of this on chassis ’52/107′ not seen on ’52/112′ the sister car. Macklin also had his logo ‘LM’ painted on the side of his car at some time in 1953. Finally the mechanics recorded plug types, pressures and gearing race by race for future use…Heath and Abecassis only appeared briefly for practice/racing and returned to the UK without corporate records. ‘52/107′ has the mechanics’ notes, scribbled in hand in a school note book, the car is recorded as Macklin’s car in several books and was confirmed personally by Tony Gaze as ’52/107′.

Tony Gaze in ’52/107′ in England date unknown but 1990’s perhaps (unattributed)

 

Macklin ’52/107′ date and circuit in the UK unknown (unattributed)

Macklin contested 1952 championship grands prix at Bremgarten, Spa, Silverstone, Zandvoort and Monza for a best of eighth, and six or seven non-championship races the best of which was the splendid BRDC International Trophy win at Silverstone in May.

He had a shocker of a run in 1953 starting six GP’s- his only finish was at Zandvoort where he was fifteenth, the run of DNF’s due to engine and clutch failures occurred at Spa, Reims, Silverstone, Bremgarten and Monza.

Macklin also contested a similar number of non-championship races as in 1952, his best was third at the Circuit de Lac in Aix-les-Bains and two fourths at Crystal Palace in the Coronation Trophy and Crystal Palace Trophy.

The ‘winningest’ cars in British non-championship 2 litre F2 races in 1953 were Connaught A Types and later in the year Cooper T23 Bristols.

It seems George Abecassis sent the ‘52/107’/Gaze combination to New Zealand out of simple commercial expediency.

He had the ex-Joe Kelly Alta ‘GP3′ sitting in the workshop- this car contested the 1950 and 1951 British GP’s, his view was that the supercharged 1.5 litre, four cylinder engine would form the basis of a good Formula Libre car when mated with one of his F2 chassis’.

Similarly the ‘GP3’ chassis fitted with a Jaguar engine was also saleable, in addition Macklin was moving to sportscars and George was frustrated with him.

On top of all of that, critically, the writing was on the wall for HWM and several other teams needing a competitive engine for the new F1 commencing on 1 January 1954.

The 2½ litre Climax ‘Godiva’ FPE V8 engine was not being proceeded with, Coventry Climax famously ‘took fright’ upon reading of the claimed outputs of their Continental rivals, and Alta’s Geoff Taylor had contracted exclusively with Connaught for the provision of his 2½-litre, DOHC four cylinder engine.

Commercially therefore, without a suitable F1 engine, sportscars made the greatest sense and so it was that HWM  made good money out of converting both HWM and Alta single-seaters into sportscars powered by Jaguar engines.

HWM never to let an opportunity to pass, proceeded with their plan albeit the 1.5 litre supercharged engine was upgraded by Taylor to 2-litres using the same bore and stroke as the 2 litre F2 units to improve reliability and power whilst simultaneously ensuring commonality of parts- bearings, pistons, rings and the rest for operators of the car in the colonies- a new crank was obtained from Laystall to suit.

Aussie fighter-ace Tony Gaze was chosen as the driver given his strong performances in his Alta, HWM and other cars since the war- his brief from George was a simple one, win a couple of races including the NZ GP if possible and then sell the car before returning back to Europe.

Looks major ‘dunnit- Macklin (or Peter Collins?) and the mechanics- perhaps pointing is Tony Rudd left in profile is Tony Gaze and ‘head to head’ alongside Tony is John Heath with ’52/107′ (unattributed)

 

Joe Kelly’s Alta ‘GP3’ during the 1950 British GP weekend at Silverstone- Geoffrey Taylor in the suit. Q19 and DNF, the race won by Nino Farina’s Alfa Romeo 158 (unattributed)

 

Tom Clark, I think, in ’52/107′ Levin, New Zealand circa 1956 (BV Davis)

In New Zealand in January/February 1954, Gaze drove it to third in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore behind Stan Jones, Maybach 1 and Ken Wharton’s BRM P15.

It was a pretty competitive field which included the Wharton BRM,  Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 125, Jack Brabham and Horace Gould in Cooper T23 Bristols, Lex Davison’s ex-Gaze HWM Jaguar and others.

Gaze’ race was a great mighta-been.

He relates in ‘Almost Unknown’, Stewart Wilson’s biography of the great Australian, that Shell, his contracted fuel supplier did not have any of the required brew on raceday so he started the race with what fuel was left in the car after practice to at least obtain his start money payment.

When the flag dropped he tootled around, knowing he had sufficient juice for half the race at best, but the car was running on only three cylinders, a plug change rectified that. A lucky break was teammate Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 125 (shortly to become Dick Cobden’s car) clutch failing which allowed Tony’s mechanics to siphon the fuel from the V12 2 litre Ferrari  and pop it into the Alta.

Tony sped up, he still didn’t have enough juice to finish, passing Wharton’s BRM which had its own problems- at this point he was gaining three seconds a lap on Stan Jones’ Maybach. Then the car ran out of fuel on lap 92, as Tony coasted into the pits with the engine dead a fuel churn appeared- ‘borrowed’ from BRM. Topped up, with mechanics Peter Manton and Alan Ashton totally spent after pushing the car the length of the pitlane before it fired, third place was Gaze’s. Tony’s regret to the end of his life was that the race was his had Shell fulfilled their contractual obligations. The two-hundred pounds paid in compensation was no substitute for an NZ GP win…

In the month long gap between Ardmore and Wigram Tony and Peter contested the 24 Hour race held at Mount Druitt in Sydney’s west on 31 January- they led by an enormous margin in Peter’s C Type Jaguar only to have a suspension failure when the car hit an enormous hole on track- it was repaired but failed again later in the race. They restarted the car and limped over the line to win the sportscar class- seven of twenty-two starters finished led by the Jaguar XK120 driven by Doris Anderson, Charlie Whatmore and Bill Pitt- well known racers to Australian readers.

Back in New Zealand and off to Christchurch on the South Island for the Lady Wigram Trophy on 6 February, he was second behind the Whitehead Ferrari after Peter ignored Dunlop’s advice and completed the race without a tyre change on the abrasive track- they were ‘well shredded’ but it was a winning if somewhat risky ‘racers’ decision.

At the end of Tony’s tour- successfully completing the second part of his assignment, he sold the Alta to Sybil Lupp for John Horton to drive.

Gaze had a great taste of racing in New Zealand and returned again the following year, he and Peter Whitehead raced a pair of Ferrari 500/625’s, Tony’s chassis ‘005’ famously the ex-Ascari 1952/3 World Championship winning car, it was not the only chassis the Italian used but the ‘winningest’.

Horton raced ’52/107′ from February 1954 until February 1956- in which his best results were two second places, setting fastest lap both times at the February 1954 Hamilton Trophy at Mairehau and the April 1956 NZ Championship Road Race on the Dunedin ‘Wharf’ road circuit.

In the January 1955 NZ GP, back at Ardmore, Horton struck trouble and was classified fifteenth- Bira won that year in a Maserati 250F from the Whitehead and Gaze Ferraris in second and third places.

Other than the NZ GP meeting it seems Horton did not race the car throughout 1955, nor was the machine entered in the 1956 NZ GP, but he ran at Dunedin- tenth and in the South Island Championship Road Race at Mairehau, finishing second on handicap. Onto the Southland Road Race at Ryal Bush he qualified a very good fifth on this challenging road course but only completed 9 of the 41 laps- Whitehead won.

The last meeting that summer was the Ohakea Trophy held at the airfield of the same name on 3 March, Horton didn’t enter but the race was won by (later Sir) Tom Clark who was clearly impressed with the Alta having raced against it for a while in his pre-war Maserati 8CM- he acquired it from Sybil Lupp shortly thereafter.

Sybil Lupp susses her HWM Alta on the evening before the 1955 NZ GP at Ardmore, its said there was a possibility she would drive the car, but John Horton raced it. Car #77 is also ex-Gaze- Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, the 1954 Australian GP winner started life as Tony’s 1952 Alta engined F2 machine. Car #3 is Reg Hunt’s just arrived in the Antipodes Maserati 2.5 litre A6GCM (CAN)

 

Tom Clark, Ardmore NZ GP 1957 (T McGrath)

 

Ron Tucker, Ransley Riley DNF, Tom Clark HWM Alta 6th and Bob Gibbons Jaguar D Type DNF during the 1957 Southland Road Race at Ryal Bush. Peter Whitehead won this race from Reg Parnell in identical Ferrari 555’s powered by 750 Monza engines (J Manhire)

Tom Clark, of Crown Lynn Potteries fame, began his stint with it by setting FTD at Whangarei hillclimb before finishing second at Levin in October 1956.

Clark shipped the car to Australia for the ‘Olympic’ Australian GP at Albert Park that December– finishing eleventh following various delays having run strongly early on in a world class field, Stirling Moss won in a works Maserati 250F.

Ninth place followed in the January 1957 NZ GP at Ardmore, Reg Parnell, Ferrari 555 Super Squalo triumphed that day.

Tom raced the car at Wigram DNF, Dunedin DNF, Ryal Bush where he was sixth and in much the same way that he had had a good look up close at the Alta decided the Ferrari 555’s were the go so acquired the Whitehead car, racing it to its first win at the South Island Championship Road Race meeting at Mairehau the weekend after Ryal Bush.

For sale, Johnny Buza was the purchaser.

He practiced at Ardmore for the 1958 GP, as the photograph (in Etcetera below) shows but appears as a DNA in the sergent.com results. He entered Dunedin and Teretonga but failed to take the start on both occasions. With plenty of mid-engined Coopers on the scene the older of the front-engined cars were finding the going tougher- the Alta didn’t race throughout 1959 or 1960.

Jim Boyd – more famous for his aero-engined Lycoming Special, raced the HWM throughout 1961- at Ardmore, Wigram, Dunedin, Teretonga and Waimate,  failing to qualify for the NZ GP but otherwise finishing the events with a best of eighth at Waimate towards the season’s end.

In 1962 it was driven by Lindsay Gough to win a beach race at New Brighton. J.G. Alexander also appeared in the car while Lindsay Gough raced it into 1963, although I can see no records of his events, by that stage though it was a ‘club car’ rather than a machine contesting the national level events reported upon by Bruce Sergent’s site.

By 1980 the car had been acquired by Russell Duell in New Zealand before passing to Colin Giltrap in 1989, the car has been in the United Kingdon since 1997.

Jim Boyd during the 1961 Dunedin Road Race, HWM Alta. Allan Dick wrote ‘This car was never really competitive in NZ but by 1961 it was very much a tail-ender, but Boyd competed for many years in a variety of old, outdated cars, finally striking it good with the Lycoming, followed by the Stanton Corvette and finally a Lola T70’ (CAN)

 

Etcetera…

 

(autopics)

Stirling Moss goes around the outside of Tom Clark during the December 1956 AGP at Albert Park. Maserati 250F and HWM Alta, Moss won from teammate Jean Behra.

 

(CAN)

Cracker of a shot- the kid with a proprietorial hand on the car is perhaps indicating ‘my dads car!’ During John Horton’s ownership probably at Cleland hillclimb perhaps. Input welcome!

Typical Kiwi/Oz kids of the period wearing their school ‘jumpers’ (jerseys) on the weekend.

 

(CAN)

Johnny Buza at Ardmore during the 1958 Ardmore NZ GP weekend. He is listed as a DNA but it seems he practiced at least- by then the old gal is getting a bit long in the tooth given the increasingly international nature of the Australasian Summer International grids.

 

Gaze and Davison driver profiles from the 1954 NZ GP race program (S Dalton)

 

(unattributed)

Cockpit of one of the 2 litre F2 Alta’s.

Doug Nye relates the story of Stirling Moss pitching out of his car a fire extinguisher which had come loose from its mount in the cockpit, when he reported this to John Heath back in the paddock the thrifty team owner promptly despatched his young star back in the direction of the track to find said expensive item…

 

(Motorsport)

These HWM Jaguar’s were and are attractive, fast racing cars.

Here George Abecassis in his DB3S inspired ‘025′ ‘XPE 2’ at Goodwood, circa 1955.

‘Abecassis himself sketched out the bodies of each HWM and, for the second generation HWM-Jaguars in 1955 he designed a neat functional new body. Two works cars were built: George’s was registered XPE2 and the second, for John Heath, took over the HWM1 number plate. It was in this car that John Heath decided to enter the 1956 Mille Miglia…In driving rain he lost control near Ravenna and the car hit a fence and turned over. A few days later Heath died from his injuries.’

David Abecassis on hwmastonmartin.co.uk continues, ‘That sadly, was more or less the end of HWM which still promised so much. Abecassis did build up one more chassis as a dramatically styled road-going coupe, but he gave up racing to concentrate on his burgeoning garage business. Today, HWM, still in its original premises on Walton-on-Thames thrives as a prestigious dealer in Aston Martins and other desirable and exotic road machinery.’

In an apt tribute to the role HWM played in the march of British motor racing post war Abecassis concluded, ‘Like all good racing cars, however, the handful of HWMs that came out of this courageous little team lived on, and most of them have never stopped being campaigned. Today they are cherished by their handful of lucky owners as important, and very effective, historic racing cars. Britain’s all-conquering motor racing industry owes a great debt to those pioneering European forays of John Heath and George Abecassis.’

Indeed!

 

John Heath and a mechanic work on one of the 2 litre Alta engines- Weber fed, during the 1953 British GP weekend at Silverstone (unattributed)

Alta Engine’s…

This summary of the Alta engine’s design is a trancuated version of Doug Nye’s piece in ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’.

Geoffrey Taylor’s twin cam, four cylinder design had a bath shape bottom end casting whose sides rose to provide cooling water jacketing.

The cylinders were formed in a separate Meehanite iron casting which fitted tightly into the crankcase bath. Crankcase rigidity was enhanced by box sections within its side walls and by horizontal cross-bolts positioning the main bearing caps.

Circumferential grooves were machined into the top of the cylinder-bore casting which matched grooves machined into the face of the alloy head- in assembly these matching grooves would clamp Wills pressure ring seals to create a joint which was water and gas tight.

The head was secured by thru bolts positioned by the tall outer crankcase casting, it carried two overhead cams operating two valves per cylinder via rocking fingers, valves were inclined at an included angle of 68 degrees- combustion chambers were hemispherical. Cam drive was by chain off a sprocket on the three main bearing crank. The Roots type supercharger, of Alta manufacture was driven off the crank nose drawing fuel from an SU carb delivering a maximum of 22psi.

In 1.5 litre supercharged form the engine was square- a bore and stroke of 78mm- 1480cc and was good for 7000 rpm using Specialloid pistons and a Nitralloy crank.

The basic  architecture was retained for the 2 litre normally aspirated F2 engines- the HWM engines of 1950 were fed by twin SU carbs burning a methanol/benzol/petrol mix. The 2 litre motors had a bore and stroke of 83.5 x 90mm- 1970cc and were claimed to give 130bhp @ 5500rpm.

Tony Gaze had twin Webers adapted to his engine when he ran at Monza in 1951- his lead was followed on other Alta motors.

For 1953 new type cranks were adopted, HWM’s engines that year were Alta based but the heads were HWM’s own design with gear driven cam drives rather than chain- the head, camshafts, rear-gear drive and other moving parts were made by HWM or its subcontractors.

Bonham’s piece noted the following, ‘There are major differences between the Alta GP and Formula 2 engines. The GP engine was dry-sumped with the crankcase going right down to the bottom of the motor with what is virtually a flat plate bolted to the base, whereas the F2 engine has a wet sump with the crankcase split in half along the centreline of the main bearings. There is a deep pan beneath the engine. The GP engine has a different crank which is extended at the front to drive the blowers- the ancillary drives for magneto(s) and oil pump(s) are also completely different.

The engine in ’52/107’ is marked ‘GP3’ in two places which is compatible with Joe Kelly’s ‘GP3’ as are the two blowers which were unique to ‘GP3’, it is thought the whole unit came from chassis ‘GP3’.

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Bruce V Davis, John Manhire, Simon Lewis Collection, Allan Dick’s Classic Auto News, Motorsport, autopics.com

Bibliography…

Bonhams ’52/107′ sale material 2016, ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’ Doug Nye, ‘Almost Unknown’ Stewart Wilson, sergent.com, hwmastonmartin.co.uk, Terry McGrath Collection

Tailpiece: Lance Macklin, HWM Alta ‘52/107’ on the way to a win in the BRDC International Trophy, Silverstone 1952…

(Getty)

George Abecassis, on HW Motors letterhead wrote a letter to the cars then owner, which said in part: “I have often wondered what happened to the supercharged HWM which we sent to New Zealand, because it was undoubtedly the most exciting and fastest HWM that we ever made.’

‘It was one of the 1952 two-litre team cars and we fitted it with a two-stage supercharged unit especially for the Tasman series of races, and we lent it to Tony Gaze on the condition that he sold it for us in New Zealand, which he succeeded in doing’.

He concluded: ‘If ever you should get tired of the car, I would always be pleased to buy it back from you! I think it was the best car we ever made…’

Finito…