Posts Tagged ‘Jack Saywell’

Perth’s Allan Tomlinson wins the 1939 Australian Grand Prix on the immensely daunting, challenging and dangerous Adelaide Hills, Lobethal course…

To this day Australia’s learned motor-racing historians struggle to understand how Tomlinson did the times he did in his little supercharged MG TA Special. It simply does not seem possible for the slightly built young ace to do what he did with what he had.

This article is about the race. The report is that published by the Adelaide Advertiser the day after the event coz’ I do like to use the language of the day when it is available. But this article piece is more about the dialogue of great Oz racing historian John Medley and others on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ discussing Tomlinson’s achievement and how he did it.

The racing on Monday January 2 comprised the AGP for which the ‘Advertiser Cup’ and a prize of 200 pounds was awarded. Other events were the 10.45 am South Australian, or Junior GP, ‘and an innovation, the 1 pm Australian Stock Car Road Championship, in which all manner of stock car models, from sedans to tourers and small roadsters have been entered’. The AGP commenced at 2.30 pm.

 

 

The ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ report of the race weekend, published on Tuesday January 3, 1939

The high speeds recorded by drivers in the first race of the day, the South Australian Grand Prix (75 miles) made the crowd look for thrills, and although they were disappointed with the slow times in the Australian Stock Car Road Championship, they were treated to exhibitions of wild cornering, clever and fast driving, and terrific speeds in the last race of the day, the Australian Grand Prix (150 miles).

That race, conducted for the first time in this state, provided a fitting climax to a day of high speed and thrills. It was the best race ever conducted in Australia according to interstate officials.

Attracted by the treacherous curves, made even more hazardous by melting bitumen, the main bulk of the huge crowd congregated at Kayannie Corner, the Mill Corner at the entrance to Lobethal Village, and the acute Hairpin Bend near the grandstand. Time and again the faster cars, racing to the grandstand hairpin, braked and slithered around the corner, just grazing the sandbags. One of the more unfortunate however was F Kleinig, who hit the sandbags with a crash in the SA Grand Prix. Kleinig’s car was undamaged and although he lost valuable minutes in extricating it from the broken wall of sand, he was able to continue.’

 

My kind of driver- Frank Kleinig had lots of raw pace, fire and brimstone but perhaps not enough consistency to ever win an AGP- which he surely deserved? Here in trouble aboard his Kleinig Hudson Spl, a very quick concoction of MG chassis, Hudson straight-eight engine and an ever evolving brew of many other bits and pieces- a quintessential, ever-present, and still alive marvellous Australian Special (N Howard)

 

‘In the same race DF O’Leary hit the protective bags at Kayannie Corner. RF Curlewis (NSW) overturned when he attempted to pass O’Leary on the corner. He came in too fast, braked, skidded to avoid the sandbags and, with his wheels locked, turned completely over, pinning the driver underneath. The car had to be lifted to release Curlewis, who escaped with a shaking. F Kleinig had to use the escape road in a subsequent lap, and had to weave his way through the excited crowd, which had been attracted by the screaming tyres. Kleinig had much trouble at Kayannie, and eventually hit the sandbags head on.

Skilful driving by JF Snow (NSW) prevented a possible accident at Kayannie in the AGP when he had to brake hard to miss running into the back of Dr CRK Downing, who had broadsided on the gravel across the corner. Alf Barrett (Alfa Romeo Monza) mounted the sandbags in the 12th lap of the same race, and he lost four minutes in backing his car onto the road again.’

 

Is it his watch John Snow is checking, perhaps not? Delahaye 135CS, Lobethal – later the car was an AGP winner in John Crouch’ hands at Leyburn in 1949 (N Howard)

 

Wheels Leave Road

‘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.

Saywell’s front wheels were leaving the road at the crest of the rise at the end of the Charleston Straight approaching Kayannie, and at the Ess Bend near the golf links on the Kayannie-Lobethal leg of the course as the spectators were treated to similar sights as the cars raced over the hilltop and down the steep downgrade towards Lobethal.’

Click here for a piece of Australia’s first Australian Touring Car Championship event; https://primotipo.com/2018/10/04/first-australian-touring-car-championship-lobethal-1939/

 

The fastest car in the race if not quite the fastest combination- Jack Saywell and the Alfa P3/Tipo B John Snow imported for him not so long before the race (N Howard)

 

The Mill Corner caused many of the drivers much trouble, and as the wheels of the cars repeatedly swept gravel onto the course, the job of cornering at that right-angled turn was made even harder.

Saywell swung right around on one lap and ended up against the protecting bales of straw. People encroaching on the road had to jump to escape injury a few times when R Lea-Wright (Vic) misjudged and swung too wide.

Barrett’s cornering was always a feature of the AGP at that corner, and he took the turn at almost full speed in second gear nearly every time. His courage on a corner which had checked practically every other driver allowed him to gain yards on every lap.

 

Barrett, Monza Alfa (N Howard)

 

Saywell came to grief at the Mill Corner in the fourth lap of the last race (AGP). Hitting the kerb beneath the straw, he rebounded high in the air, but, retaining control of his huge car, was able to speed away without delay. Kleinig took a bale of straw with him for some distance up the Lobethal main street in the same race.

When in third place in the SA GP A Ohlmeyer (SA) skidded while negotiating the S Bend near the recreation ground. Without being able to regain control of his car, he crashed into the sandbags and went over the top, but neither he nor his car was injured.

 

Colin Dunne in his MG K3 during practice. Prodigiously quick and a race winner at the 1938 SA GP Lobethal meeting the year before. Dunne was a DNS with a popped engine in practice- the race was the weaker for his non-appearance. He and his wife hung out the pit boards for Tomlinson under Clem Dwyer’s guidance (N Howard)

 

 

Grand Prix Described

 

(B King)

 

Representatives of the best cars in Australia, the Australian Grand Prix (150 miles) had a field of 17 competitors of which Bowes MG N Type (12 min) the South Australian driver was the early leader.

He got away to a good lead and at the end of the third lap had a three- quarters of a mile leeway over Leach (12 min), Boughton Morgan (11 min), Curlewis MG T Type (21 min), Lea-Wright Terraplane Spl (17 min). Phillips Ford V8 Spl (12:45 min) and Burrows Terraplane Spl (12:45) were juggling for the other places. F Kleinig retired on lap 3.

 

Russell Bowes, MG N Type with a touch of the opposites (H Cullen)

John Medley provided a fascinating vignette about one of Australia’s pre-war racers who lost his life in the war.

‘Tall, thin, Roderick Russell Herbert Bowes led the 1939 AGP early, then retired after 11 laps. As a driver he was a goer, he was a flyer with the Redhill Flying Club, he enlisted for RAAF service during the war, was a fighter pilot in the UK (now in the RAF) was moved to Burma where he was shot down and died in 1943, an Ace with at least 9 “kills”.

‘His is one of many individual files I read whilst researching my John Snow book (when it is easy to become lost in the moment), reliving that individual’s life for a moment, and even now I feel emotional about sharing that bit of Russell Bowe’s life- a young man/an enthusiast/a worker/a goer/painfully open and honest; he admitted in his enlistment papers of “one traffic offence”: he had put his MG N over a bank near Eagle On The Hill going home from Lobethal that night. He bought the ex-Snow MG K3 in 1940, his parents passing it to Ron Uffindell later’ John concluded.

 

Frank Kleinig’s Kleinig Hudson Spl whistles through Lobethal village at some pace (N Howard)

 

Alf Barrett, Alfa Monza. Steed at the start after an error with a fuel tap- he lost 6 minutes and any chance he had in the race- perhaps the only man on the day who had the blend of speed and consistency to match Tomlinson, tyres permitting (N Howard)

 

After his unfortunate start, Barrett, Alfa Romeo Monza (2:50 sec) who lost 6 minutes on the starting line when his engine would not start was making up time very fast. Tomlinson MG TA Spl s/c (11:30 min) began making an impression, after five laps and filled eighth almost one lap behind the leader.

Lyster Jackson relieved RW Manser MG N Type (Victoria) who retired with engine trouble and AG Sinclair took Dr Downings place at the wheel of the Brooklands Riley (which Alan Sinclair had imported from England for his intended trip to Australia and sold to Downing).

Saywell Alfa P3/Tipo B (scratch) was electrifying the crowd with his terrific speed on the straights, and was only two laps behind the field with 10 laps to go. Barrett was returning increasingly faster times, lapping at more than 90 miles per hour.

 

When Alan Boughton bought this Morgan from Victoria for the inaugural Lobethal car meeting 12 months before it was a sportscar, by 1939 a single-seater, Lobethal 1939 (N Howard)

 

High speed precision, Allan Tomlinson MG TA Spl s/c, some of his secrets revealed at the end of this article (N Howard)

 

Tomlinson, (given the faster signal from his pit by Colin Dunne on Clem Dwyer’s direction) travelling at more than 80 miles an hour as his average speed, pushed up behind Leach, passed him and set out after Lea-Wright. Going out of Lobethal about 30 miles from the finish, Tomlinson passed Lea-Wright and clapped on more speed to set a good margin coming past the grandstand with 3 laps to go.

Saywell was returning a consistent 92 miles an hour average, and Barrett clung on grimly with a slightly better speed.

Burrows followed Phillips who was then third to Tomlinson and Lea-Wright. Saywell’s mishap (Saywell and Barrett both spun in their attempts to increase their pace to match Tomlinson with the heat and tyre problems causing the spins) at the Mill Corner lost him two places and Snow (4:15 min) moved into fifth place behind Burrows.

 

Jack Phillips and mechanic, Ford V8 Spl. Wangaratta based Phillips won a lot of races in this car- perhaps not as ‘pretty’ as Doug Whiteford’s Black Bess but a really effective, fast, reliable machine (N Howard)

The first three positions remained unchanged for the last two laps (with Clem Dwyer slowing Tomlinson over the last 2 laps), with Tomlinson the winner from Lea-Wright and Phillips- MG TA Spl, Terraplane Spl and Ford V8 Spl.

Strangely enough The Advertiser reported the death of Vernon Leach ‘about 27, single from North Melbourne on the second last lap of the race in a separate article to the main race report.

Second placed Bob Lea-Wright , Terraplane 8 Spl, with hard-working mechanic (N Howard)

 

 

 

Leach, in fourth place at the time, raced towards Gumeracha at the top of Lobethal’s main street and swung wide at more tha 60 miles per hour- the car slid, he over-corrected rocketed back to the other side of the road, bounced over a ditch into a bank with the hapless driver pinned underneath the car. He died almost instantaneously.

In the same lap that he was killed he had crashed into the haybales at Mill Corner in addition to an earlier off at Kayannie- he too had increased his times by over 10 seconds per lap to endeavour to match the faster pace being set by Tomlinson and perhaps just pushed too hard on the unforgiving track.

He was far from inexperienced mind you having, for example, won a 116 mile handicap at Phillip Island the previous November. Leach was racing the MG P Type Les Murphy used earlier in the day to place third in the SA GP.

 

I’ll fated Vern Leach MG P Type behind Tim Joshua’s Frazer Nash, DNF lap 7 (N Howard)

 

John Snow, Delahaye 135CS (SCCSA)

 

In another report in the paper on the same day the ‘Tiser said ‘although the fastest time went to J Saywell, AL Barrett in an Alfa Romeo was the outstanding driver in the race.’

‘Losing six minutes…Barrett determinedly set after the field and recorded the best average lap time for the day – 93.7 miles an hour. That time was about 10 miles an hour faster than the best lap recorded last year (in the 1938 January South Australian GP). He gave a brilliant exhibition of driving and control, and cornered magnificently at every bend, rarely getting into trouble with the sandbags. Barrett consistently average more than 90 miles per hour and on two occasions equalled his lap record. His speed on the straights approached 140 miles an hour’.

 

By the time of the 1939 Alf Barrett was master of his steed, a 2.3 litre Alfa Romeo Monza s/c- and I’m not suggesting he had trouble adapting to it. One of Australia’s greatest with a career which extended well into the post-war period (N Howard)

 

Jack Saywell, Alfa Romeo P3 (SCCSA)

 

The report noted ‘Tomlinson, who is only 22, is a motor mechanic with his own business in Perth. Yesterday was his first appearance in interstate company (all states were represented in the race with the exception of Queensland). He won the Albany GP last Easter and the Bunbury Flying 50 in October’.

‘Although it was a delightful day for the spectators the weather was much too hot for the racing cars. Tyres were torn to shreds on the hot roads, the heat made the engines boil, and the melting bitumen made some of the corners very sticky’.

The Advertiser’s reporter did a very good job- the assessment about the conditions and tyres- particularly the impact on the bigger, heavier cars was marked and worked to the advantage of the smaller, lighter cars driven by the likes of Tomlinson.

Results:

1st- AG Tomlinson MG TA Spl 120 min 27 sec on handicap, actual time 110 min 57 sec. 2nd RA Lea-Wright Terraplane Spl  122 min 31 sec / 118 min 31 sec. 3rd JK Phillips Ford V8 Spl 122 min 46 sec 114 min 31 sec. 4th JF Snow Delahaye 135CS 124 min 11 sec, 107 min 26 sec. 5th L Burrows Hudson 124 min 38 sec , 116 min 23 sec. 6th J Saywell Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B 126 min 48 sec, 105 min 48 sec. 7th JF Crouch Alfa Romeo (handicap 5 min) 128 min 33 sec, 112 min 33 sec. 8th AI Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza 129 min 11 sec. 9th RF Curlewis MG T Type 129 min 57 sec,

 

To the victor the spoils- Tomlinson’s win was a result of a mix of masterful planning, preparation and superb implementation of agreed race-day tactics and with superb driving- brilliant professionalism by Allan, Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood, youngsters all (The Advertiser)

 

Jim Gullan’s Ballot Spl, DNS the race but would have better lunch at Lobethal post-war- he won the 1948 SA 100 at Lobe (N Howard)

 

Spectacular finish for Les Burrows’ Hudson Special in fifth place and over the line on three wheels (R Bell)

 

Jack Saywell, Alfa P3 (SCCSA)

 

(H Cullen)

Junior Event SA GP

From the limit mark RS Uffindell (above) veteran Sporting Car Club member, led all the way to win the SA GP (75 miles), the first event of yesterday’s programme.

He drove a consistent race, content to keep the average lap speeds below 70 odd miles an hour. Bryson’s accident in the first lap allowed Uffindell to clear out from the 12 minute markers, and although Les Murphy (Victoria) drove very well to hold second place for several laps he was unable to make up the huge leeway set him by the South Australian. The handicaps were too great for the scratch-man and other backmarkers and they had to be content to sit behind the better handicapped drivers.

Results

1st R Uffindell Austin Spl 70 min 54 sec. 2nd RA Lea-Wright Terraplane Spl. 3rd Les Murphy driving J O’Dea’s MG. 4th JK Phillips Ford V8 Spl. 5th L Burrows Terraplane Spl. 6th RWE Manser MG N Type. Fastest Lap F Kleinig Kleinig Hudson Spl 5 min 54 sec ‘more than 90 miles an hour’

 

Uffindell’s Austin 7 at a South Australian hill-climb and in more recent times below (T Johns)

 

(T Johns)

 

TM Brady, Singer Bantam, winner of the 1939 Australian Stock Car Championship and as a consequence the very first winner of the Australian Touring Car Championship (The Advertiser)

 

Australian Stock Car Championship

Chief interest in the Australian stock car championship centred on the possibility of J McKinnon catching the leader, TM Brady. The speed of the race was very slow in comparison to the SA Grand Prix.

Brady went into the lead from Uffindell on the third time around with Hutton a long way back third. Brooks, Mrs Jacques (Owen Gibbs driver) and Osborne retired at Kayannie after about three laps each, and McKinnon and Phillips moved up into fourth and fifth places respectively.

 

 

Brownsworth with his low-slung racing type car 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. Brady, however maintained his lead to the finish’ and in so doing is the winner of the very first Australian Touring Car Championship an honour hitherto accorded David McKay’s win in the 1960 ATCC at Gnoo Blas, Orange aboard his Jaguar Mk1.

 

TM Brady (left) and co-driver/mechanic, Lobethal, first winners of the Australian Touring Car Championship 1939, Singer Bantam (unattributed)

 

Results

1st TM Brady Singer Bantam. 2nd J McKinnon Ford V8 . 3rd JK Phillips Ford V8. 4th G Brownsworth Jaguar SS. 5th DE Hutton Morris 8/40. Fastest Lap Brownsworth 7 min 27 sec ‘just over 71 miles an hour’.

 

The TM Brady Singer Bantam, Lobethal 1939 (unattributed)

 

Tomlinson, Lobethal 1939 (The Advertiser)

 

Allan Tomlinson’s MG TA Spl’s speed. How Did He Do It?…

John Medley ‘I remain still mystified about how Allan Tomlinson and the ‘other kids from the west’ did what they did to win the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal…’

Tomlinson’s win was not a total surprise as race-day dawned. The Advertisers race morning summary said ‘…Despite his huge handicap- he is the only scratch man…J Saywell…has made himself one of the favourites for the race. Provided he has a clear passage and his motor keeps going, Saywell should be well up with the field 20 miles from the finish. His record average laps during the week favour F Kleinig who is off 4 min 15 seconds, but one of the most consistent of the drivers who is expected to do well is AG Tomlinson of Western Australia.’

John Medley explores how Allan Tomlinson did the ‘unbelievable’ in both his book ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ and online on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’. What follows with the exception of a contribution from Terry Walker is from those two sources. Recording in an easily accessible place this analysis has been a somewhat laborious process, any mistakes made are mine.

‘I had previously calculated, using known tyre sizes, wheel sizes, diff ratios and revs and the sort of speeds that the supercharged Tomlinson MG T special did. Over 130mph was the answer. People who know MG TA engines say “impossible”.

‘Problem: His lap times at Lobethal suggest that the car was in fact that fast. I and others have calculated sector times that he had to have achieved to do those lap times- and then found them impossible to match. Problem 2: He did the times and the lap chart shows it.

On the most difficult section of Lobethal, from the Gumeracha turnoff to Mount Torrens Corner through the dives, twists and turns amongst the trees at very close to top speed, he had run away from much faster cars: John Snow long ago told me that Allan had rocketed away from the Snow Delahaye through here.’

 

John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS (N Howard)

 

‘When Allan talked of all of this six weeks ago, (Medley was writing on TNF in 2005) I found him very self effacing, modest, factual and with an astonishing memory. He explained the sort of things he and Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood did to make the car and the driver fast. And he added fuel to the fire by suggesting speeds of closer to 140mph!!’

John continues, ‘He explained, for example, that while they carefully rehearsed the whole Lobethal circuit, it was the Gumeracha Turnoff-Mt Torrens section that they had focussed on in the three weeks before the event- walking each bit, looking at it from different angles, discussing lines, gearing, braking points etc and then applying their findings bit by bit in unofficial practice. They made the decision that this tricky bit was the critical bit of the whole circuit.’

‘And of that section, the corner next to Schubert’s paddock was the “jewel in the crown”: it took them the longest time in practice, and it wasn’t until 1940 that Allan Tomlinson was able to take it flat out.’

‘They had nicknames for one another: strong and athletic Bill Smallwood was The Minder, good driver and long-time competitor (state championships on two-wheels and four and still a racer into his 80’s). Clem Dwyer was The Manager, and Allan was labelled The Driver- by Clem, who reckoned that Allan was 2 seconds per lap quicker than Clem at any WA circuit.’

 

The Kids from Perth: Tomlinson, Smallwood and Dwyer (K Devine)

 

Albany 1938 (K Devine)

 

‘They came to Lobethal (three weeks before the race and very quickly borrowed a Morris tow-car from an Adelaide dealer and set themselves up close-by to Lobethal in Woodside) as very young unknowns all the way from Western Australia.

No-one took any notice of them (“we were just the kids from the west”) and no-one was prepared for what the youngsters would hit them with- despite Allan’s seven wins in a row in Western Australia. And it should be noted that when Allan was injured and unable to race for part of 1939, it was Bill Smallwood who took over the top placings in WA, also in a TA Special.

Ultimately, after the three days of official practice, they removed their practice cylinder-head (from Bill Smallwood’s racing MG T Special) and on race-day bolted on their special head for the race.

Tomlinson deliberately only practiced sections at speed: not only were the roads not closed, but they didn’t want any observer to gain an idea of what the kids from the west could do. An Adelaide builder staying in the same (Woodside) hotel noticed them, though, initially he suggested to them that they were foxing (“you are cunning young bastards”). Then he drew out his comprehensive record of every lap-time of every car at Lobethal and he suggested they could win- particularly after a good final practice. They continued to politely disagree, because they were very apprehensive about the serious eastern states experienced hotshots in their real racing cars’.

 

Saywell’s magnificent Alfa Romeo Tipo B or P3 depending upon your inclination- the apocryphal story about this car is it’s rather pricey twin-cam, supercharged straight eight being despatched by boat back to Italy just prior to the the war and never being seen again- probably still in the bilges of a ship on the bottom of the ocean. Ultimately restored to original specs of course and long gone from our shores (H Cullen)

 

Medley continued, ‘The stars of the day were always going to be the recently imported Alfa Romeo’s and the Delahaye. Alf Barrett threw away his chances at the start with a failure to turn a fuel tap on again and lost something like six irretrievable minutes with his 2.3 Monza.’

John Snow plugged on steadily in his 135CS Delahaye, speeding up as the race proceeded and he gained confidence in the survival of his tyres on an appallingly hot day. John Crouch’s 2.3 long-chassis sports Alfa was never quick enough and was (according to Allan T) on one occasion passed by the MG T Special up the main street of Lobethal, and Jack Saywell’s 2.9 Alfa was also troubled by its rubber and its brakes. Snow was so impressed by the MG T Special going away from him towards Mt Torrens Corner that he said he just had to own it- and in 1946 he did’.

 

John Crouch in his Alfa 8C , Lobethal 1939 AGP (N Howard)

 

‘Allan told the story of how Saywell passed the MG up the main streets of Lobethal to lead by over 150 yards as they headed towards that tough section: and he pointed out that Saywell was in his way by the time they were past Schubert’s Corner and slowing him up towards Mt Torrens Corner.’

‘…On this section maintaining his race strategy Allan Tomlinson flung the cart-sprung supercharged TA neatly but rapidly through as usual, aviating at times over some of the blind crests, and going away easily from one of the best modern sportscars in the world (the Snow Delahaye 135CS).

The supercharged T-Series Special was reaching 130mph on this spooky section. It took the astounded Snow all the way to Charleston to catch and pass him. Even then it was a struggle because perfectionist engineer Tomlinson had made sure that the TA engine would endure revs way beyond factory limits so perfectionist driver Tomlinson could drive it with reliability to 130mph.’

 

John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS beside one of the Australian Touring Car, sorry Australian Stock Car Championship contenders in the leafy Lobethal paddock (N Howard)

 

Medley wrote ‘The Tomlinson strategy  was to run the tallest tyre/diff combination they could, not brake or accelerate too hard, run the car a gear high, let the car build up to its maximum and keep it there in particular by maintaining the highest possible corner speed’.

‘There is another haunting truth about the kids from the west that day.’

’In the entire field despite Allan Tominson’s apprehension about the eastern states hotshots there was one, and only one driver with significant racing experience on tar: all the others had experience only on dirt: the only exceptions were John Snow with his overseas experience and the few who had raced at Lobethal one year earlier- that is, they had each had one day’s tar experience: Tim Joshua, Bob Lea-Wright, Jack Phillips, Alf Barrett and Jack Boughton.’

’The one and only one with significant tar experience was Allan Tomlinson, by then a very successful veteran of WA Round The Houses racing…A tar-surfaced Lobethal with so many fast corners was tailor made for Allan Tomlinson- particularly given his race plan to use the tallest possible diff and to corner close to the cars maximum all day’.

 

The smiling assassin- Tomlinson bares down upon whom folks. Albany (K Devine)

 

Details of car preparation were no less remarkable.

‘Remember when they were doing all this stuff, they were just kids, barely 20 years of age in that pre-Kart era when they started on Allan’s new MG T.

‘Examples include rebuilding the engine after every race, constantly improving it, never satisfied unless the short motor could be spun over with the thumb and fore-finger on the crankshaft’s flywheel flange. (“if it kept spinning it was ok, if not we pulled it apart to see what was fitting too neatly”) and the gas pressure within all cylinders was within a 3% range.’

‘Rings were lapped in a dummy bore carefully measured for round and cylindrical, the actual bore was lapped with rings already lapped, and then the lapped rings were lapped in the lapped bores: there was no running in needed.’

‘Copper inlet pipes ran smoothly from supercharger on the left to inlet ports on the right. Why copper? “Because of its heat transfer properties”‘

 

The Lobethal scrutineers trying to understand the speed of the blue-bullet from Perth (HAGP)

 

More on the engine from Terry Walker.

‘I’ve worked out why the Tomlinson MG TA, when pulled down in its new owners hands, seemed to be unremarkable inside the engine- it wasn’t heavily modified at all.’

’What Alan Tomlinson and Clem Dwyer did was the most finicky preparation- it revved higher than standard of course, but not a lot higher- the cam was fairly mild- but by careful preparation, it could hold those higher revs at full throttle for a very long time without the engine bursting. It was blueprinting, but beyond blueprinting. They worked hard on improving reliability as well as power. Well ahead of their time in many respects.’

‘In a Dowerin (WA) race meeting report in the 1930’s, the writer- a WA Sporting Car Club man- commented on the revs the engine was pulling. Not i suspect because they were outrageously high, but because Allan could keep the car on max revs lap after lap. An astounding feat for a production engine in the 1930’s’.

During the 70 year re-enactment/celebration of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal Alan Tomlinson was still alive and was guest of honour of the weekend.

When John Medley spoke to him about the engine ‘Allan told of using no head gasket but rather lapping the head with three grades of valve-grinding paste on a surface plate, then lapping the block likewise, then lapping the two together- “took me two weeks for each process” said Allan. “Surely you must use a machine to do that” i foolishly said. “No, all by hand” replied Allan.

‘Great 1940/50’s MG TC racer George ‘Research’ Pearse said to me 15 years ago “You couldn’t buy performance over the counter then like you can these days. Performance had to come from what was inside your head and from your ability to shape metal”.

The little team from the West were i suspect prototypes of that view, and also forerunners of a level of professionalism which didn’t exist in Australian until the 1960s’.

 

 

The Modern Era…

The seventieth anniversary of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal in 2009 provided an opportunity for many enthusiasts to meet with Alan Tomlinson, who, at that stage lived in New York and was 92 years old.

Some snippets from those who were there;

After the race no lesser figure than Lord Nuffield himself was interested in the TA’s secrets.

Doug Gordon, ‘ Alan was a lovely bloke. I met him in the main street of Lobethal and he gave me an almost blow by blow of the 1939 event, including all of his preparations of the car, along with a remarkable account of how he was introduced to Lord Nuffield at a fancy post-race dinner.

AGT at Lobethal in 2009

 

‘William Morris was waiting in a side room and Allan was only young  with some rowdy mates, who had been his pit crew. He was approached by an officious looking gent in a “penguin-suit” who he thought was a bouncer about to kick them out of the show. In fact he was ushered quietly and alone into a separate room where Lord Nuffield was waiting to meet him.’

‘Morris wanted to know every detail about how he got his TA to go so fast! The poms were not able to duplicate anything close to what Allan had achieved with the car. He was told from that day on Allan had the entire UK MG racing division at his disposal and that he was to personally liaise with Morris to requisition anything he desired at no cost. He thought it too good to be true, but did send off a range of requests and in due course everything he asked for was delivered to him in Perth!’

‘This was one of the most satisfying motoring conversations I have ever had- time seemed no object to Alan and at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted exchange occurred in what seemed to be the blink of an eye! I have nothing but the greatest of respect for this man and everything he achieved- especially being an MG man myself’ Doug concluded.

 

(J Medley)

John Lackey at left, built a replica of the Tomlinson TA Spl. Here it is with Alan at the wheel and Rob Rowe ‘who engineered the replica rebuild, doing some of it “blind”, so when AGT slipped into the seat and slid his foot onto the clutch (thus assuring Rob he guessed correctly), Rob turned to a nearby pillar and had a tear or two.’

‘Rob then asked Alan, at this, his first sight of the replica, how he managed the bonnet clearance of something low on the left. AGT reply “Did you hammer flat the fifth louvre from the front?” wrote John Medley.

(J Medley)

John Medley ‘John Lackey, Rob Rowe and I discussed the long copper inlet tract he used on the supercharged TA, from the supercharger drawing its air from the cockpit left to the right hand side of the engine ie; it was an INTERCOOLER. First principles AGT said “It seemed the right thing to do” and later he thoughtfully said “I think I was born an engineer”…

Alan Tomlinson returned to Lobethal in 1940 and had a terrible crash which hospitalised him for some time and ended his career.

John Medley again picks up the story. ‘The car ran on alcohol in 1940, he touched the Alan Boughton slowing Morgan over the top of the hill before the Lobethal Esses, where he was launched nose-standing into a paddock where he hit a tree.

‘Alan had not seen this picture (below) until 2009 until Ed Farrar showed him. AGT was shocked, perhaps understanding better his long recovery in Adelaide, sometimes in hospital, sometimes at South Australian Sporting Car Club President John Vercoe’s place. AGT never raced again’.

 

(J Medley)

‘John Snow, greatly impressed by the Kids from The West, just had to have the car so bought it, and rebuilt it via John Barraclough who served in Perth early in the War. He onsold it to Hope Bartlett when he bought the Dixon Riley in 1946- selling it to Hope when Bartlett sold the TA to Lean Barnard then Alec Mildren as shown in the Parramatta Park photo below.’ The shot shows Alec ‘with implement at left’- by then the car was fitted with 16 inch wheels.

John Lackey built a replica of Tomlinson’s MG TA, the original did not survive. ‘The TA’s body ended up without headrest on John Ralston’s “J Archibald” MG TC Special until he was naughty re-importing banned birds. Alec Mildren built a single-seat body on the TA chassis, cut down TC radiatored, sold to Curley Brydon to continue a remarkable career’ wrote Medley.

 

Photo Credits…

Norman Howard, The Advertiser, Ken Devine Collection, Bob King Collection, Dean Donovan Collection, Hedley Cullen, Ray Bell Collection, ‘SCCSA’ Sporting Car Club of South Australia Collection via Tony Parkinson

 

Bibliography…

The Advertiser newspaper January 2 and 3 1939, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley and Terry Walker on To he Nostalgia Forum’

 

Tailpiece: Tomlinson enroute to the Lobethal AGP win in 1939…

(K Devine)

Finito…

(F Pearse)

The Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 and John Snow Delahaye 135CS and friends at The Coorong, South Australia on January 5 and 6 1939…

The two intrepid Sydney racers contested the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at Lobethal on 2 January, the handicap race famously won by Allan Tomlinson in his MG TA Spl s/c. Saywell aboard ‘the fastest car in Australia’ was off scratch and finished sixth, slowed by tyre problems on the scorching hot South Australian summer day. Snow was off 4 minutes 15 seconds in the French sportscar and was fourth. Everybody that day was outfoxed, out-prepared and outraced by the three youngsters from Perth- Tomlinson and two fellow racer/fettlers Clem Dwyer and Bill Smallwood.

Whilst in South Australia they decided to attack some Australian speed records on the pipe-clay surface of The Coorong, at a little spot near Salt Creek, 210 km from Adelaide.

Huge amounts of preparation went into the attempts with the Sporting Car Club of South Australia playing an organisational role and in ensuring compliance with international rules.

Not the Coorong but the Lobethal paddock earlier in the week- John Snow’s gorgeous Delahaye 135CS- he used the Hudson behind in the Australian Stock Car Championship that weekend too (N Howard)

Whilst attempts were being made by Snow and Victorian racer Lyster Jackson over longer distances/times, both Snow and Saywell also wanted a crack at The Flying Mile (Class C for Snow and Outright for Saywell) which had to be timed to the nearest hundredth of a second rather than a tenth of a second- the best which could be achieved with a chronometer. The Adelaide University Physics Department were involved in creating some automatic photo-electric timing equipment which met the accuracy requirements of the international regulations.

Two existing speed records had been set in South Australia during February 1935 at Sellicks Beach by John H Dutton (Class C 92 mph Flying Mile) and CW Bonython MG (Class A 76.09 mph) but the Fleurieu Peninsula beach would not suffice in length for this endeavour which sought records between an hour and twenty-four hours.

A huge open area was needed with space for long, high speed corners to keep average speeds up. Whilst the opening photo may be at the Coorong, it could be at Sellicks- perhaps its a promotional shot taken prior to the record attempts or maybe a test run. Let me know if you have certainty about the locale.

Weather delayed the attempts by a few days but the SCCSA officials were out and about at 5 am on the morning of Thursday 5 January 1939 and prepared a surface as ‘smooth as glass’- the wind was up on the day and was said to be anything up to a 40 mph headwind.

The temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the week the temperature in Adelaide was 117 degrees! ‘Despite that a crowd of over 200 people ventured out into that desolate landscape and into those incredible temperatures, setting up a tent city’ wrote John Medley.

The chosen course had been professionally surveyed by an SCCSA club-member and measured 10 miles 318 yards- it was a huge oval comprising two straights of 5 miles and ‘wide circles at either end for turning’.

John Snow started the blue Delahaye 135CS at noon and was soon lapping consistently, the intent being to stick to a plan to coax the car through 24 hours- it wasn’t a sprint after all.

John covered the first 185 miles in just over two hours averaging 92 mph. The car was then refuelled in 4 minutes and Lyster Jackson jumped aboard- he maintained the average of 92 mph in his 10 lap stint and then made another refuelling stop and some ‘engine adjustments’ were made. The first tyre stop, which took 49 seconds, was made a little later and then Jackson was relieved by Snow after the speedy machine had completed 35 laps, or about 366 miles.

Snow had been going again for less than 3 miles when valve trouble ended further motoring at about 6.30 pm.

A perfect world would have been popping a spare engine into the car between the 150 mile Grand Prix and the record attempt but Snow didn’t have a spare despite his wealth. The car ‘was overhauled by the Englishman brought to Australia specially to prepare the car’- lets come back to that point.

The distance travelled in the first hour was 92 miles, for three hours about 275 miles. Jackson did the quickest lap at 6:26 with Snow’s 6:32. ‘No attempt was made to push the car’ but a mean speed of 130 mph was reached on the long straights.

 

 

The team claimed records to the Australian Automobile Association for 50, 100 and 200 miles- 50, 100, 200 and 500 kilometres- and 1 and 3 hours. Those recognised in the Australian record books are;

Standing 100 km 40 mins 45.5- 91.47 mph, Standing 200 km 1 hour 21.29.0- 91.51 mph, Standing 50 Miles 32.55.4- 91 mph, Standing 100 Miles 6:5.33.0- 91.51 mph.

Obviously the Delahaye was in no fit state to attack the Flying Mile, whilst one newspaper report has it that Saywell’s Vittorio Jano designed masterpiece did 132 mph for the Flying Mile and 88 mph for the Standing Mile.

‘On the following day , it was Jack Saywell’s turn…the task was perhaps simpler, the red car attacking only two records, the standing start and flying start mile- but the blistering temperature, sandy surface and blustery 45 mph sidewind across his path were going to be a hindrance…in accordance with AAA rules, a run in each direction was required, and the Alfa used its Lobethal rear axle ratio, the second highest of four available’ John Medley wrote.

‘Using a four mile run in against the breeze, Saywell averaged 128 mph for the first officially timed run. In the opposite direction he used a shorter run in and averaged 140 mph for the flying mile. The average of the two runs was 134.7 mph, the fastest officially recorded speed in Australian history breaking the previous record by over 35 mph’.

‘The Alfa was then prepared for its attempt on the standing start one mile record. Spewing dirt off its spinning back wheels for the first 400 yards, the booming Alfa then got into its stride and crossed the line at 142 mph, wind assisted. Into the wind Saywell crossed the finishing line at 125 mph. When the times were totalled and the speed averaged, the mean speed was 89.2 mph, another new Australian record’ John Medley wrote.

Some Australian enthusiasts will be aware that John Snow, scion of the wealthy Sydney ‘Snows Department Stores’ family made annual trips to the UK both to purchase merchandise for the family business and to race and purchase some top-end cars either to order or for re-sale back in Oz.

The 1939 AGP grid, for example, comprised at least four cars (John Crouch Alfa 8C2300 Le Mans, Colin Dunne MG K3 Magnette, Saywell’s Tipo B and Snows Delahaye 135CS) imported to Australia by the front-rank Sydney racer.

John Snow during the 1939 AGP weekend at Lobethal, Delahaye 135CS (N Howard)

The Delahaye was a remarkably astute purchase by Snow for Australian handicap racing- it was not an outright winner other than on the ‘right day’ but with enough speed and reliability built into it by virtue of its sports-racer intent would always be ‘thereabouts’ in the handicaps which predominated in Australia. And so it was, mainly. The car probably coulda-shoulda won several AGP’s, but in the end it only took the one, in John Crouch’s hands at Leyburn, Queensland in 1949.

The 6 cylinder, 3557cc, OHV 160 bhp car, chassis ‘47190’ was turned into a ‘corn-chip’ as a consequence of a disastrous trailer fire due to an errant cigarette butt flicked out of the car window upon the trip back to Sydney after the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, Western Australia. Enough of the car existed to reconstruct in the seventies/eighties.

The English mechanic referred to earlier was ‘Jock’ Finlayson, he was brought to Australia by Snow and Saywell who by that time were operating ‘Monza Service’, at 217 Bourke Street, East Sydney looking after various racing and top-end road cars.

The very well credentialled (ex-Bentley, Birkin, Straight, Seaman) poor chap totally stuffed up the timing of Saywell’s 2.9 litre, DOHC, supercharged Tipo B engine when he rebuilt it and rooted the engine as a consequence.

With no confidence in anyone else locally to address the engine and having plenty of moolah Jack popped the engine onto a boat back to Milan, but the ship is thought to have been sunk in the immediate months of the War- Saywell never saw that engine again!

Chassis ‘5002’ was not reunited with a motor of kosher original specification until it was restored in Australia in the early sixties. It had an active, long, eventful racing career mind you, albeit fitted with GMC and Alvis motors…

Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’ John Medley, Norman Howard from the Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Jack Saywell, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, AGP Lobethal 1939…

(N Howard)

Finito…

(unattributed)

‘It is not common for racing cars to be photographed from the rear- more usually from the side or front.
Here are a few rear views (or views of rears) from my archives’ – Bob.
Jack Saywell, above, in his only appearance at Bathurst in his 2.9 Alfa Romeo P3, Easter 1939.
He could do no better than 6th when his engine was reluctant to start after a pitstop to adjust the brakes. The photo below is from ‘The Magnificent Monopostos’ by Simon Moore- this pitstop one of several during the very hot 1939 AGP at Lobethal, the heat caused major tyre problems for the heavier cars which did not afflict winner Allan Tomlinson’s nimble, light MG TA Spl s/c, Jack was 6th again.

(GP Library)

My anal side, not dominant at all in normal life kicks in with a wonderful selection like this- I feel the need to pop in chassis numbers where I can- but I am going to resist given the time required to do so! Good ole Google works pretty well- ‘Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo P3 chassis number’ will give you anoraks a path to finding what you want, otherwise just enjoy these magnificent photographs from Bob’s archive, Mark.

(unattributed)

Paul Swedberg drove John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS to 2nd place at the Bathurst 1939 meeting, in John’s absence overseas. Paul’s own Offenhauser Midget, in which he was virtually unbeatable on the on speedways, was not entered.

(unattributed)

Ted McKinnon finished 13th in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in his Maserati 6CM. Doug Whiteford won that day aboard the first of his two Talbot-Lago T23C’s.

(S Wills)

An unknown car exhibiting the disadvantages of a swing rear axle system. Something tells me that this is DW Stephenson in his DWS? Templestowe Hillclimb in outer eastern Melbourne, September 1954.

(S Wills)

Maserati’s chief mechanic Guerino Bertocchi is leaning into the cockpit of Moss’ victorious Maserati 250F at Albert Park during the AGP weekend in 1956.
Having debuted as a riding mechanic with Alfieri Maserati in the 1926 Targa Florio and subsequently being riding mechanic in thirteen Mille Miglias as well as the 12 Hour of Pescara, it has always saddened me that he should die in 1981 as a passenger to an American during a trial drive of a modern Maserati. Car enthusiast Peter Ustinov told an amusing story concerning Bertocchi. Guerino delivered a new Maserati road car to Ustinov in Switzerland and said to Peter “I don’t know who you are Senor Ustinov, but you must be important to have me, Bertocchi, delivering your car”.

(S Wills)

Reg Parnell enters Jaguar corner in his Ferrari Super Squalo during the same wonderful 1956 AGP weekend.
The 30mph sign would not have deterred him. It also serves to remind us that ridiculous speed limits are not a new phenomenon – this sign was at the start of Albert Park’s main straight.

(S Wills)

This photograph shows the large SU required to feed the highly modified supercharged Vincent engine in Lex Davison’s Cooper. Phil Irving was the designer and the modifier of this motor – still labelled H.R.D on its timing cover. Templestowe 1957.

(S Wills)

Stirling Moss in the Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, November 1958.
This photograph is taken during practice – the race was held on a hot day and the Cooper was denuded of much of its rear body work in an endeavour to keep the driver cool. The long shadows show that the photograph was taken in the early morning – I seem to recall that practice was at 6.30am.

In spite of the hour, note the huge crowd at Jaguar corner. In a previous post I have mentioned that Moss really only showed his sublime skill during the 1956 AGP when it began to rain with just six laps to go. On this morning Stirling was struggling with locking brakes and again demonstrated phenomenal car control – I was crowd marshalling at about the point from where this photograph was taken.

(S Wills)

Almost a rear view – note the missing engine cover to cope with the heat. Moss won the 32 lap, 100 mile race from Jack Brabham’s similar Cooper T45 Climax FPF, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maserati 250F.

Sadly this was the last race meeting at the ‘Park until the modern AGP era.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey (5th) in the Lukey Bristol tailing Bib Stilwell in the 250F Maserati through Jaguar corner in 1958.

(S Wills)

Ted Gray in the Tornado 2 Chev- again at Albert Park of course in 1958, Ted retired the Lou Abrahams car after completing only 4 laps.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey in the eponymous Lukey Bristol at Templestowe 23/3/1958 – or was it still called the Cooper T23 Bristol until it got its Vanwall inspired body?

(S Wills)

JW Philip in an Austin Healey at Templestowe on 20/04/1958. We know nothing of this car and driver.

(S Wills)

Jack French in a  Cooper Norton of only 499cc, but still good enough to break the magic (to me) 30 seconds. His time 28.15 Rob Roy, 1959. Coopers with various power plants were ‘King of the Hills’ in those days.

(S Wills)

At Templestowe in 1958; Bruce Walton in his Walton Cooper. Six times Australian Hillclimb Champion from 1958 to 1963.

(N Hammond)

And lastly, me at Rob Roy in my Type 35 Bugatti in 2008.
Credits…
Bob King Collection
References: ‘AGP – Howard et al’, Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing John Medley, ‘ The Magnificient Monopostos’. Simon Moore. ‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920-2012. King and McGann
Tailpiece: Spiro (Steve) Chillianis, Rob Roy 1960, with some work to do …

(S Wills)

Car is the ex-Eddie Perkins rear engined Lancia Lambda Special, now fitted with an Austin A70 engine, or should we say ‘was fitted’. He recorded a time of 80.88 seconds- perhaps the ambulance broke the timing strip?
Finito…