Posts Tagged ‘Jaguar ‘D Type’’

(unattributed)

Frank Matich and David Finch aboard two wonderful D Types at Longford in 1960…

‘XKD526’ and ‘XKD520’ are both cars I have written about before but these photographs were too good to lose by just dropping them into the existing articles ‘unannounced’.

Its the 1960 meeting- both cars contested the Australian Tourist Trophy won by Derek Jolly’s 2 litre Lotus 15 Climax FPF. I can’t work out what is happening here, probably a practice session. If it was a Formula Libre race being gridded Austin Miller’s vivid yellow Cooper T51 Climax would be up-front- checkout the article about the TT; https://primotipo.com/2018/05/17/1960-australian-tourist-trophy/, here about the Bill Pitt’s career and the D Type;

https://primotipo.com/2016/03/18/lowood-courier-mail-tt-1957-jaguar-d-type-xkd526-and-bill-pitt/

and here about the Stillwell/Gardner/Finch D Type- photo value only really; https://primotipo.com/2017/01/01/mount-druitt-1955-brabham-gardner-and-others/

(unattributed)

Here in the paddock you can see the Leaton Motors livery of Frank’s car really clearly- that’s Aussie’s Cooper to the right and a Maserati 250F behind. Its Arnold Glass’ car, he was fourth in the Longford Trophy behind the three Cooper T51’s of Brabham, Mildren and Stillwell. A wonderful, relaxed, bucolic Longford scene. Another link, about this meeting; https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

‘XKD526’ was acquired by the Brisbane and Northern Territory Jaguar dealer, Westco Motors, owned by Cyril and Geordie Anderson, in a partnership of three together with Bill Pitt and Charlie Swinburn- Charlie died of cancer a couple of years after the car arrived it so it became a partnership of two.

These days the Great Western Corporation is a huge listed enterprise involved in agriculture, trucking, property, mining and other activities. When Cyril Anderson established the business in Toowoomba in 1934 he started with a two-ton truck but expanded rapidly, locally and nationally. By 1953 when they formed Westco Motors Cyril and Geordie ran a large successful business, no doubt the D Type was for them a modest investment but one which would assist to build the Jaguar brand and their market position rapidly.

The car arrived in late 1955, exclusively raced for some years by Bill Pitt, Westco’s Service Manager-Geordie Anderson had a few drives, and then successfully by Frank Matich and Doug Chivas during the Leaton’s ownership.

(unattributed)

Pitt crashed it badly at Albert Park in 1956, at Jaguar Corner, of all places.

The photo above is the start of the 2 December ‘Argus Trophy’ 25 mile sportscar race during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics meeting, the AGP was the feature race of a two-weekend carnival and was won by Stirling Moss’ works Maserati 250F on 2 December.

He was similarly dominant in his Officine Maserati 300S sportscar winning the 1956 Australian Tourist Trophy during the 25 November weekend. Moss won from his teammate, Jean Behra, Ken Wharton’s Ferrari Monza 750 and Pitt’s D Type- a great result for the Queenslander as first local home. This meeting is covered here; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/16/james-linehams-1956-agp

and here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/29/1956-australian-tourist-trophy-albert-park/

Back to the photograph above.

Bib Stillwell is in ‘XKD520’ on the left with Jack Brabham’s partially obscured Cooper Bobtail Climax far left, and Pitt aboard ‘XKD526’ on the right. To the far right is an Aston DB3S, Tom Sulman perhaps.

This is the race in which Pitt came unstuck. In an eventful first lap the car tripped over the stone gutter and rolled- Bill was lucky to survive let alone walk away unscratched after the machine ended up on its back.

In all of the mess- haybales and flattened bodywork, the marshals expected to find him dead in the car, instead he was flicked out as the car went over and landed- safely on the other side of the bales. Lucky boy. The car was quickly repaired and raced on.

Brabham won from Stillwell’s D Type and Bill Patterson’s Cooper Bobtail Climax.

(unattributed)

Lets not forget Bib’s ‘XKD520’ loitering in the expenses of Albert Park during the same meeting.

Superb, rare colour shot of a beautifully prepared and presented car as all Bib’s machines were. Was Gerry Brown wielding the spanners in Stillwell’s Cotham Road Kew HQ at that stage?

(M Ireland)

Bloke Magnet.

Here ‘XKD526’ is performing a valuable function as the centrepiece of Westco’s 1956 Brisbane Motor Show stand and attracting the punters to Jaguar’s more routine roadies!

(Anderson Family)

 

(unattributed)

 

(B Hickson)

The car was rebuilt and then sprayed a lovely gold or bronze!

A great idea to make the car stand out perhaps- the ‘error’ was quickly rectified with a nice shade of British Racing Green replacing the gold hue between Albert Park 1957 and Albert Park 1958!

The first shot is of Bill in the Lowood pits, he has Crocodile Dundee alongside, the only thing Mick is missing is the big knife.

The one below is the beastie being fuelled in the Albert Park surrounds in March 1957.

Pitt was second in the Victorian Tourist Trophy again behind Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S that weekend. He also contested the F Libre Victorian Trophy Gold Star round finishing sixth and first of the sportscars home- Lex Davison won in his Ferrari 500/750.

(unattributed)

Bill returned to Albert Park year after year including the Formula Libre 100 mile Melbourne Grand Prix carnival held in November 1958.

In the shot above he is negotiating the same corner in which he tripped over in 1956 leading none other than race-winner Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre- Jack Brabham finished second to Moss in a similar car. Bill placed fifth two laps adrift of Moss, then came Brabham, Doug Whiteford, Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maserati 250F.

The D worked hard over that meetings two weekends, he was third in the 100 mile Victorian Tourist Trophy behind Whiteford’s 300S and Ron Phillips’ Cooper T38 Jaguar and third again in the 25 mile sports car scratch behind Whiteford’s superb 300S with Derek Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax second.

(unattributed)

A couple of Mount Panorama photos circa 1958-1959.

The one above is probably of the 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy race or heat- Pitt on the outside is about to pass ‘Gelignite Jack’ Murray in ‘XKD532′ DNF, then the third placed Cooper T38 Jaguar of Ron Phillips follows and then Charlie Whatmore’s Lotus 11 Climax. See the #16 Lotus 15 raced by Derek Jolly to second place behind the winner, David McKay’s Aston Martin DB3S. Click here for a piece on his DB3S’; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

Jaguar Magazine recorded that ‘Bill Pitt wrote to Lofty England in 1956 informing the Jaguar guru that the D Type had no brakes at the end of the notorious Conrod Straight because the D Type experienced pad ‘knock off’. Jaguar had never heard of that problem before, and the bottom of Mount Panorama would not be a place to learn about it for the first time’ the magazine pointed out wryly!

(unattributed)

Same part of Mount Panorama but this time Pitt is chasing Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev- the big booming monster was second in the AGP at Bathurst in October 1958, and would well and truly have had the legs to best the D Type.

This is probably during the Bathurst 100 F Libre race won by Whitefords 300S from Arnold Glass’ Ferrari Super Squalo, which popped an engine on the last lap, then came Bill in a splendid third. Seeliger started from the middle of the front row but didn’t finish having ‘…spun the brakeless Maybach to an eye-popping halt in the Pit Corner escape road’ at half distance wrote John Medley.

(J Psaros)

 

Bobtail Cooper ?, Whatmore Lotus 11 Climax, shapely ? and the nose of FM’s Matich (unattributed)

 

(J Psaros)

I have written extensively about the great Frank Matich a number of times, rather than repeat myself perhaps the most relevant article is this one in terms of his sportscar rise and rise is this one; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Be in no doubt the Leaton support was key to taking him forward from C to D Type Jaguars and then the Lotus 15 Climax- that car powered by a 2.5 Climax FPF showed he was an outright F Libre contender if it were ever in doubt. The group of XKD526 photographs here are all at Lowood probably during the Gold Star round in August 1959.

(unattributed)

One of the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport’s less successful rule changes was to introduce Appendix K ‘GT Racing’ to encourage road going GT’s in 1960. This article covers the salient points; https://primotipo.com/2017/01/19/forever-young/

Because grids were skinny they encouraged/turned a blind eye to sports-racers ‘meeting the regulations’ as long as they were fitted with a lid. And so we had David McKay’s Lola Mk 1, Bob Jane’s Maserati 300S and other exotica including ‘XKD526’ fitted with ‘fastbacks’ to allow them to continue to race.

The photos above and below are at Sandowns first meeting in 1962, the conversion created the only hardtop D Type was quite neat looking. I didn’t say beautiful, just neat or functional!

Barry Topen owned the car by then and crashed it quite heavily into the horse railings surrounding the circuit.

It was soon repaired, sold to Keith Russell and then acquired by Keith Berryman in the early sixties- the car was with him ‘forever’ before finally leaving our shores five or so years ago.

(B Anderson)

Berryman, or is it Keith Russell, below at Warwick Farm in the mid sixties with the car still looking great albeit with a set of rather wiiide alloy wheels and the rear guards flared to suit. It does have a bit of the Sunset Boulevards about it gussied up like this.

(unattributed)

Speaking of the guards reminds me of an incident in the Australian Grand Prix paddock a few years back, not long before the cars sale and final departure from our shores.

Noted British artisan and driver Rod Jolley was in Australia that summer racing, i think, a Cooper T51 at Phillip Island and the Albert Park AGP historic double.

Somehow, unloading XKD526 in the Albert Park paddock from its trailer after its long haul from Stockinbingal- Keith Berryman was displaying the car and participating in the on-circuit historic events, a front guard was damaged and a wheel was fouling the guard.

Who to approach for the required bit of impromptu panel beating? Rod Jolley of course. The look of sheer terror on Keith’s face as Jolley set to work on his lovely bit of aluminium with controlled brio was awful to watch- it felt like an arm was being hacked off…

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

Bill Pitt up whilst the car was new and road registered. Uncertain as to the circuit-intrigued to know- such handsome beasts of warfare aren’t they- D Types define ‘compound curvature’.

(J Psaros)

On the side of the main straight at Lowood- is that a youthful Frank Matich at left eyeing off his future mount? Who are the other dudes i wonder

( J Psaros)

‘Move to the back of the bus matey…’

The Leaton’s Bedford bus at Lowood. The nose to the far left is the Westco Mk7 Jag which finished seventh outright in the 1957 Round Australia Trial behind six VW Beetles. Jaguar Magazine assert that Pitt claimed it as his greatest competition triumph.

The car later became a tow-car for some of the racers inclusive of the D and works built Mk1 Pitt drove to victory in the 1961 one race Australian Touring Car Championship at Lowood.

Both the Mk7 and ‘Big Nose’ The Bus are long gone, sadly.

Credits…

Anderson Family Collection, Jaguar Magazine, Jock Psaros, Malcolm Ireland, Barry Anderson, Barry Hickson, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘Glory Days: Albert Park’ Barry Green

Tailpiece: ‘Geordie Anderson’ in her new D Type,’XKD526’…

(Anderson)

Doris ‘Geordie’ Anderson aboard the new D Type she co-owned with Bill Pitt and Charlie Swinburn. Its said that she was the only serious lady racer of a D Type at the time anywhere in the world.

Her racing CV included a win in the Mount Druitt 24 Hour Race in a Jaguar XK120 FHC- we shall come back to Geordie and her exploits ina month or so…

Finito…

 

 

Briggs Cunningham and his huge entourage of racers, technicians, pantechnicons and Caddies arrive in France for the 1954 Le Mans classic- ‘The Eagle Has Landed’!…

The racers are two Cunningham C4R’s whilst on the trailer is a Ferrari 375MM, the shot above was taken at the village of Bolbec, 35 km from the port of Le Havre where the team and all of the equipment above arrived from the United States on the ship ‘Mauretania’.

This article is about Briggs, his Cunninghams and the team’s 1954 assault on the event. In researching the C4R I discovered this fantastic website about all things Cunningham, so rather than using copious amounts of it here, take the time to explore, it is exceptional;

http://www.briggscunningham.com/home/cunningham-c4r-continuation/

This piece comprises a bit of context about Cunningham, some background on his cars and the main game which is the 1954 event. There are other images of the race but I have stuck as much as possible to the Getty Archive to keep the flavour of the shots similar, this Maurice Jarnoux chappie, whose work I am becoming increasingly familiar with, is a bit of an artiste.

Cunningham beside one of the C4R’s and the ‘Mauretania’ dockside at the port of Le Havre about 215 km from Le Mans (Getty-Jarnoux)

Briggs Cunningham…

Lived a life surrounded by extraordinary wealth and also one of considerable sporting achievement as both a yachtsman and racer, this slightly truncated obituary is as good a place as any to start.

‘Briggs Swift Cunningham II, a sportsman whose affinity for yachts and cars drew him to sailboat racing as an America’s Cup skipper and to auto racing as the creator and driver of his custom sports car, died Wednesday 2 July 2003 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 96. Cunningham sailed in the 1958 Cup races off Newport, R.I., as skipper of the 12-meter sloop Columbia, successfully defending the America’s Cup against the British challenger, the 12-meter yacht Sceptre.

”Briggs was like a fine violinist with boats,” said Victor Romagna, who sailed with Cunningham in the competition. ”He would need someone to do the tuning, as one might with a Stradivarius, but afterwards, we would hand the boat back to Briggs. Then he would play the instrument absolutely perfectly.”

‘Columbia’ – US16, the first 12 Meter America’s Cup winner in 1958. Cunningham skippered the boat which beat the Royal Yacht Squadron’s ‘Sceptre’- Columbia won 4 straight races by margins of between 7-12 minutes

Cunningham was born Jan. 19, 1907, in Cincinnati. His family helped finance railways, telecommunications, meat-packing and commercial real estate and his father was the chief financier of two young men who had developed a bath soap that floated. Their names were William Cooper Procter and James Norris Gamble.

Briggs spent his summers in the Northeast and learned to sail by the time he was 6. His family moved to Southport, Conn., when he was a teenager. At age 17, Cunningham joined the Star Class racing fleet at the Pequot Yacht Club in Southport. The venture was the beginning of his 30 years of sailboat racing on Long Island Sound.

He attended Yale for two years, then left in 1929 to marry Lucy Bedford, daughter of a Standard Oil heir, Fred Bedford. It was during this period that he entered into sport as a way of life.

As a member of the New York Yacht Club, he continued to sail the Columbia in club races through the 1960′s. He also developed ‘The Cunningham’, a common device on sailboats that adjusts sail tension.

Cunningham’s interest in racecars began in 1939 when he participated in the New York World’s Fair.

After World War II, he began competing in the 24-hour auto races at Le Mans, France, and in 1951 he showed up with the Cunningham C-4R, a racecar he had designed and built. Made with a sleek, hand-hammered aluminum body and Chrysler’s newly introduced V-8 engine, the Cunningham has been called America’s first sports car. A year later, Cunningham and his partner, Bill Spear, placed fourth with the car at Le Mans, averaging 88 miles an hour.

Time magazine cover in 1954

”Cunningham himself was never particularly interested in short races,” Road and Track magazine said in 1979. ”What he liked to do was get out and drive and drive and drive, which was why Le Mans was so fascinating to him.”

Having raced his sports car for the last time in 1955, Cunningham began competing on a Jaguar team and became a Jaguar distributor in New England. After moving to California in 1962, he bought several vintage powerboats and, in 1964, opened the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, Calif., which has since changed ownership and was moved to a private museum in Florida.

In 1993, he was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame.

Cunningham was married 40 years to his second wife, the former Laura Cramer. He is survived by his wife; a son, Briggs Cunningham III of Danville, Ky.; two daughters, Lucie McKinney of Green Farms, Conn., and Cythlen Maddock of Palm Beach, Fla.; two stepsons; 19 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren’.

The George Rand/Fred Wacker Cunnungham C2R Chrysler 5.5 V8 at Le Mans in 1952 (unattributed)

 

Cunningham Cars…

Briggs first came to international attention with his Cadillac entry for Le Mans in 1950.

There were two cars, one looked standard, the other had somewhat bizarre streamlined open bodywork and was immediately nick-named Le Monstre by the Frenchies. Cunningham was encouraged by the results when the coupé finished tenth and the streamliner eleventh.

Cunningham’s original plan was a Cadillac-engined Ford, a high-power, low-weight recipe concepted by Phil Walters in the States, but the ACO turned it down.

The 11th placed Cadillac Spider ‘Le Monstre’ driven by Cunningham/Walters ahead of the 10th placed Cadillac 50-61 Coupe de Ville raced by Miles and Sam Collier at Le Mans 1950 (unattributed)

In a path that became well travelled, Briggs was convinced that a strong, simple American V8 with an equally sound, simple chassis would produce a competitive car to go head to head with European marques of more exotic specification.

Three specially-built sport-racers with Chrysler engines started the 1951 Le Mans classic. Two crashed, the third had engine bearing problems but finished eighteenth. Before its contretemps with the scenery one of the C2s was running in second place, a significant achievement for a new marque.

‘For 1952, less weight and more power were the goals. By now, having noted the C2’s promise (it had won at Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake) Chrysler itself was tacitly backing the team’s attempt to defeat the Europeans on their home ground. The Detroit giant now had a standard engine with real performance potential, and the sales impact of victory was tempting. The ‘hemi’ V8 engine used lateral push-rods to operate splayed valves from the single camshaft in the Vee. This gave it the advantage of hemispherical combustion chambers with less complexity than using twin cams, and the stock output was somewhere around 180bhp’, said MotorSport.

Extensive engine development included ‘all the usual bag of hot-rodders tricks’- valve-gear lightening, needle-bearing roller rockers and cam followers, solid lifters instead of wheezy hydraulic components, special crankshafts and hi-lift cams. Four Zenith carbs fed the beast which used a compression ratio variously quoted from 7.5:1 to 8.6:1. The engine’s capacity was 331cid or 5425cc, power quoted was between 300 and 340 bhp and torque some 312Ib ft at only 2000rpm.

The big cast-iron, 625 pound plus lump with its two-inch overhead valves was understressed- down the decades this formula of worked Detroit V8’s was very successful as long as the limitations of the inherent layout and design specification were not exceeded. The big step forward for American V8s’ from a racing perspective was the small-block Chevy with its (relatively) lightweight thin-wall casting techniques, but the Chrysler, pound for pound was a competitive unit ‘in period’, the 283 Chev was still a few years away in 1954.

1952 C4R engine detail (unattributed)

 

Pit shot of the #2 Spear/Johnston car at Le Mans in 1954. Note the Halibrand alloy wheels, deatil of the body and unique scuttle mounted oil coolers (Getty)

The chassis was a period typical ladder frame comprising two pairs of steel tubes joined vertically by tubing and gussets which carried the big bent eight.

Suspension up front comprised coil springs and double wishbones, a coil-sprung rigid axle replaced the De Dion set-up of the C2 at the rear, it was well located by trailing arms and a Panhard rod. Hydraulic tubular shock absorbers were used front and rear.

Chrysler engineers were involved in sorting the suspension geometry, spring rates and shock absorber settings together with Cunningham’s team of Phil Walters, Jack Donaldson and Briggs Weaver.

A stock or even modified Chrysler transmission did not offer the number of ratios required let alone the strength with all that torque tearing away at it. It took a truck unit to cope- an Italian Siata gearbox was used containing four ratios in a light aluminium case, it proved to be sweet shifting and great to use over long distances.

Sexy alloy Halibrand (as used at Indy and on America’s sprintcars and midgets) 7 X 16 inch wheels were used with big, 13 inch, finned drum brakes but they were not really up to the task. The brakes had to be used sympathetically in the manner of the day, albeit by 1953 Jaguar was pioneering the disc brake paradigm shift, an advantage they would press home to the end of the decade, especially at Le Mans.

The cars track was 4ft 6in front and rear, its wheelbase 100 inches and weight circa 2410 pounds, not a lightweight but much less bulky than the ‘pork-chop’ C2.

Briggs, sans helmet, parade lap perhaps, during the September 1952 Watkins Glen GP, 6.6 mile road course weekend- C4R. Cunningham led from the start of the 15 lap journey but a first lap racing incident between John Fitch C4R in second and third placed Fred Wacker’s Allard J2 Cadillac caused the latter’s tail to run wide over a kerb, killing a young boy and injuring 12 people. The race was abandoned- and caused the end of road course racing in the US (B Tronolone Collection)

 

The 10th placed C4R Coupe at Le Mans in 1953- raced by Charles Moran and John Gordon-Bennett

Three C4Rs were built. One was a Kamm-tailed coupé the other two slab sided spyders designed by Bob Blake.

Big grille and cutaway wings channelled huge swags of air to the radiator and finned, iron brake drums. Rear wing scoops cooled the tyres, neat slots in the trailing edges of the rear wings kept the flow going. For the spyders, instead of siting the oil-cooler low, where it would be vulnerable to stones, the team adopted a distinctive cylindrical aircraft-style unit mounted high up on the cars scuttle.

The C4R’s race debut was at Bridgehampton early in 1952. For thirteen laps Phil Walters led, then a tail-pipe came loose and he was black-flagged. It was a minor disappointment but the team’s spirits were lifted for Le Mans.

Cunningham entered a spyder for himself and Bill Spears, another for John Fitch and George Rice, while Phil Walters and Duane Carter handled the coupé. By Saturday night, Carter had stuck his car in the sand, and Fitch and Rice had retired with valve problems. But they had been quick, and Briggs Cunningham drove solo in the remaining car for nearly 20 hours before letting Spear cruise home fourth. It was an amazing, gritty performance by the American sportsman.

The following year, 1953, a new streamlined Cunningham, the C5 raced, the winning Jag D’s top speed reaching 154mph on Mulsanne. The Coventry team’s Dunlop disc brakes were the difference between the cars. The C5 was third, the C4R spyder seventh, and the coupé tenth.

‘Smiley grille’ C5R Le Mans 1953- 3rd place driven by Phil Waters and John Fitch (unattributed)

 

#1 Briggs Cunningham/John Gordon-Bennett C4R Chrysler, Le Mans 1954

Strong progress was being made on chassis, aerodynamics and engine by both Cunningham and Chrysler, but Briggs’ personal desire to win Le Mans was tempting him from Detroit to Maranello.

A string of national and international successes in the States ought to have been supremely satisfying, since the blue and white cars were beating the twin-cam Europeans handsomely there. Best of all was a hard-fought win against the works Aston Martin team at Sebring in 1953.

Two of the new DB3Ss, crewed by Reg Parnell/George Abecassis and Peter Collins/Geoff Duke, traded positions with Fitch and Walters from the start. After Duke collided with another car, the other Aston couldn’t close the small gap- at the end of 12 hours racing the Cunningham scored by 3 1/2-minutes’, the car won from the Parnell/Abecassis Aston Martin DB3 with the Johnston/Wilder Jaguar C Type in third.

And so, lets look at the 1954 Le Mans classic.

Jaguar raced three new works Jaguar D-Types driven by Peter Walker and Stirling Moss, Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton and Duncan Hamilton paired with Tony Rolt- the winning combination aboard a C Type the year before.

(unattributed)

Jaguar HQ before the off- its all happening.

The #12 Moss/Walker car DNF brakes 12th hour, #15 Whitehead/Wharton D Type DNF ‘box 13th hour and the #16 Laurent/Swaters Ecurie Francorchamps C Type 4th place- see the spare bonnet for the C upstairs. The un-numbered car is a spare or the #14 Hamilton/Rolt car.

Some immaculately attired Porsche technicians and 550 RS 1500 Spyders. #40 von Frankenberg/Glockler DNF engine in the first hour, #39 the 12th placed Claes/Stasse car and #47 14th Arkus-Duntov/Olivier machine (unattributed)

Ferrari, Maserati and Osca entered cars, Ferrari’s challenger was the V12 375 Plus to be driven by Umberto Maglioli and Paolo Marzotto/Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant/Robert Manzon.

At the endurance racing seasons opening round, Sebring on 7 March the Lloyd/Moss Osca MT4 1450 triumphed over the might of the Aston Martin and Ferrari teams. Now Briggs wanted a Ferrari engine for Le Mans!

To achieve this he needed to buy a car, so John Fitch and Phil Walters accordingly arrived at Le Mans with the 375MM pictured on the quayside above.

The new Cunningham C6 was not ready, the fast but unstable C5 had been destroyed at Reims the year before, so the two C4R spiders were again entered as well as the Ferrari. The C4R Spyders were driven by Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston with Briggs and John Gordon-Bennett in the other car.

The Cunningham page from the 1954 Le Mans program (S Dalton Collection)

 

(unattributed)

The pre-start Le Mans panorama with the #54 BG Le Mans Renault of Brevil/Py 18th, #51 DB HBR Renault Louis DNF and #55 Monopole X84 of Hemard/Flahault thirteenth in focus. Amazing just how well these sub-one litre buzz-boxes place.

(unattributed)

The cars were lined up in order of engine capacity from largest to smallest- the 5482cc Cunninghams at the head of the queue- above the two C4R’s of Cunningham/Gordon-Bennett and Spear/Johnston and the three works Ferrari 375 Plus of Maglioli/Marzotto, Gonzalez/Trintignant and Manzon/Rosier.

The sprint has begun above.

The # 2 Spear/Johnston C4R and #6 Walters/Fitch Cunningham Ferrari 375MM from the #14 Rolt/Hamilton D Type (unattributed)

The 375’s of González/Trintignant, Manzon/Rosier and Maglioli/Marzotto led almost from the start, but Moss kept the D-Type in touch with them and Rolt was not too far behind. In its early stages the race looked like a 10 lap sprint rather than a 24 hour grind. At the end of the first hour, González led with Moss, the best placed Jag in third.

(unattributed)

Merde! or words to that effect.

The beached Chinetti Ferrari 375 Berlinetta of Rubirosa/Baggio, DNF after 5 laps, not a great return on a significant investment.

Three finishers on a damp track, so its early Sunday. Porsche 550 Spyder of Arkus-Duntov/Olivier 14th from the 2nd placed Jag of Hamilton/Rolt and 3rd placed C4R Chrysler of Spear/Johnston (unattributed)

Problems with blocked fuel filters delayed the Jags during the third hour. As darkness descended González and Trintignant led, the 375 Plus Ferrari of Maglioli and Marzotto had dropped out with transmission failure.

A large number of cars had fallen out of the race during the initial hours. By the seventh hour the number of retirements increased including the Shelby/Frere Aston DB3S and the Behra/Simon Gordini T24S.

Eric Thompson ponders his next move to get the Lagonda DP115 moving. The third placed Spear/Johnston C4R Chrysler rumbles past en-route to its finish (Getty)

The Lagonda was out during the seventh hour as well, having completed 25 or 26 laps after which Eric Thompson spun into the bank at the Esses. I wrote an article about this car and incident a while back, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/08/12/dyer-want-the-good-news-first/

So too, seven hours in, Ian Stewart rolled his Aston Martin DB3S on the fast stretch between Arnage and White House corners, destroying it with Stewart severely injuring his arm.

The slinky, aerodynamic, XK engined D-types steadily moved up the field. By midnight Whitehead and Wharton were second, two laps behind the leading Ferrari. Manzon/Rosier were third, ahead of Rolt and Hamilton, with the Aston Martins of Parnell/Salvadori and Collins/Bira completing the top six.

(unattributed)

The #9 Talbot-Lago T26GS above of Rosier/Megrat DNF,  ahead of the eighth placed Bristol 450 of Wisdom/Fairman.

In an amazing team performance the three Bristol 450’s finished seventh, eighth and ninth. Seventh were Wilson/Mayes and ninth Keen/Line. I’m not sure who that is beside the road, Eric Thompson perhaps.

Moss from the Monopole X84 Panhard of Hemard/Flahault with the parked Thompson Lagonda still sitting in The Esses (unattributed)

Early on Sunday morning, Walker/Whitehead and Rosier/Manzon retired, both the Jaguar and Ferrari had shagged gearboxes. The Moss/Walker D succumbed to braking problems on Saturday evening. By the time dawn arrived the battle at the front was between a car from Coventry and Maranello apiece.

What’s more, as the clouds built up and rain became a threat, the Ferrari power advantage would be negated by the conditions- by breakfast it was raining heavily. González and Trintignant could afford to ease back a bit but any problems would place them into peril, as the rain intensified, the remaining Hamilton/Rolt D-type applied the pressure with nothing to lose.

(LAT)

The works Reg Parnell/Roy Salvadori supercharged Aston Martin DB3S ahead of the winning works Ferrari 375 Plus of Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant. The Aston retired during the twenty-first hour with head gasket failure.

Later race wet pits top for the Rolt/Hamilton D Type (unattributed)

The two Brits, Rolt and Hamilton threw caution to the wind and raced their D-type hard. On one lap Rolt glanced the bank out of Arnage and stopped for a bout of impromptu aluminium panel beating. He had been forced off line by a slower car.

The rain eased, allowing the Ferrari to put its horses to the road and use its power to better effect but the Jag kept on coming, the rain intensified again and the Jaguar drivers began to close the gap further.

With two hours to run, González and Trintignant were still nearly two laps ahead of the Jag, with ninety minutes to run Trintignant brought the Ferrari in for a routine stop. González took over, but the big V12 refused to fire. Gonzalez jumped out whilst the mechanics fumbled with the plugs.

Rolt was now in sight, the Englishman intent on stopping for new goggles, but his crew waved him on now that the XKD was on the same lap as the leader

Gonzalez in the victorious Ferrari 375 Plus (unattributed)

The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics fiddled beneath the bonnet, they knew the engine was strong given its perfect state prior to the stop. The car sat for seven minutes, then suddenly burst back to life, González jumped aboard and accelerated away barely ninety seconds ahead of the chasing Rolt, but now his V12 sounded less healthy than it had before.

With thunder and lightning assaulting the circuit and an hour to run, Rolt handed over to Hamilton for the final stint.

In a fierce sprint to the finish, Hamilton cut the lead down to 1 minute 26 seconds, but as the track began to dry for the last few laps, González sped away to win by just under three minutes.

4pm- Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant the winners after completing 302 laps or 4061 Km (MotorSport)

González and Trintignant had driven their Ferrari 375 Plus to victory, covering a distance of 2,523.486 miles over 302 laps, averaging 105.145 mph. Rolt and Hamilton were second in their very hard worked D-Type, one lap behind at the finish. Third were the American Cunningham duo of Bill Spear and Sherwood Johnston on 283 laps 19 laps (over 157 miles) behind the winners.

Three years before, in the 1951 British Grand Prix González scored Scuderia Ferrari’s first Championship F1 victory in a Ferrari 375 at Silverstone, in his last appearance at La Sarthe he won Scuderia Ferrari’s first Le Mans, a unique Ferrari double. The Lord Selsdon entered 166M took the first Ferrari victory at Le Mans in 1949 when he and Luigi Chinetti won the race having covered 235 laps in the 2 litre V12 engine car.

In terms of the overall performance of the two outright contenders the Jaguars were faster due to a much more slippery shape (Moss was timed at 154.44 mph/278kph), but the Ferrari was said to have superior acceleration and brakes, which is counter-intuitive given the new-fangled discs fitted to the Jags.

Whilst finishing third and fifth, the Cunninghams were unable to match the pace of the leaders, giving Briggs and his team plenty to focus on for 1955. None of the Astons lasted the distance and of course Jaguar would be back, and Mercedes Benz…

Cover of the 1954 Le Mans booklet put together by the staff of ‘Motor’

 

Etcetera Le Mans 1954…

 

(unattributed)

Jaguar works cars all lined up all ready to rock and roll.

The Moss/Walker, Hamilton/Rolt and Whitehead/Wharton D Types with the Laurent/Swaters C Type at the rear.

(unattributed)

Moss, lightning fast always from these run and jump starts, en-route to the #12 XKD, #14 crewed by Hamilton/Rolt and #8 is the supercharged Aston Martin DB3S raced by Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori- DNF after 222 laps in the twenty-first hour with head gasket failure.

(L Klemantaski)

The Eric Thompson/Dennis Poore Lagonda DP115 4.5 litre V12 heading towards White House early in the race- a famous Louis Klemantaski photograph, before its fateful spin in The Esses.

Thompson, after his lose, manoeuvres the car to a safer position below, before working out how to get it back to the pits.

 

(unattributed)

OKV 1. Duncan Hamilton aboard the works second placed D Type, by the look of the car its early in the race before nightfall. The machine was well and truly tested to its limits by its intrepid pilots especially in the final stages of the race.

(unattributed)

The twelfth placed Claes/Stasse Porsche 550 Spyder leads the 3 litre Aston Martin DB2/4 Vignale of Colas/da Silva Ramos which retired with gearbox failure in the fourteenth hour. None of the six Aston Martins or Lagonda which started the event finished it.

(unattributed)

Moss chasing the works Maglioli/Marzotto Ferrari 375 Plus early in the race- the beached Chinetti entered 375 MM in the background. The works 5 litre car retired with gearbox trouble in the eighth hour

Spin.

Even if you don’t win there is a clever marketing angle to be communicated- Jaguar press ad 1954.

And yes, the results do rather tend to speak for themselves!

Happy Scuderia Ferrari crew gather around the winning 4954cc V12 375 Plus of Gonzalez/Trintignant. Car looks rather good, I suspect this is before the off.

Dockside at Le Havre, ship is the ‘Mauretania’

Briggs Cunningham and his team staged a campaign of military scale, organisation and precision- the only thing missing was the kitchen sink and a car with just a smidge more speed.

What a marvellous Le Mans it would have been to witness in 1954?

Bibliography…

Briggs Cunningham website- briggscunningham.com, MotorSport magazine, Wikipedia, Team Dan, F2Index, thanks to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ boys work on the ‘Then and Now’ thread for great work in identifying the dockside and travelling photograph locations

Credits…

Getty Images, Louis Klemantaski, Tom Sangen, briggscunningham.com, Bob Tronolone Collection, Bernard Cahier, LAT, MotorSport, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpieces…

Apart from anything else Briggs Cunninham was a sportsman who just loved to compete.

Here he looks forward to his week in France, dockside with his family and team.

(B Cahier)

Finito…

(B Dunstan)

Derek Jolly racing past the Country Club Hotel, Longford on his way to winning the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy, 7 March 1960, Lotus 15 Climax FPF…

I wrote an article a while back about Derek and his career inclusive of a snippet about this win, but I had a swag of wonderful photos of the Longford meeting, too many for the earlier piece. So here they are courtesy of Kevin Drage, John Ellacott and Ellis French. Some of Ellis’ shots are his own, some from the Walkem Family Collection and Brian Dunstan, hopefully I have the attributions correct.

Sportscar racing has waxed and waned in this country, I guess everything other than touring car racing has really. Mind you, GT racing is a strong class at present, interesting too such is its variety.

The Australian Tourist Trophy has some great names inscribed upon it including Stirling Moss, who won the classic aboard a works Maserati 300S in 1956, Bib Stillwell in 1961/2, Cooper Monaco, Pete Geoghegan drove a Lotus 23 Ford in 1963/5 and in 1977 won with Laurie O’Neill’s much more brutal Porsche 935. Frank Matich had a mortgage on the race for a while, he won in 1964, Lotus 19B Climax, 1966 with an Elfin 400 Olds and in 1967 in his self constructed Matich SR3 Olds and then again the following year in an SR3 this time Repco ‘620’ V8 powered. I saw Paul Gibson’s Rennmax Repco ‘740’ 5 litre V8 win at Winton in 1979, that too a memorable machine. After a period in which the title was not contested the ATT was reinstated in 2007 and usually awarded to the winner of designated events rather than a one-off race as in its earliest days.

Doug Whiteford’s attention to preparation and presentation detail was legendary with all of his cars. Here his Maser 300S during the ATT weekend. Rice transporter of Austin Miller’s Cooper in the background, and a Morris Major- don’t road cars of a period provide wonderful context for a racer of the same era? (J Ellacott)

In the distant past sportscar racing was up there with single-seaters, indeed in the days when the Australian Grand Prix was held to Formula Libre prior to 1964, but especially in the AGP’s handicap days and then before 1960 it was common for sportscars to contest the AGP.

One of the 1960 ATT strongest contenders, Doug Whiteford fitted into that category. The former thrice winner of the AGP entered his ex-works Maserati 300S in the AGP at Longford in 1959- he knew the tricky, demanding place like the back of his hand. Doug was a formidable competitor of vast experience. Even though the Maser was not the latest bit of kit, with his driving skill and car preparation the combination could be expected to be there at the finish- at the front.

Matich D Type and Ampt, beside his Decca Mk2 Climax, #92 Finch D Type, light car to his right the Jack Cooper, dark coloured car nose of Jolly’s Lotus 15. Tall fella in blue driving suit with his back to us in silver helmet is Jolly. Darker red car the Wright Aston DB3S (K Drage)

From John Ellacott- Longford paddock- Frank Matich at left, long-sleeved Joe Robinson an owner of Leaton Motors and in the green overalls Joe Hills and the Leatons XKD (J Ellacott)

Frank Matich and Derek Jolly were both coming-men.

Matich was aboard the Leaton Motors Jaguar XKD ‘526’ first owned by the Anderson Family in Brisbane and raced with much success by Bill Pitt. Matich progressed thru Healey’s then the Leaton Motors C and D Type Jaguars, proving his pace in all of them. The Sydneysider’s career as a professional of elite world class would extend all the way to early 1974. Let’s not forget the race winning cars he and his team built from 1966 to 1974 either.

Jolly, Lotus 15 in Longford’s pit straight (E French)

Derek’s Lotus speed was proven in his earlier Lotus 15 despite it toting only an FPF Coventry Climax engine of 1475cc- this car met its maker at Albert Park in late 1958, probably due to component attachment failure. Derek raced his replacement Series 3 15 as a works entry at Le Mans in 1959 with Graham Hill, the engine blew with Derek at the wheel when the infamous Lotus ‘Queerbox’ jumped out of gear. The revs went sky high, an errant rod then comprehensively carved the alloy block in half.

image

Jolly at left and Kevin Drage discuss the Lotus in the Longford paddock. Note the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF fed by twin-throat SU carburettors (E French)

Jolly’s Lotus had only just arrived in Australia, equipped with a 1960cc Coventry Climax four-cylinder FPF engine was the latest bit of 15 kit. In fact it was the most modern car in the field. Derek took a debut win in its first Australian race meeting at Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in early February winning the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship’ from David Finch in a Jaguar D Type.

Finch also entered the Jag at Longford. ‘XKD520’ was first owned by Melbourne car dealer/racer Bib Stillwell and was a car through which Frank Gardner progressed before his departure to Europe. When Frank decamped to the Old Dart Finch raced it with skill, mainly in New South Wales and Queensland. The car left Australia in 1967, the purchaser none other than Grand Prix driver and later Le Mans winner Richard Attwood.

These panoramic shots give a sense of perspective about this part of Tasmania and the exacting nature of the circuit. Here Alan Jack Cooper T39 Climax, David Finch D Type and Geoff McHugh Allard J2 are coming off Long Bridge. McHugh was not entered in the ATT so this is either practice or the Monday LCC Tas Trophy race (E French)

Tom Sulman, by then one of racings senior citizens, entered his Aston Martin DB3S, a car he had raced since its inclusion as a member of the three Aston ‘The Kangaroo Stable’ team in Europe in 1955. Sulman was a driver of vast experience in all kinds of cars and surfaces going back to his mid-twenties speedway days in both Australia and the United Kingdom. But his car was a winner only in the event of mechanical misfortune at the front of the field. Jim Wright entered another ex-Kangaroo Stable DB3S. He was stepping up from the Buchanan TR2 he had raced at Lowood in the ATT in mid 1959.

Tom Sulman rolls his Aston DB3S onto the Longford grid beside Whiteford’s Maser 300S. Perhaps before practice or a preliminary, I don’t be live the other two cars contested the championship race (J Ellacott)

 

image

Ellis French Collection

The other outright contender was Wangaratta’s Ron Phillips in a Cooper T33 Jaguar. Reg Parnell raced the attractive beast in the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1955, the car was then acquired by Stan Jones who sold it on quite quickly having raced it at Fishermans Bend and Albert Park. John Aldis raced it without much success. Its return to competitiveness was as a result of the combination of Phillip’s driving skill and the racers preparation by Melbourne driver/engineer Ern Seeliger.

Seeliger had looked after Phillips Healey 100S and was the fellow who created Maybach 4- the final iteration of that great series of Charlie Dean designed and built, (Repco Research team duly acknowledged) Stan Jones driven cars. Maybach 3 was modified by Ern by the fitment of a Chev Corvette V8 where six-cylinder Maybach motors previously existed. And some other mods by that clever chap too.

Ron Phillips Cooper Jag on Pit Straight (J Ellacott)

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Ron Phillips enters The Viaduct, Cooper T33 Jaguar (HRCCT)

The Cooper Jag was a real chance with a mix of handling and grunt well suited to Longford’s nature, Ron had raced it at Longford the year before so knew his way around the place. Phillips was also ‘in form’ having won the ATT at Lowood, Queensland in June 1959 from Bill Pitt’s Jag D and Bob Jane’s Maser 300S- the sister works car to Whiteford’s which came to Oz during the 1956 Australian Grand Prix carnival. Phillips and Jolly had jousted regularly when Derek raced his Decca Mk2 Climax FWA in 1956-58 with Ron then racing a very quick Austin Healey 100S. Both drivers had stepped up to more powerful ‘outright’ cars.

Ron Ward MGA from Tony Basile Porsche Carrera (oldracephotos.com.au)

The 22 car field was rounded out by smaller cars of which the John Ampt Decca Mk2 Climax, ex-Jolly, the Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Super, Owen Basile Porsche Carrera and Alan Jack’s ex-Bill Patterson Cooper T39 Climax ‘Bobtail’ were the strongest.

Whiteford and Jolly were generally considered favourites for the race, but the ‘Australian Motor Racing Review’ report of the event states that there was confusion over practice lap times and as a consequence that pair and others were placed well back on the grid.

The start: Phillips, away quickly from pole #87 Matich, to his left, partially  obscured is Ampt, arrowed is Jolly,  behind Derek in the Porsche is Eddie Perkins, #92 is Finch, #8 Jack, well back is #10 Whiteford, #16 is T Cleary Austin Healey 100S (K Thompson)

The Phillips Cooper Jag and the Matich D Type were on the front row. Behind them were Alan Jack’s Cooper Climax 1.5 and David Finch’s D Type, then John Ampt in Decca Mk2. Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S was on the next row with Jolly, then Whiteford’s Maser and one of the Porsche’s- and the rest of the field.

Phillips, Cooper Jag, #32 Ampt Decca Climax, #92 Finch Jag D, #8 Jack Cooper Climax- with the two Aston DB3S of #99 Sulman and #126 Wright in line astern behind Jack. Tail of Jolly Lotus 15 is behind Finch, the red of Whiteford’s Maser back a bit centre, Porsche Carrera Coupe is Eddie Perkins and the rest (B Dunstan)

Race…

 The ‘Australian Motor Racing Review’ report of the event follows.

‘With terrific acceleration at the start Derek Jolly moved through the field to the front and soon showed that the other 22 cars in the field would have a hard job trying to catch him.

Moments after the start: Jack, Cooper and Finch D Type. Look closely to the right of Finch’s helmet and you can spot the silver Jolly helmet- he has jumped away at the start. You can see the red of Whiteford’s Maser further back. Porsche is #46 Porsche Eddie Perkins, #16 John Cleary Austin Healey 100S (oldracephotos.com.au)

Ron Phillips in second place, was fighting hard to keep ahead of Matich’s D Type and Whiteford was well behind in fourth place. On the sixth lap of the 24 lap race Whiteford began to increase his speed and on the seventh lap passed Matich to move into third place’.

Matich at speed in the Leaton D Type. He hit his straps and proved equal to the ‘Big Car Challenge’ as Frank Gardner called it during the Leaton phase of his career- Jag C, Jag D and the Lotus 15 to follow the D Type proved his sheer pace (oldracephotos.com.au)

‘On the ninth lap, Phillips, who was experiencing brake trouble, slowed and allowed Whiteford into second position 11 seconds behind Jolly. In the next lap Whiteford put in an amazing burst to reduce this lead by a further 2.5 seconds’.

Whiteford turns his Maser into Mountford Corner during practice. Sex on wheels- few fifties sporties prettier than this. 3 litres wasn’t enough to be an outright contender when they were first built in Europe, but plenty quick in Australia. Such a shame he didn’t buy a 250F when Maserati returned back to Europe at the end of the ’56 AGP carnival, rather than the 300S raced in that carnival by Jean Behra- to see him mixing it with Davison, Hunt, Jones and Gray in that 1956-58 period in a single-seater would have been mega (K Drage)

‘Jolly, having been notified of this by his pit crew, increased his speed. On the fifteenth lap Phillips retired from the race with smoke steaming from his car. By the seventeenth lap Whiteford had closed to within 5 seconds of Jolly but the speed of the Lotus was again increased until, on lap 26, Whiteford had dropped back to 13 seconds behind.’

Cruisin’ @ high speed through the Tasmanian countryside, perils of the formidable Longford circuit readily apparent. Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (oldracephotos)

 

Matich on Pit Straight during the race (J Ellacott)

‘In the closing stages Whiteford seemed to have lost one or more of his lower gears and Jolly went on to win from him with Matich a long way behind in third place’. Another report has it that Whiteford’s problem was a slipping clutch. John Ampt was fourth in the 1100cc Climax FWA engined Decca Mk2- this little car had a wonderful track record in Australian Tourist Trophy races despite its modest capacity, it was 5th in 1958, 4th in 1959 as well as its 4th in March 1960. Tom Sulman was fifth in his Aston DB3S and then David Finch sixth in his Jaguar D Type.

An elated winner. Jolly, Series 3 Lotus 15 Climax FPF 1960cc. Works entered @ Le Mans 1959, it was a trick, schmick car. Jack Cooper T39 and the Matich D Type further back (Walkem)

Winners Are Grinners…

To the victor the spoils of success. Well warranted and well deserved.

Derek had completed his apprenticeship, having first started racing Austin 7’s in his native South Australia in 1948 and progressed through his Decca Climax FWA powered specials in the mid-fifties into the outright Lotus 15. The best if not the most powerful car in the field, and one he drove with great skill.

Lets not forget his winning Lotus 15 was a Team Lotus works entry at Le Mans in 1959, the drive shared with Graham Hill. He was no slouch. In many ways it is a shame business pressures forced Derek out of racing, he had not peaked, there was still more to come I think.

(Walkem)

A great mighta-been is how he would have fared aboard a single-seater Lotus 18 or 21 FPF engined ‘Tasman’ car in the early sixties- he was the Australian Lotus distributor after all. His battles with Frank Matich, seen below congratulating Jolly from the cockpit of the Leaton Motors Jag, would been great to behold. So too those with other top-liners of the period such as Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell and David McKay.

(B Dunstan)

Etcetera: Other Longford ATT Photographs…

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Doug Whiteford and Maserati yet again, on the grid for the Monday Light Car Club of Tas race- #120 is the very neat Zephyr Special of Jim Barrie (E French)

Kevin Drage doing a plug change on the Jolly Lotus 15 in the Longford paddock (K Drage)

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Doug Whiteford again, the photographers are drawn to these wonderful red cars! Maser 300S near the start line

Pre start vista with the Ampt Decca Climax, Jolly Lotus and Finch D Type in view(oldracephotos.com.au)

Refuelling Whiteford’s Maser 300S and the Ern Tadgell owned Lotus 12 Climax FWB ‘351’ aka ‘Sabakat’. Ern, unclassified, contested the F Libre Longford Trophy won by Brabham’s Cooper T51 Climax. Recreation of Sabakat still extant (K Drage)

Related Articles…

 Lotus 15

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

 Aston Martin DB3S

https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/

 Jaguar XKD

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/17/le-mans-1957-d-type-jaguar-rout-ron-flockhart-racer-and-aviator/

 Maserati 300S

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

Longford 1960

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/20/jack-brabham-cooper-t51-climax-pub-corner-longford-tasmania-australia-1960/

Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax on Pit Straight during the race (J Ellacott)

 

 

Bibliography…

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, Australian Motor Racing Review 1959/1960, Ellis French Collection

Photo Credits…

 John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, Ellis French, Walkem Family, Brian Dunstan, Keverall Thompson, oldracephotos.com.au, Ken Devine Collection

(K Devine)

Arcane and Irrelevant: The Last Sportscar To Enter an Australian Grand Prix?…

I think it was Jeff Dunkerton’s Lotus Super 7 Ford 1.5 pushrod, above, which contested the ’62 AGP at Caversham- he was classified 9th having completed 46 of the 60 laps covered by the winner, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T62 Climax 2.7 FPF.

In the days when full 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF’s were as rare as hens teeth in Australia- they were in the hands of F1 teams, Frank Matich’s Lotus 15 Climax 2.5 FPF was the last ‘competitive’ sportscar AGP contender, i reckon. His ex-Team Lotus car was delivered with a 2.5 FPF, much to the annoyance of the locals running single-seater Cooper T51’s who couldn’t get their hands on one.

FM failed to finish the 1960 Lowood AGP only completing 9 laps. The race was won by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati 2.5 by a ‘bees dick’ from Lex Davison’s glorious front engined 3 litre Aston Martin DBR4 GP car. I’m not saying Matich would have knocked off Alec and Lex but the 15 had the pace to finish 4th– in behind Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51 Climax 2.2 FPF. He would have given Bib a run for his money too!

Anyway, its interesting how long sportscars were a part of our great race…

Tailpiece: Kevin Drage’s Longford paddock panorama in March 1960…

Kevin was Derek Jolly’s mechanic/crew, the Lotus 15 is centre stage with the Geoff Smedley built Kenley Vincent Special alongside (K Drage)

Finito…

jag le mans

(Max Staub)

The winning Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton Jaguar C Type ahead of the Phil Walters/ John Fitch Cunningham C5R Chrysler and Alberto Ascari/Gigi Villoresi Ferrari 375MM at Le Mans 13/14 June 1953…

Early in the race it was clear the Jaguar C Types, Ferrari’s 340/375MM and Alfa Romeo 6C/3000CM were the cars in the hunt for outright victory, the Lancia D20’s and Talbot T26GS were outclassed.

Moss, the initial hare from the start in a works C Type had a misfire in his 3441cc DOHC straight-six, which set in after 20 laps putting him back to 21st and out of contention. Worse for Hawthorn and Farina was disqualification of their 4.1 litre V12 340MM Ferrari after brake fluid was added before the requisite 28 laps were completed. Fangio’s Alfa was out with engine dramas in his 3.5 litre, DOHC straight-six, the car shared with his countryman, Onofre Marimon, at about 6pm

As darkness fell the Ferrari/Jag battle intensified between the Ascari/Villoresi 375MM and Rolt/Hamilton C Type with the Alfas not too far back. Rolt and Hamilton led, the best placed Fazz was hampered by a sticking clutch and a thirst for water.

At dawn the same two cars led, with Moss up to 3rd  in the car he shared with Peter Walker, as the mist cleared they still led. By 9am the lead Ferrari had dropped back to 5th, retiring at 11am. The works Paolo Marzotto/Giannino Marzotto Ferrari 340MM challenged the lead Jags and Cunningham finishing 5th behind the winning car driven to the finish by Duncan Hamilton with Moss/Walker 4 laps back with the Phil Walters John Fitch Cunningham C5-R Chrysler 5.4 litre V8 a lap further adrift in 3rd. The third works Jag C Type of Peter Whitehead and Ian Stewart was another 2 laps back having driven a pace to finish throughout.

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Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton chew the fat, Silverstone 6 May 1955, the car is Rolt’s works D Type ‘XKC 403’…

Love this carefully posed shot, perhaps used to promote the meeting the following day. Its practice for the 7 May ‘Silverstone International’ sportscar race, a 190Km event won by Reg Parnell from Roy Salvadori, both aboard works Aston DB3S’, then came Rolt, Hamilton and Mike Hawthorn in works D Types. Mike started from pole and set the fastest lap.

Credits…Max Staub, Central Press, F2 Register

lowood jag

Evocative shot of Bill Pitts’s Jaguar D Type leading David McKay’s Aston Martin DB3S at Queensland airfield circuit, Lowood in 1957…

The January 1958 edition of ‘Australian Motor Sports’ covered ‘The Courier Mail’ Tourist Trophy Race Meeting in detail, the event held in typically hot Queensland November weather.

There were events for motor cycles as well as cars, open-wheelers both under and over 1500cc, touring cars and of course sports cars.

Star entries for the TT were the 2 Aston Martin DB3S’ of David McKay and Tom Sulman both back from Europe having campaigned Astons there. Bill Pitt was entered in the D Type Jaguar owned by local Jaguar dealers, Cyril and Geordie Anderson the balance of the entry Porsches, Triumph TR2 and TR3 and a large number of MG’s, for so many years the ‘backbone’ of Australian Motor Racing entries.

The TT was of 30 minutes duration with a compulsory pitstop to add interest and confuse spectators in this pre-digital sign age, with a Le Mans start.

McKay took an early lead from Pitt and Sulman but McKay spun twice in the first half of the race, once at ‘Mobilgas’ and once on the fast right hand elbow out of the same turn’…McKay foolishly tried to pass the D type here and once again misjudged and spun badly to the outside of the corner. He ended up only feet off the outside fence.

Pitt held the lead from McKay both taking their compulsory pitstop on Lap 9, David’s stop was the better of the two, McKay regained the lead from Pitt and Sulman he held to the end ‘Pitt drove impeccably but the gap was too great to bridge…McKay was lucky to win and undoubtedly the pitstop was the deciding factor. However it was part of the race conditions and the best car and driver team won’ AMS reported.

I will write about the Aston Martin DB3S’ in Australia soon.

As is so often when i start researching a topic i find bits and pieces which alters my original intent!, in this case a lot of information about Bill Pitt, a driver i was aware of but knew nothing about. This article is therefore in three parts;

.Short history of ‘XKD526’

.Reproduction of an article, slightly truncated, about Bill Pitt written by Les Hughes, which was originally published in the ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’ in July 1987

.Short piece on the Lowood circuit.

d type

Bill Pitt at Lowood in 1957, car repainted bronze after its 1956 Albert Park accident. (Dick Willis)

Pitts Jaguar ‘XKD526’ was bought new by Cyril and ‘Geordie’ Anderson, longtime Jaguar enthusiast, occasional racing driver. It was a 1955 customer car, arriving in Australia in early 1956, Pitt chosen as the driver.

The D was very successful over the next 4 years including finishing 2nd in the 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park and in the hands of Frank Matich when sold by the Andersons.

pitt

Bill Pitt, left, pondering the Jags performance at Lowood in 1957. (Dick Willis)

A summary of its race history is as follows; December 1955 car arrived in Australia; 30/1/56, Strathpine, Mrs Anderson, clocked at 120mph over flying quarter, still in 3nd gear!; 19/2/56, Leyburn sprints, Mrs Anderson, clocked 135.2mph over flying quarter, setting a state record.

March, Strathpine; Bill Pitt became the cars regular and very successful driver; 1956 race meeting at Lowood; gearbox problems precluded competition for 5 months; August, Lowood; New South Wales Road Racing Championships, Bathurst, 2nd to Stan Jones driving a 250F Maserati; Lowood TT, 1st.

Australian TT, Albert Park Olympic meeting, Melbourne, 4th. At the Argus Cup meeting at Albert Park the following weekend, the meeting a ‘double header’, Pitt rolled car and was thrown out. The D was badly damaged and trailered back to Brisbane being completely rebuilt, painted bronze, with squared-off mouth and air vents in the bonnet. Its first race post repair was back at Albert Park in March 1957 for the  Victorian TT, finishing 2nd.

XKD526 was repainted BRG; raced at Lowood and Bathurst, in 1958 it raced at Orange, Lowood, Bathurst and Albert Park and in 1959 raced at Bathurst and Lowood before being sold in late 1959 to Leaton Motors, a sports and performance car dealership in Sydney.

Bill Pitt negotiates Hell Corner, Mount Panorama, date unknown (P Cross)

The car was repainted yellow with black stripe and driven initially by Frank Matich and later by Doug Chivas. In 1961 it was fitted with an aluminum fastback hardtop to enable it to compete in GT racing. Matich competed in June at Catalina Park, he contested in July the Australian GT Championships at Warwick Farm finishing 1st. In October he won the NSW Championship.  Doug Chivas raced the car at Warwick Farm in November, by that stage Matich was driving Leaton’s just imported Lotus 15 Climax.

The car was sold to Barry Topen who competed in the March 1962 Warwick Farm International Meeting before racing in Sandown Park’s  inaugural meeting, crashed it and damaging it. The D Type remained in a damaged state for some time and was sold around 1965 to Keith Russell (Sydney), who rebuilt it and raced occasionally during 1966 at Catalina Park, Warwick Farm, Hume Weir and Oran Park.

In 1967 Russell sold to it to Keith Berryman. The hardtop was removed and stored, Keith raced the car occasionally until 1970. In the mid-seventies he loaned it to lan Cummins to assist with his rebuild of ‘XKD510’. ‘XKD526’ was rebuilt by Cummins/Classic Autocraft at the same time, work included re-skinning the monocoque and making a new front frame. In 1982 the rebuild was complete, Berryman retained the car until it was sold at auction in 2015, at which point, the car, its whole history in Australia, left our shores.

matich on grid

Matich leaniang against the back of the car, Australian TT, Longford Tasman meeting March 1960. #32 John Ampt, Decca and Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Cliimax to his left and back. (Kevin Drage)

One of the most surreal sights I can recall was after buying a Ralt RT4 (the ex-Moreno Calder AGP winning RT4 ‘261’) off Keith Berryman some years back and travelling from Melbourne to a tiny little hamlet called Stockinbingal in the South Western Slopes area of NSW.

The place is a very small farming community, the nearest large town Gundagai 80 kilometres away. Having done the deal on the Ralt I asked to see the D Type.

We walked through some parched, brown paddocks amongst the sheep near the farmhouse to an unprepossessing run down concrete shed of uncertain vintage.

Keith threw open the door and there, sitting on axle stands inside a ‘huge plastic humidicrib’ an electric motor quietly humming as it circulated clean, fresh air around ‘the baby’, was the fabulous, immaculate, curvaceous flanks of a British Racing Green Jaguar D Type.

To say that it looked out of place does not do justice to the bizarre, surreal scene!

The car lived in country NSW for a long time, Keith a passionate owner for decades…hopefully it will come back to visit one day…

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Matich in the 1960 ATT Meeting at Longford. (oldracephotos.com)

Bill Pitt: by Les Hughes ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’ 1987…

Born in Brisbane, Bill served in the Australian Navy during the Second World war, his first contact with motor racing was as a timekeeper during the Australian Grand Prix meeting at the Queensland Leyburn track in 1948.

From the Leyburn meeting on, all forms of motor sport became a passion for Bill, his friends and later his family. He became a competitor with increasing success and played a vital part in the direction of motor sport both in his Queensland base, and later on a national level. His friend Charlie Swinburn and several other MG drivers formed an active group and later Bill, Charlie and Ray Lewis had a motor garage called LPS Motors where their cars and other racing machinery were prepared.

Pitt’s first competition car was a humble 1938 Morris 12 Roadster, which provided his first trials win. Next came a serious racing car in the form of one of the revolutionary rear-engined Coopers. The Cooper had been recently imported by Les Taylor who had just stunned the motoring world by running his brand new XK120 from Darwin to Alice Springs in under 11 hours. Actual travelling time for the 954 miles was completed at over 100 mph, the final corrected speed was 90.62 mph which allowed for stops for fuel, kangaroos and other wildlife. Taylor sold some of his property, one of the items for sale was the Cooper which Bill bought, fitting it with a Manx Norton Engine.

The engine which Bill bought came via the Queensland Manx Norton distributor, Cyril Anderson, a former international dirt bike racer. Cyril’s other business interests included Mack Trucks, Western Transport and several motor car distribution networks, including Jaguar cars which sold under his Westco Motors banner. Cyril’s wife Doris – better known as ‘Geordie’ – made a name for herself by racing their aluminium bodied XK120 (chassis no 11).

The Anderson XK120.

That first contact through the purchase of the Manx Norton engine led to Cyril’s inviting Bill and Charlie Swinburn to partner Geordie in their XK120 Fixed Head Coupe (their earlier aluminium XK120 had been destroyed in a workshop fire) which he had entered in the first, and only, 24 hour race in Australia, to be held at Sydney’s Mt Druitt circuit (31-Jan-1954).

Despite having to replace a cracked carburettor with one from a spectator’s car, their XK120 won the race against  entries including a Jaguar C-Type, Aston Martin DB2, aluminium XK120, Bristol 400, Alfa Romeo 6C. This win gained an enormous amount of publicity for Jaguar, Westco Motors and the three drivers.

Bill was then working for the Queensland Nuffield distributors, Howard Motors, and had married Sherry.

Bill and Charlie then set up the running of the 1954 Australian Grand Prix through the streets of Southport on the Gold Coast. Bill entered his second Cooper, bought from Jack Brabham. The race contenders were Stan Jones, Maybach, Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, Rex Taylor’s Lago Talbot and several Ferraris.

For this race Cyril Anderson had stripped the body of a black XK120, shortened the chassis, over which he then placed an aluminium body. Known as the Anderson Special, he entered the car for himself, whilst Geordie was to drive the XK120 FHC in a support race.

Saturday practice proved to be very bad indeed. Bill blew the engine of the Cooper, Cyril was very slow and uncertain of the Jaguar Special, and Geordie had an accident, hit a tree and the FHC burst into flames! As a result Cyril asked Bill to take over the Jaguar Special for the Sunday race.

Bill readily accepted, but as he sat on the grid he was trying to become familiar with a car he had never sat in before – not the most comforting way to begin a Grand Prix. After spearing off  at over 100 mph at the end of the straight, rejoining only to have to stop and replace a deflating tyre, he was classified 12th. Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar won.

Bill’s employer, Howard Motors, used his sporting talents also, and for the 1955 Redex Trial they entered a Morris Oxford for Bill, Dick Howard and Bill Anderson.

D Type ‘XKD526’

The major decision for Bill and Charlie Swinburn in 1955 though, was whether or not to take up the offer from Cyril Anderson to become partners in ownership of a brand new D-Type.

In Melbourne, Bib Stillwell, racer and Jaguar dealer, had placed an order for one through Jack Bryson. After long and careful deliberation, Bill remembers he and Charlie parted with 2,000 pounds each for the car. As it turned out, Charlie never drove the D-Type, and Geordie did only briefly. Virtually all of the competition was done by Bill. He recalls the friendly rivalry between he and Stillwell, they stayed at each other’s homes when interstate.

Bill rolled the D-Type in Melbourne at the 1956 Olympic Games meeting at the very fast Albert Park Circuit. The ‘greats’, included Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Ken Wharton, were out from Europe with their latest machinery.

Bill Pitt in XKD526 – Albert Park, Melbourne 1956

For Bill Pitt the competition was fierce against Bib Stillwell, and in that near fatal race, Stillwell got the jump at the start and lead Bill into the fast, first left-hand corner. He recalls how he closed quickly under braking into Melford Corner before realising he had gone into it far too fast. The car was still under control, and as he continued the power slide and concentrated on the short burst into the next corner, suddenly it was all over before he knew what had happened. As the D-Type slid wide, and the power was applied, the back wheel touched the stone curbing and at those speeds the car simply twisted into the air and slammed down on its back.

As the beautiful green D-Type lay upside down the scattered hay bales caught fire and quickly spread to the car. The marshals were convinced that Bill was squashed under the car, but couldn’t right it till the fire was out. When that was done, and the car was back on its wheels, they were shocked to find the cockpit empty. Bill was thrown out while the car was in mid air, and in a state of shock, and worry about Jack Brabham’s Cooper which was following, he jumped a six foot wall of hay bales unseen by officials.

The damaged D-Type was returned to Brisbane for a rebuild which was completed in time to return to Melbourne for a meeting in February the following year, this time painted bronze (only for a short while).

In the pits. Albert Park 1957. Painted bronze after the rebuild following crash the previous year. (Ian Richardson).

 Leading a 300S Maserati around Golf Course Corner, Albert Park, 1957.(Ian Richardson)

The D-Type was sold in 1959 to Leaton Motors, the history of the car from that point outlined above.

Keith Berryman (and family) with XKD526 at the 1988 Gold Coast Jaguar Rally, together with the excellent replica built by Classic Autocraft for Don Biggar (now owned by Frank Moore)

Jaguar Mk VIII Rally Car.

Bill was approached by Anderson to drive a Jaguar Mk VIII automatic in the 1957 Mobilgas Round Australia Trial. Geordie would partner him, and so too Jimmy Abercrombie, workshop foreman at Westco.

The big cream and grey Jaguar was shipped to Melbourne for the start on August 21, 1957. A field of 94 entrants competed in this, the last of the major round-Australia trials of the era. The toughest opposition came from the all conquering Volkswagens of previous winners, Eddie Perkins, (Larry Perkins father) Laurie Whithead and Greg Cusack, whilst Porsche entered three cars. An automatic had never finished the event, let alone a Jaguar, or even a car as big as the Mk VIII.

The Volkswagen of Laurie Whitehead was the victor ahead of five more Volkswagens, but sensationally, next came the huge Jaguar automatic in seventh place outright, making what Bill Pitt still believes is one of Jaguars greatest competition triumphs, but which outside Australia, was virtually unrecognised. Of the 94 starters, 52 cars finished. Geordie was awarded the Woman’s Prize, and the Jaguar was first in Class D (over 2500 cc), giving the team the total prize money of 760 pounds.

Touring Car Racing.

Lofty England dissuaded the Brisbane team from buying a Lister Jaguar, suggesting to them that he would build a ‘works’ specification Mk 1 3.4 saloon. When Bill and Cyril ordered the 3.4 they didn’t know that David McKay was having an identical car built to replace the less modified ‘Grey Pussy’.

By the time both had their new cars, Ron Hodgson had bought the first McKay machine. Crowds flocked to see the Aussie Holdens take on the best of British, firstly the Jaguars, then the Mini Coopers and the Lotus Cortinas, and that set the scene which was later taken over by the Ford versus Holden halcyon days of touring car racing in Australia.

Bill Pitt and the British Racing Green ‘Mk 1’ were star attractions everywhere they went, and soon the Geoghans bought the Hodgson ‘Mk 1’. Hodgson built a brand new Mk 2 and then Bob Jane arrived with his famous white Mk 2. Bill won many titles and important races, his second place to David McKay in the very first Australian Touting Car Championship, and then his own victory in the second title (1961) were the highlights.

The life of the saloons was much shorter than the old D-Type, however, and with the arrival of the big US V8’s, Bill could see the writing on the wall and in 1962 the car was sold.

Bill’s racing career was over, although he continued to work within CAMS, and for Westco Motors until 1965.

Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.

Bill Pitt was involved in many facets of  motor sport from the outset, and as Queensland delegate to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) he put a lot of time into the betterment of the sport.

Retirement.

It was not until Lofty England’s first visit to Australia in 1981 that the two met for the first time, despite the many phone calls and letters exchanged during their racing and business contacts. Bill and his wife Sherry now live on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. Australian motor sport, and the Jaguar marque in particular, owe a great deal to this quiet, unassuming and very pleasant man.

Bill and Geordie meet again – March 1993

 Bill Pitt at Queensland Raceway GTP Nations Cup Race meeting. 22nd July 2001.

Celebrating 40 years of the Jaguar E-Type and 40 years since his Touring Car Title.

 

Lowood curcuit map

Lowoood Airfield was built on 620 acres 43 miles from Brisbane, construction commenced in September 1941

Australian and American Squadrons operating Tiger Moths, Kittyhawks, Avro Ansons, P39 Aerocobras and Beauforts operated from there from 1942 to late 1945.

Lowood’s use from motor racing commenced after the war but continued pressure from local religious groups lead to its disuse on Sundays…despite this many meetings were held from 1948-52, in late 1956 the Queensland Racing Drivers Club acquired the land.

The QRDC sold the track in 1966 moving its operations to Lakeside, the area was then subdivided into small farms, what was the main runway is now a local road!

lowood brochure

D Type: the Drivers Perspective…

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-2004/50/d-type-cast

Bibliography…

Peter Dunns ‘Australia at War’  ‘Australian Motor Sports’ January 1958, Article by Les Hughes in the July 1987 issue of ‘Australian Jaguar Magazine’, Stephen Dalton for the research and archival material

Photo Credits…

Heinz Federbusch Archive via Dick Simpson and The Nostalgia Forum, Kevin Drage, oldracephotos.com, Dick Willis, Ian Richardson, Paul Cross

Finito…

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Norman Dewis, famous as Jaguar’s test and development driver was often entered as a relief driver but until 1955 had not raced a Jag…

Here he is in the factory ‘D Type’ during the 1955, horrific Le Mans event. He co-drove Don Beauman’s car the pair failed to finish when Beauman ‘beached the car atop the sand dunes’ at Arnage. Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb scored a hollow win in ‘XKD 505’.

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Umberto Maglioli’s head in his Ferrari 118 LM ahead of the Beauman, Hawthorn and Jacques Swaters D Types during the early laps of the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours (Klemantaski)

Before he joined Jaguar, as the 500cc F3 movement grew, and with a fellow LeaF employee Dewis designed and built a neat Rudge-powered F3 car, the DNC. In its first race at Silverstone in July 1950, he qualified on pole and led for two laps before engine failure. It was rebuilt to do more races in 1951, in October that year Dewis joined Jaguar.

As noted Dewis had been a Jag reserve driver before, but the 1955 Le Mans was his only race/works drive for his Browns Lane employers. He had done most of the D development work, the result, the long-nose 1955 car.

Jaguar’s works 1955 Le Mans entries were for Hawthorn/Jimmy Stewart, Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton and Don Beauman/Desmond Titterington. Beauman, an old friend of Hawthorn’s was hired after a test under Lofty England’s watchful eye.

Two weeks before Le Mans Titterington and Stewart crashed their Ecosse D’s during the Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring. Stewart decided to retire and Des was hospitalised. So, days before the race Ivor Bueb was slotted into Hawthorn’s car and Dewis into Beauman’s. Their car ‘XKD508’ ran as high as 4th before the Mercedes team withdrew their 300 SLR’s but on lap 106 Beauman ‘parked it’ at Arnage and retired it unable to free it from the sand.

Click here to read an interesting interview with Norman Dewis in MotorSport about his life;

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-2013/86/lunch-norman-dewis

Credit…

Getty Images, Klemantaski Collection, Nicholas Watts

Tailpiece: Hawthorn’s D  from #12 Dreyfus/Lucas Ferrari 750 Monza and Fangio’s Benz 300SLR during the first torrid stint by both Mike and J-MF…

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(Nicholas Watts)

 

 

 

 

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Stirling Moss cruises his ‘works’ Maserati 300S #3059 through the Albert Park paddock prior to winning the Australian Tourist Trophy on 25 November 1956, he repeated the dose in a 250F in the following weekends Australian Grand Prix…

One of the wonderful things about this internet thingy is the number of unseen photos of our sport which pop up from time to time giving people like me something to write about. And so it is that Sharaz Jek recently posted photos his father took as a ‘paying punter’ at the Australian Grand Prix Carnival at Albert Park held during the Olympic Games.

It would have been more considerate had he posted them six months ago when i first wrote about the two Maser sportscars brought to Australia as part of a 5 car team by Officine Maserati!. But hey, it gives me a chance to write about the ATT specifically, click here to read the earlier article, i won’t repeat the background or destiny of the two 300S’ which stayed in Oz post event;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

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Melbourne in 1956…

I wasn’t born in 1956 but its fair to say i was more than a twinkle in my parents eyes, so i didn’t attend the mid-fifties Albert Park meetings which older enthusiasts speak so fondly about. Running around the lake last weekend i reflected on how little Albert Park had changed but also how much Melbourne had, the skyline of the city a short 2 Km away.

In 1956 Melbourne’s population was circa 1.5 million people, now its 4.7 million, the war ended only a decade before and with it successive Australian Governments established an aggressive migration program which provided and continues to provide us with the wonderful, peaceful mix of people and their cultures which makes this such a special country and city in which to live. Disgraceful offshore detention centres notwithstanding!

The ’56 Olympic Games, held from 22 November to 8 December was an important part of opening our society to other cultures and equally allowed us to showcase our country, city and capabilities to the world.

The same can be said about the 1956 Albert Park International race meetings and their impact on Australian motor-racing; Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Albert Park: Glory Days’ said;

‘The weekend was the proverbial moment which changed the face of motor racing in this country. Here for the first time we had a current works sports car and F1 team and other leading international drivers in ex-factory cars; their presence prompting the best of the locals to upgrade their machinery, spend even more and charge harder. A world class field deserved a world class venue and world class crowd. And in the picturesque Albert Park and thousands of international visitors filling Melbourne to overflowing for the first Olympic Games to be held south of the equator, it had just that’.

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So, to put you in the zone of the times before reading this piece i have added some photos of Melbourne in 1956 to give you the ‘feel of the joint’ and flavour of the times six decades ago, the racing stuff is after that if you wish to ‘cut to the chase’…

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The ‘Eyetalians’ brought their weird steaming coffee making machines with ’em post-war, the local coffee obsession was underway, school below is Melbourne High in South Yarra

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TV was introduced to Australia in the lead up to the games, here some locals are sussing the weird new contraption in the window of ‘Myers’ department store in Bourke Street

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‘Sultry beauty Gunhild Larking, 20, Sweden’s entry for the high jump pensively awaiting her turn to compete’ is the caption. A post sporting career in modelling or TV awaits d’yer reckon!?

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The first weekend of the two week AGP carnival comprised four events, the feature the Australian Tourist Trophy for Sports Cars was held on 25 November…

A convoy of Maserati mechanics drove the 250F and 300S, the 5km from Australian International and 250F driver Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick Holden Dealership, where the cars were maintained each day to Albert Park, on the Nepean Highway and St Kilda Road. Not too much of a problem then but guaranteed to boil a Maserati 300S sans radiator fan these days!

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Behra and Moss @ Albert Park in 1956, the first and only time, sadly, Behra raced here but Moss was an annual, usually victorious visitor to Oz till the end of his career in the Masers, then Rob Walker entered Coopers and Loti (Graham Hoinville)

Most of the drivers stayed close by in the ‘Espy’, the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, it’s still there if you want a ‘bevvy’ during the AGP carnival and is well known to Australians as the home of the ‘RocKwiz’ music quiz show.

Fitzroy Street St Kilda felt exotic and buzzed with thousands of visitors from all over the world eager to explore the local delights of the bayside suburbs restaurants and bars. They were full of people including recent European migrants eager to get a touch of home for a few hours at least. The Espy and Tolarno’s were ‘chockers’ and no doubt the proprietors of the areas ‘red light’ precinct did good trade.

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Guerino Bertocchi, Maserati chief mechanic and factory test driver and his helper start the 5 Km journey from Albert Park to Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick Holden dealership where the team were based (Arnold Terdich)

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Maserati’s as far as the eye can see! Masers brought 5 cars to Oz, 3 250F’s (one unraced spare which at one stage looked as tho it may have been raced by Brabham but ’twas not to be) and 2 300S, Reg Hunt Motors, Nepean Highway, Elsternwick (Eileen Richards)

In ’57 the factory 300S’ were campaigned by Moss, Behra and Piero Taruffi taking wins at Silverstone, Nassau, the Nurburgring, Rouen and Buenos Aires; the works allocated # 3055 to Behra and # 3059, the ‘featured car’ here to Moss. Stirling was in sparkling form having won the Venezuelan Grand Prix in Caracas a fortnight before arriving in Melbourne, Behra also contested the race.

There was a strong entry for the ATT of around 36 cars; Peter Whitehead returned to Australia hoping to repeat the success of his 1938 tour which culminated in an ERA Bathurst Australian Grand Prix win for him.

His entry in the ATT was a Ferrari Monza, similar cars were entered by Brit Peter Wharton and local motor dealer Stan Coffey. The Whitehead and Wharton Ferrari’s were garaged at AP Hollins in Malvern where Lex Davison’s mechanic/engineer Alan Ashton, well familiar with 4 cylinder Ferrari’s (Davison raced the ex-Ascari Tipo 500/625) could keep a close eye on them.

Lex, already the winner of one of his four AGP’s in 1954, entered his HWM Jaguar, his Ferrari was raced in the AGP won by Moss’ 250F the following weekend.

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Stan Coffey’s Ferrari 750 Monza, of earlier vintage than those of Wharton and Whitehead but still quick if tricky to drive (John Blanden)

Jaguar D Types were entered for Kew motor dealer and later multiple Australian Gold Star champion Bib Stillwell and Queensland’s Bill Pitt driving the Mrs Anderson owned car.

Jack Brabham returned from Europe where he was establishing a strong reputation to drive a Cooper T39 ‘Bobtail’ Climax with future Gold Star Champion Bill Patterson, another Melbourne, Ringwood, Ford dealer in a similar car.

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Jack refuels the Cooper T39 in the Albert Park paddock. ‘COR’ is Commonwealth Oil Refineries soon to be BP (John Blanden)

Veteran Tom Sulman raced his ‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S, the quicker entries rounded out by Austin Healey 100S’ for multiple AGP winner Doug Whiteford and Ron Phillips.

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Moss positions his Maser on the front row of the ATT grid, Behra started on pole. Such a sexy shape . Properties on Canterbury Road near the Mills Street corner in the distance (Sharaz Jek)

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Behra’s 300S gets the jump at the start, thats Whitehead’s Monza at left, Moss 300S slightly behind, the Jag is Stillwell’s D at left and the little car on the far right Brabham’s Cooper T39 (John Blanden)

A fantastic crowd of 150,000 people gathered to watch the days racing which was marred by the critical injury and subsequent death of Peter Catlin in the first race of the day after he lost control of his Bugatti at Melford corner.

This dominated the tabloids coverage of the race but ‘The Argus’ noted Moss’ lap record of 1:55.8 ‘set in a sportscar, the record previously held by a racing car’ and ‘one of the finest exhibitions of race driving seen in Melbourne’.

To the surprise of many Behra put his car on pole and lead from the start of the 100 mile race with Patterson flipping his Cooper at Melford Corner without too much damage to him or the car on the first lap.

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Behra hard on the brakes in pursuit of Moss. Maser 300S (Philip Skelton)

Behra lead the other 35 competitors at the end of lap 1 from Moss, Stillwell’s D Type, the  two Monza’s of Wharton and Whitehead, Brabham’s Cooper T39, Bill Pitt’s D type and Paul England’s beautifully designed Ausca. The car was built by England in his spare time at Repco, was powered by the first Holden/Repco Hi-Power cylinder head engine.

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Pitt’s Jag D chasing Jim Leech’s MM Holden Spl with the Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S behind (unattributed)

On lap 2 Moss gave his French teammate a blast on his Masers ‘Fiamms’ at Jaguar Corner to let him through, and an even bigger one when he did so, team orders not new in motor racing!

At the front Wharton and Brabham slipped past Stillwell with Bill Pitt getting progressively quicker in his XKD and closer to the shapely tail of Whitehead’s Monza.

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Brabham wringing the little Cooper T39’s Climax engine hard! (John Blanden)

Moss had a lead of 20 seconds from Behra, Stillwell spun giving Pitt ‘a sniff’ at him as Moss set fastest lap on the 27th tour and passing lots of slower traffic in the process.

By the race’s end only Jean Behra was on the same lap as Moss, the Brit took the flag from Behra, Wharton, Pitt a great 4th and first local home, Stillwell, Whitehead, Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar and Kiwi Ross Jenson in an Austin Healey 100S and the rest.

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Moss exits Jaguar corner in his 300S complete with accumulated hay from bales disturbed by other errant competitors during the race’ 100 miles, in the cars inlet (Graham Hoinville)

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‘Motori Porno’ innit!? Plug change, 12 of them for Moss’ twin plug #3059. Twin distributors, big Weber 45DCO3 carbs of the 2992cc circa 280 bhp 6 cylinder, DOHC 2 valve engine all clear (Sharaz Jek)

Other ATT Meeting Photos…

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Albert Park vista #20 the Phillips Austin Healey 100S (unattributed)

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Another start shot, row 3 this time with the 2 D Types of Stillwell and Bill Pitt (right) in shot, thats Sulman’s Aston DB3S on the far right (unattributed)

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Phillip’s 8th placed pretty Austin Healey 100S, great run for the Melburnian in a model very popular in Oz, sadly most have now left our shores (unattributed)

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Stan Coffey’s Ferrari 750 Monza behind its Holden FE towcar. I always thought Stan was a Ford dealer? (Sharaz Jek)

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Moss passing and thanking with a wave MG T driver Newman for his track etiquette (Arnold Terdich)

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Ken Wharton’s races his Ferrari 750 Monza to 3rd place. Southern Command Army buildings in the background. He raced this car in NZ that summer and sadly died in it at Ardmore on 12 January 1957 (John Blanden)

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Bib Stillwell’s ‘XKD520’, the seventh D Type Jag built appropriately going thru Jag Corner. An important step in the later Australian Champs rise thru the ranks, he raced it in ’56 to early ’57 , then progressed to Hunt’s 250F (autopics.com)

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Another paddock vista which again has ‘COR’ Commonwealth Oil Refineries in shot, clearly the firms PR function was working well! the Phillips Healey 100S and a Porsche Speedster in shot (unattributed)

Etcetera…

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Fifties circuit conceptually similar to but not identical to the contemporary one, direction of racing opposite to the present (Barry Green)

Bibliography…

Barry Green ‘Albert Park: Glory Years’

Photo Credits…

Sharaz Jek especially for the shots which inspired the article

Getty Images for all of the Melbourne ‘atmo’ 1956 shots

Arnold Terdich, Eileen Richards, John Blanden, Philip Skelton, Graham Hoinville, autopics.com

Tailpiece: She is MY daughter Stirl don’t even think about it!…

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(Sharaz Jek)

Finito…