Posts Tagged ‘Jim Gullan’

Ad published in The Referee, Sydney on March 22, 1933

I’ve always had a soft-spot for Wolseleys, Nana and Pa Bisset had three of them from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s. Some of my earliest motoring memories are of sitting in the back seat with the wonderful smell of leather in the last of these cars (no idea what model) with Nana at the wheel behind a lovely wood dash, she had the period granny blue-rinse of course, and all topped off by a hat.

Jim Gullan’s Wolseley Hornet Special was a car of much greater performance. Gullan had built up a good reputation racing a 1.1-litre Grand Prix Salmson and was offered the six-cylinder SOHC Hornet Special which is the subject of this piece at a good price to help promote the marque in Australia. “It had been specially built by the MG Racing Department and competed in a team event at Brooklands, lapping at over 100mph.” Gullan wrote in his autobiography.

The FS Hutchens and BH Wickens Hornet Spl Daytonas, and at right EJ Erith’s Hornet International

Stanley Hutchens entered the winning team of cars in the The Light Car Relay Race held at Brooklands on July 16, 1932. Hutchens was Sales Manager of London Wolseley dealer Eustace Watkins Ltd. The cars comprised two new ‘Eustace Watkins Daytonas’ built on Hornet Special chassis – one of which was the Gullan car – and one 1931 ‘EW International’ built on a standard Hornet chassis. Hutchens, Bertram Wickens and Edward Erith won the 90 lap handicap event from 29 other three-car teams on at an average of 77.57mph, the quickest team member averaged 82mph.

MotorSport noted that “No one could catch the EW Hornet Special and at 5pm Erith crossed the line after a trouble free run. These cars, intended as fast and comfortable road vehicles, showed a turn of speed and stamina which even their keenest supporters hardly expected, and entitles them to rank amongst our most successful small cars.”

Hutchens told MotorSport after the race that “the car felt good for an unlimited number of laps. The engine was held at a steady 5200rpm, doing several laps at 86mph.”

When the Hornet was launched by Wolseley in April 1930 Eustace Watkins turned to Kings Road, Chelsea coachbuilder Whittingham & Mitchel for the first of many Wolseley Hornet EW Daytona Specials. This first handsome cycle-wing car – the photo was published in The Autocar in April 1931 – “became a visual template adopted by many other coachbuilders when bodying both Hornets and chassis from other marques.” (

Although its image in later BMC (British Motor Corporation) years became difficult to differentiate from others within the empire, in the early 1930s Wolseley was up-there in the ranks of sportscars. The Nuffield group of companies – Wolseley, Riley, Morris and MG – produced a great array of sportscars and while there was some standardisation of engines and other components, each car was distinctive in appearance and character and was built in a different factory with all of the cultural differences that implies.

The Hornet, based on a lengthened Morris Minor chassis, was released in April 1930 and was built in two and four-seat open and closed body configurations. The Hornet Special – sold only in chassis form and priced at 175 pounds from April 1932 – was initially fitted with the ‘short’ 1271cc (57x83mm bore/stroke) version of the Wolseley SOHC, two-valve straight-six. Fitted with twin-SU carbs and an oil cooler it was good for about 45bhp and a top speed of 75mph, depending on coachwork. With 12-inch hydraulic drum brakes, a remote shift-four speed ‘box, semi-elliptic springs and Luvax hydraulic shocks (some were fitted with Andre Hartford friction dampers) all-round, and of light weight overall, the Hornet Special was spritely for its day.

Wolseley Hornet Special as built and sold in its original – pre-crossflow engine and underslung chassis – form. This is the chassis spec of the car Jim Gullan raced while noting the engine differences (Wolseley)

For 1934 the Hornet Special chassis was strengthened and changed to an underslung axle arrangement at the rear. A new block was fitted and a crossflow cylinder head adopted, the 1378cc engine developed 47bhp. In addition, synchromesh was fitted on 3rd/4th gears.

In 1935 the ‘New Fourteen’ 1604cc (61.6x90mm bore/stroke) 50bhp @ 4500rpm engine was fitted to maintain performance as coachwork became porkier. Sadly, the model was dropped when Wolseley passed from the personal control of Lord Nuffield to Morris Motors Ltd late in 1935, ending the era of sporting Wolseleys.

Referee Sydney, December 12, 1935. NSW rego #30-183
“Specially built Wolseley engine. Three carburettors, extra exhaust pipe from centre of cylinder head” (Gullan)
Gullan and Wolseley at Rob Roy in 1937. Under 1500cc record. Victorian rego #228-334 (Gullan)

Jim Gullan outlined the specifications of his machine, car and chassis number unknown, but engine number 108A/127. “It was fitted with a Laystall crankshaft, high-compression Bartlett pistons and engine modifications included optional two or three SU carburettor inlet manifolds. There were two cast iron exhaust manifolds leading into separate exhaust pipes on the left hand side of the engine. On the right hand side a single exhaust pipe came out of the centre of the cylinder head, this to obviate head gasket failure through overheating of the cylinder head in the centre.”

Driven by Sydney racer, Noel Spark – who had competed in a standard Hornet in preceding years – in 1934-35. “It set class records of 18.5 seconds and 102mph for the standing and flying quarter mile and the combination won the Light Car Club’s coveted Castrol Trophy for success in a series of different competitive events in 1935.”

The car was then despatched to the Victorian Wolseley agents, Kellow Falkiner’s showrooms in St Kilda Road, Melbourne for display. “Looking out of place amongst the Rolls Royce and Wolseley sedans, it was disposed of to my advantage,” Gullan quipped. See this post for some background on this under-rated Australian racer;

Equipped with “an incredibly smooth” four-main-bearing six-cylinder engine, P80 Lucas headlights, Lockheed hydraulic brakes, an oil radiator and selective Free-Wheel, it was very much an upmarket car which cost nearly half as much again as an equivalent MG.”

“With the car came a type-written folder which gave the top speed of the car as 102mph at 6200rpm, with an allowable limit of 6500rpm through the gears. Different individual valve clearances were given for each valve and included were optional carburettor needles. There was a warning not to exceed 2000rpm until the oil pressure had dropped from 150 to 100psi, when starting from cold. This abnormally high oil pressure foretelling future lubrication troubles.”

After early plug and carburettor maladies were solved Gullan contested an event on Mitcham hill, placing second behind Lyster Jackson’s MG K3. This performance led to an invitation to contest the Boxing Day 1936 South Australian Centenary Grand Prix on a new rectangular course of roads between Victor Harbor and Port Elliott on Adelaide’s Fleurieu Peninsula. Aged 21, he was one of the youngest to contest an event appropriated as an Australian Grand Prix.

Awaiting the off, Gullan and Mick O’Neill, Wolseley Hornet Spl, Australian GP, Victor Harbor, December 1936. Tim Joshua’s MG alongside (Gullan)

The car was prepared by split-pinning “various nuts and bolts that had been disregarded in England”, removing the ‘Brooklands’ aluminium undertray, fitting an auxiliary fuel tank, “wheels were balanced with lead wire around the spokes. My motorcycle crash helmet was exchanged for two white polo-type helmets with peaks, their adequacy in an accident may have been doubtful, but at least they looked the part.”

Gullan provides valuable period context, “In 1936 the average person didn’t own a car, let alone have a garage to put it in. Most who owned cars were wealthy or used them for business purposes. The only member of the team who had a car was Tom Broadhurst who used it in his family business. He offered his new Ford V8 as transport to Victor Harbor and I could then drive the Wolseley back to Melbourne. There was no continuous road between Melbourne and Adelaide then. The route through Mount Gambier was three days, the alternative through Bordertown impractical.”

“With equipment and enthusiasm the team set off for Victor, the road to the South Australian border was good, but it deteriorated and finally disappeared after leaving Millicent and became a series of tracks across the salt lakes, all heading in the same direction. By the time we reached Meningie we had not seen another car, finally we reached Lake Alexandria and crossed by ferry to continue on to Victor Harbor.”

The Wolseley was entered for both the 250 mile GP and 50 mile Olympic Handicap in the three day carnival. Gullan deemed “the track a safe one, most of the accidents which occurred were due to misjudging stopping distances and ending up among the sandbags, most being able to stop and continue on.”

On the way to fourth place in the 50 Mile Olympic Handicap at Nangawooka Hairpin, Victor 1936 (Gullan)

Accompanied by Mick O’Neill as mechanic, car #30 started 38 minutes from scratch and held station behind the winning Les Murphy MG P-Type until being consistently out cornered by it, and he drove away. After 147 miles the boy’s race was over after leaving the road on sand deposited by a spinner on the track, then hitting a small, hidden tree-stump while returning onto the track. The front axle and track rod were bent, with their race over, the offending parts were sent to Adelaide for repair, then re-installed before the Olympic Handicap. There the car was fourth behind the Barney Dentry Riley Brooklands, Lord Waleran in John Snow’s MG K3 and Les Burrows’ Terraplane Spl.

Over the following two years Gullan had good results in the car at Phillip Island, Rob Roy hillclimb and elsewhere, even using it in a Treasure Hunt. This became a full-blown rally starting from Brighton Beach and then went around the suburbs. After a Morris landed in a golf course, a Salmson became airborne and an MG ran into a lightpole it was the end of Treasure Hunts!

Phillip Island Trophy race in 1937, Wolseley here ahead of Alf Barrett’s Morris Bullnose Spl (Gullan)

“If I’d been asked if the Wolseley was reliable by the standards of the day I’d have said yes. But looking back (in 1993) cars were anything but reliable with blown head-gaskets and failed crankshaft bearings the main problems.”

“On two occasions the Wolseley lost power when the head gasket failed between the two centre cylinders caused by exhaust gases passing from one side of the overheated cylinder head to the other, and the reason for the extra exhaust pipe.”

“Gaskets then were made of two sheets of copper with a layer of asbestos in between. In time the thickness of the asbestos was reduced with beneficial results. Soaking the gasket in water showed little confidence in the product, and it was necessary to examine the gasket before fitment to ensure any overlapping edges were correctly aligned. Supercharged cars were fitted with solid copper or steel gaskets, the supercharger pressure would just blow the asbestos out off a normal gasket,” vastly experienced racer/engineer Gullan wrote. “It was one reason why early Bugatti, Bentley, Maserati and Salmson engines were fitted with non-detachable heads.”

“The other major problem pre-war involved crankshaft bearings. Before steel-backed shells, white metal was cast into the connecting rods and crankshaft bearing caps then machined to size. Although white metal bearings had excellent wear properties, the load carrying capacity of the soft metal was poor. To compensate, a number of shims were placed between the the parting faces of the bearings. As the running clearance increased, shims were removed to bring back the clearance to minimum size, one reason engines were required to be run-in.”

“It was not unusual, with a run-bearing, when stranded out on the road, to remove the connecting rod and piston, together with the spark plug lead, as there were stories of sumps being blown off by a firing spark plug.”

“For any high-speed work everyone used castor oil or Castrol R, it may have been a way to stop run-bearings, but the gummy sludge it created caused a lot of other problems. When high viscosity mineral oils came into vogue, they were really welcomed.”

The Ballot 5/8 LC #1004 in suburban Melbourne (Gullan)

The Wolseley’s fate was determined when Jim Gullan walked into Alan Male’s Latrobe Street, Melbourne car showroom and fell-in-lust with the 1919 ex-Louis Wagner/Alan and Hal Cooper/Fred Bray Indy Ballot 5/8 LC, a fast, complex 4.8-litre twin-cam, four-valve straight-eight racer. “An enormous trade-in price on the Wolseley sealed the deal.”

Melbourne solicitor Adrian Akhurst was the next owner, he fitted a circa 2.5-litre Durant engine and ran it in the Victorian Light Car Club Reliability Trial. It then faded from view in the war years to reappear at a 1947 Rob Roy meeting driven by Bill Whitchurch. Fitted with a Willys-Jeep 2195cc engine, he competed body-less while building up a new body. Peter Thomas, of later Aviation Welding fame, was involved in the engine installation, the car was then registered GV410.

Sold to Eltham’s Richard Ham in 1948, then to Walter Nowell who offered it for sale from Hawthorn and Windsor addresses in 1953-54. In the final advertisement the car was dismantled, what was unsold was scrapped. And that rather special engine? One Gordon Opie advertised it for sale, “perfect, complete to flywheel” from a Gardenvale address in April 1948, its whereabouts unknown.

A sad end for this Wolseley Hornet Special. About 31686 Hornets were built, 2300 of which were Hornet Special chassis, of those about 100 came to Australia.



1932 Wolseley Hornet Spl clad in Eustace Watkins Daytona coachwork. EW were the London Wolseley dealers in the 1930s and contributed hugely to the growth of the brand with their special bodies, the majority of which were sportscars.

The bodies weren’t made by Eustace Watkins but rather contracted from coach builders Whittingham & Mitchel and Abbey Coachworks in Merton, later Acton. Other Hornet body builders included Swallow, Jensen, Maltby, Holbrook & Trinity and Hardy.

The chassis number of the Gullan car is a mystery to me, doubtless one of you Hornet perves will know it. On identification numbers, Graham Whitaker wrote, “For cars before 1934 models – those with inlet and exhaust on the nearside, Wolseley did not stamp the number on the chassis. It was on the axles but usually cannot be read. The numbers were on brass plates fastened to the bulkhead, thus easy to fake. From 1934 onward the same brass plates were used, plus the chassis number was on the nearside of the chassis, as well as the axles.”

Check out this wonderful article about the history of Wolseley, the origins of which are the Wolseley Sheep-Shearing Company established by Frederick Wolseley in Sydney in 1887;


(P Partridge Collection)

Some photographs of the Wolseley Hornet Special owned by the Cato family in Perth, the local Wolseley dealers.

The car was owned by Frank Cato and driven by his son Fred and was raced on the Round the Houses tracks laid out on the public roads of country towns, and at Lake Perkolilli. Note the enthusiasm of the co-pilot below!

(P Partridge Collection)

(P Partridge Collection)

Frank Cato prepared this ageing Wolseley for the 1931 Lake Perkolilli event but had a troublesome weekend with front axle failure.


‘As Long as It Has Wheels’ Jim Gullan, Graham Whitaker on the, MotorSport August 1932, MotorSport Images, LAT, ‘Wolseley Hornet Specials in Australia and New Zealand’ by Russell, Santin and Clucas via Cummins Family Collection – many thanks Paul Cummins, Peter Partridge Collection

(MotorSport Images)


Bubbles or beer? Beer I think, ah, they are proper chaps! Hutchens, Erith and Wickens celebrate their Brooklands first placing. Car is a 1931 Wolseley Hornet fitted with Watkins Eustace International body.


Doug Whiteford, Ford V8 Spl leads Lex Davison, Alfa Romeo P3 early in the Vintage Festival Championship, Nuriootpa April 1949 (SLSA)

South Australia’s Barossa Valley, 75 km north of Adelaide is one of the states great wine producing areas.

32 km long and 8 km wide it includes the towns of Lyndoch, Tanunda, Greenock, Seppeltsfield, Angaston and just to its north-west, Nuriootpa.

Somewhat unique in Australia, large numbers of Germans settled in the Adelaide Hills and surrounding areas from the 1840s planting some of the earliest grapevines in the country.

By 1949 the Barossa had 22,000 acres of vines producing 60% of the total South Australian Vintage. Keen to maintain some of the cultural traditions of the old world, in 1947 community leaders organised a festival similar to those held in the Rhine Valley at vintage time, to foster a greater sense of community, raise funds for charitable causes and have fun!

The climax of the two day 22-23 April 1949 celebration was a carnival at Tanunda with dancing sideshows, a draught-horse derby and barbeques of three 600 pound bullocks! Not to forget motor racing…

1949 Festival program

Greenock float heading past the Nuriootpa Community Hotel during the 1948 Festival (Advertiser)

Nuriootpa circuit map. In terms of the narrative below, the start/finish is in the top right corner

South Australia hosted Australian Grands Prix at coastal Victor Harbor (correct spelling) in December 1936 and on the daunting Adelaide Hills, Lobethal roller-coaster road course in January 1939, Nuriootpa was chosen as the 1950 venue.

In that sense the Vintage Festival race meeting was a ‘warm up’ for the organisers and racers alike- the Nuri road course was only used on those two occasions seven months apart.

Some maps make the track appear a simple square layout around the town but the more detailed drawing above shows the flat 3.1 mile/4.98 km course to be not quite so easy, whilst not on the same planet of difficulty as Lobethal.

The start line was on the Penrice Road/Research Road corner with cars heading clockwise- the top right corner of the map above, the paddock was on parkland on the outside of this corner.

Racers headed down the straight for a fast run into the double-right hand ‘Atze’s Corner’ and then onto Railway Terrace- gently to the right, then a short straight, then a quick left before another hard application of brakes for ‘Tolleys Corner’- the intersection of Railway Terrace and Nuriootpa’s main drag- Tanunda Road/Murray Street.

There the cars kicked away with parklands on the left, gently left over a wooden bridge to clear the North Para River before heading straight- going past the shops then more hard braking for another right-hander at the Penrice Road intersection.

Exiting, the cars gently curved left and gently right before another straight section past the finish line just before the Penrice Road/Research Road intersection and then another lap…

Bill Patterson, MG TC Spl s/c. Plod on this side, St Johns Ambos on the inside. Probably, as many of these shots are, the intersection of Murray Street and Penrice Road- Bill is entering Penrice for the run to the finish line (HTSA)

Harry Neale’s Ford V8 Spl at left and Jim Gullan, Ballot Oldsmobile on the right (HTSA)

34 cars and 46 motorcycles entered the meeting, no doubt the poor entry of cars was a function of the traditional Easter fixture at Mount Panorama which took place the weekend before.

Top guns at Bathurst were Lex Davison’s 1934 GP Alfa Romeo P3, Frank Kleinig’s legendary Kleinig Hudson Spl, Bill McLachlan’s Mackellar Spl (Bugatti T37A Ford V8) and Jack Murray’s Day Special (Bugatti T39 Ford V8). The feature event, the 25 lap All Powers Handicap, was won by Arthur Rizzo’s Riley Spl from Curley Brydon, MG TC and Kleinig.

Bathurst contestants who made the trip to South Australia included Davison, Tony Gaze, HRG and Bill Patterson, MG TC Spl s/c.

The Davison and Patterson crews had barely 24 hours to give their cars a tickle in Melbourne before loading up again for the 750 km trip on the Western Highway to the Barossa.

Tony Gaze had an amazing couple of weeks- he drove the HRG from Melbourne to Bathurst, raced it to fifth in the All Powers Handicap feature race won by Rizzo, then drove to Nuriootpa, raced it again for a couple of third places and finally drove it back to Melbourne!

Lex’ machine had misbehaved at Bathurst- he had braking problems, nor would the exotic 2.9 litre twin-cam straight-eight reach maximum revs. Patterson didn’t start his events at Mount Panorama so his boys in Ringwood no doubt had a busy night as well.

Other entries included plenty of MGs- John Nind’s TB Spl, plus four South Australians in TC’s of varying specification- David Harvey, Ron Kennedy, Steve Tillet and Harold Clisby- the prodigiously talented, intuitive, eccentric engineer of 1.5 litre Clisby V6 F1 race engine fame, and much, much more who was making his race debut.

John Crouch raced another HRG, Ken Wylie his clever, fast Austin A40 Spl s/c, Eldred Norman ran his Ford Double-8 Spl- which as the name suggests was powered by two Ford V8’s. Later driver of that car, Harry Neale entered his Ford V8 Spl and Les Robinson the ex-Segrave/Hope Bartlett 1922 GP Sunbeam Ford V8 Spl.

Jim Gullan brought from Melbourne his quick Ballot Oldsmobile Spl with close mate Doug Whiteford there to race his legendary Ford V8 Ute based special ‘Black Bess’- a combination which would win the AGP at Nuri seven months hence.

Lex’ Alfa landed in Australia in February 1948, he was still getting the hang of the car without too many circuits upon which to race it at the time. Theoretically it was the fastest car in the country- in reality Alf Barrett’s older Alfa Monza was the quicker combination but the Armadale blue-blood was at the end of his career at 38, ‘retiring’ in 1948 whereas the 26 year old Lilydale blue-blood was just at the start of his long, distinguished career.

Interestingly, Davo’s car was being looked after by later four-time Gold Star champion Bib Stillwell who, at 22, had commenced his first retail and repair automotive business in partnership with respected, experienced, ten years older than Bib, Derry George in January 1949.

‘Magnette Motors’, or more commonly ‘Stillwell & George’ operated from 121 Cotham Road, Kew, a building owned by Bib’s mother- it was the start of Stillwell’s motor businesses which occupied this and adjoining sites into the 2000s. George learned his craft with Reg Nutt and before that legendary outfit A.F Hollins in Armadale, who would ultimately prepare Lex’s cars with great success upon the recommendation of Tony Gaze.

Australian racing events were mainly run to handicaps at this stage. Bill Patterson’s marvellous Reg Nutt/Doug Whiteford built, Bob Baker bodied MG TC Spl s/c was half a chance. Whiteford’s ‘Black Bess’, continually developed by the talented and driven racer/engineer since it first appeared in 1939 was a well known combination to the handicappers, his challenge would be greater.

Jim Gullan commented about how little time there was to practice and had the opposite braking problem to Davison- his anchors were too good!

With the assistance of Jack Pearce at Paton Brake Replacements (P.B.R. later the Repco Brake Company) Jim and Doug Whiteford had been supplied with a new braking package which comprised light commercial drums, aluminium brake shoe castings copied from Jim’s Ballot, aluminium backing plates and large wire air-scoops which looked great and were no doubt a wonderful psyche!

Gullan found his new brakes so powerful that ‘they were bending the chassis, making the car almost unsteerable on the rough Nuriootpa roads. The only thing to do was to apply them gently.’

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds in front of a group shortly after the start of the over 1500cc Vintage Festival Championship scratch- #2 Bill Wilcox, Dodge Spl, #11 Harry Neale, Ford V8 Spl then #2 folks and in the dust behind, Robinson’s GP Sunbeam Spl (J Gullan Collection)

Davison now in front of Whiteford in their Vintage Festival Championship tussle- from Murray Street and into Penrice Road (HTSA)

A crowd estimated at 30,000 people attended Sunday raceday, the final day of the carnival to see a six event program- it was fine and warm, good conditions for racing.

The lack of practice Gullan commented on was because practice was scheduled to start on raceday at 6 am but there were still revellers from the night before in Murray Street, so the circuit didn’t open until 6.40 am and was then made over to the bikies at 8 am.

The only incidents were spinners John Crouch and John Nind- who bent his front axle in the process.

Whilst the 48 mile, 8 lap Barossa Valley Handicap was nominally the feature event, the Vintage Festival Championship scratch race for the over 1500cc cars was probably the thriller of the day with a wonderful scrap between Davison and Whiteford.

Contrary to modern practice, the fastest cars started from the back of the grid. Whiteford’s Black Bess made the best start, then came Gullan, Ballot Olds, Davison’s P3 and Harry Neale in his Ford V8 Spl.

He was followed by Melburnian Bill Wilcox in the Gullan designed Dodge Special- a Dodge six-cylinder engine and Lancia gearbox clad in a sexy Bob Baker built body of Mercedes Benz GP style, and then Mount Gambier’s Les Robinson in the GP Sunbeam Ford V8.

During lap 2 Davo passed Gullan and ranged up behind Whiteford, Wilcox was close to Neale but behind Robinson.

It took Davison 3 laps to get past the hard driven Bess, which was not as quick in a straight line as the Alfa (Davo did 144 mph on Conrod aboard the P3 in 1949 whilst Doug did 121 mph in Bess in 1950) but stopped better and had Doug’s cornering brio- and then stay ahead of Whiteford. Positions then remained the same to the end of the race, Davison won from Whiteford, Gullan, Neale and Robinson.

Graham Howard wrote that Davison’s win was an important milestone, it was his first victory after only two and a half years racing, discounting a ‘club level’ win on the grass at Nar-Nar-Goon in Victoria.

Davison in front of Whiteford in Nuriootpa village- Murray Street into Penrice Road corner (HTSA)

Ken Wylie, Austin A40 Special s/c (1250cc) on the Murray/Penrice corner- note the ever present, cast iron/concrete ‘Stobie’ poles distinctive to South Australia. Lex Davison famously bent one of these whilst destroying wife Diana’s MG TC Spl at Lobethal in January 1948- and lived, a bit bruised, to tell the tale! (HTSA)

The car racing program opened with the Motors Ltd Championship under 1500cc scratch event over 8 laps, 24 miles.

Crouch’s HRG led for the first lap- Patterson spun with the Tillet and Harvey TCs, Gaze’ HRG and Ken Wylie, Austin A40 Spl coming through in a bunch.

Patterson worked through to the front, overcoming his spin and led from Crouch and Wylie- then Wylie passed Crouch and set the fastest lap of the race, and came to within 12 seconds of Patterson but the Wylies and Gaze cars faded with overheating, the latter having lost its fanbelt.

Patterson won from Crouch, Gaze, Wylie- then Tillett, Kennedy and Harvey having a ball in their TCs then R Head, Riley Spl and I Jackson, GN.

John Crouch had a good year, he won the 1949 Australian Grand Prix that September in his ex-John Snow Delahaye 135CS on the Leyburn ex-RAAF base runways in Queensland- he was 5 minutes ahead of the pursuers led by Ray Gordon’s MG TC Spl.

Tony Gaze would soon return to the UK, having had a distinguished flying career during the war, to say the least, for the ‘serious’ part of his racing career in Europe. Jim Gullan and his wife Christine joined Tony and Kaye Gaze for the early part of that trip, 1951- an interesting story for another time.

In the Barossa Valley Handicap 16 lap feature, Bill Patterson won off 4 minutes 25 seconds.

The cars initially ran in handicap order with Head, Clisby and Ravdell Ford A Model Spl s/c early retirements. After 8 laps Keith Rilstone led in a Morris Minor from the Howard Austin Ulster then the MGs of Tillett, Kennedy and Ohlmeyer (TA).

Patterson was past Crouch, Harvey and Wilcox whilst Davison passed the Ford Double-Eight driven by Eldred Norman- ‘…while Norman was out on the dirt passing Harvey, Davison was dancing from one side of the road to the other, behind them, shaking his fist in search of an opening, Nuvolari style’ AMS reported.

Jim Gullan passed Tony Gaze whose car was boiling, with Patterson taking the lead on lap 14- at this point Rilstone was second from Tillett, Kennedy and Howard.

With 2 of the 16 laps to run Patto had consolidated his lead whilst Tillett was within striking distance of the Rilstone Morris then Wilcox, Dodge and Howard, Austin.

Doug Whiteford only gets a mention towards the end of the AMS report but consistent laps in the 2 minute 30 second mark saw him finish fourth behind the top three- Patterson, Tillett and Wilcox. Kennedy’s TC was fifth, then Gullan, the Crouch HRG, Rilstone, Ohlmeyer’s TA, R Howard’s Austin Ulster, the Harvey TC, Harry Neale’s Ford V8 Spl and the Nind TB Spl.

Bill Patterson first raced a modified MG TC before switching to his new racer (below) which was built in late 1948- he first competed in it at Rob Roy in January 1949, so the Sports Car Club of South Australia handicappers did not have much to work with in the way of results, always handy!

25 year old Bill Patterson in the Nuriootpa paddock after his first big win- the Barossa Valley Handicap in the ‘Patterson’ MG TC Spl s/c’. His ascent as a driver was commensurate with better cars, itself a function of the growing success of his outer eastern Melbourne, Ringwood Holden/truck dealership. Won the Gold Star in a Cooper T51 Climax in 1961, his pace was apparent from the start of his career (R Townley Collection)

Stobie pole growing from the cockpit of the Patterson TC- fine lines, driven and developed further by Curley Brydon after its sale by Patto in 1950 (HTSA)

To qualify for the last event of the day, the Consolation Handicap 6 lapper, entrants had to have not won more than forty pounds in any of the previous races!

For the first 4 laps the lead was swapped between Rilstone and later Australian Tourist Trophy winner, Derek Jolly’s Austin 7 Spl with the race won by  Ron Kennedy from Steve Tillett both in MG TC’s and then John Crouch’s HRG which had a very consistent weekend, then came Gaze, Gullan, Wilcox and Davison who set the fastest race time and a lap record of 75 mph.

Then was Ohlmeyer, TA, Jolly, Austin 7 Spl, the Nind TB Spl, Harry Neale, Ford V8 Spl and the N Jackson GN.

Harold Clisby made the local papers after losing control of his MG TC and backing it into a fence. The Clisby family account is that ‘…he was leading the race until another car cut him off on a corner sending him careering over a bridge with only the fencing wires preventing him ending up at the bottom of a creek.’

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds, the chassis rails of which have been copiously drilled for lightness, no doubt at the cost of torsional rigidity which probably was not great before he started. Which corner? Dunno. Stobie pole marks the apex (unattributed)


Jim Gullan and Doug Whiteford were close friends, as noted above, in the best traditions of the day, after the 1950 Nuriootpa AGP ‘…we drove each others car around Albert Park one evening, both previously having driven the other’s car a short distance’ wrote Gullan.

‘My impression of the Ford was it had more power and torque than the Ballot, with a rougher engine. The brakes had a very hard pedal and poor retardation, the steering was light and spongy. The car was tail light, tending to wander at speed, difficult to drive at racing speeds.’

‘Doug’s impression of the Ballot, very smooth high revving (6000 rpm) engine, steering and brakes too sensitive, difficult to drive!’

Gullan, mused over the changes to ‘the scene’ in 1950 with drivers getting faster imported cars and ‘nearly half the field in the 1950 Grand Prix had been made up of MG’s, which made for interesting under 1500cc Scratch Races.’

He concluded that the Ballot had reached the limit of its development without a new chassis fitted with independent suspension.

By the time he returned to Australia after twelve months in Europe, in early 1952, air-cooled Coopers were plentiful, Stan Jones was racing Maybach 1, Doug Whiteford had his first Talbot-Lago T26C and much, much more- the times were changing with much of the evolution due to the growth of scratch racing, to win one needed the equipment to do so.

Yet one more shot of the Davison/Whiteford dice, Doug almost wholly obscured by Davo and the Stobie (HTSA)

(State Records SA)


This is the only clear motorcycle shot I can find, John Medley identified the rider as South Australian, Les Diener, his machine is a Velocette 350 MkVIII KTT.

He had a great weekend, winning the 5 lap Barossa Junior TT and finished third in the Senior event despite giving away capacity to most other entrants.

Diener and Lloyd Hirst had a good go in the Junior event, Hirst leading for the first 2 laps, in the Senior TT Laurie Boulter’s Norton and Hirst’s Vincent-HRD finshed in front of Diener.

Check out this fascinating article about Les Diener- what a talented rider and engineer he was;

After the final race the crowd swarmed into Nuriootpa’s main street- Murray Street for the start of a procession of sixty decorated floats. At the end of the day 25,000 people converged on Tanunda Oval above, ‘to see the most lavish spectacle ever staged in a South Australian country town.’

The Barossa Vintage Festival is now held biannually with a week long calendar of events including wine workshops, heritage events and church services- the Barossa’s Lutheran leanings reflect its German heritage, which is about where we came in…

Otto Stone’s copy of the race program, programme I should say! from Stephen Dalton


‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘As Long As It Has Wheels’ James Gullan, ‘Harold William Clisby: The Life of a Restless Engineer’ on, Australian Motor Sports 16 May 1949 via the Bob King Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection

Photo Credits…

‘HTSA’ History Trust of South Australia, State Records of South Australia, Adelaide Advertiser, State Library of South Australia, Richard Townley Collection


(State Records SA)

Grape pickers during the 1949 Festival- its seventy years ago my friends. Lots of happiness and optimism in those pretty smiling faces.



(Adelaide Advertiser)

Jim Gullan dealing with a delicate slide on turn-in to Kayannie Corner , Ballot Oldsmobile. He is on the way to winning the 12 lap 105 Mile Road Race on the fearsome, Lobethal, Adelaide Hills circuit…

The race was held on New Years Day, 1 January 1948, the Victorian won from Granton Harrison’s Phillips Ford V8 Spl and Ron Egerton’s MG TC Spl which is in shot behind Gullan above.

Amongst the 21 ‘South Australian 100’ entries were later champion drivers Tony Gaze, Bill Patterson, Doug Whiteford and Ern Seeliger as well as then current fast-man John Barraclough.

Tony Gaze, HRG Aerodynamic, DNF after completing 11 laps (N Howard)

Gaze’s HRG Aerodynamic in Lobethal village, functional rather than pretty (Lobethal Museum)

The limit man was D Howard’s MG PA with a handicap of 16.5 minutes, Jim Gullan’s Ballot was away at the 7.05 mark, Doug Whiteford off 2.5 minutes with the scratch car Denneston’s Itala Mercury Spl.

Whiteford stunned onlookers with an 85mph standing lap, Ern Seeliger was an early retirement after being badly baulked at over 110mph, assaulting two trees in the process. The car was destroyed, the owner presented the rooted chassis and body to a local farmer! Ernie suffered only a bruised wrist and severe shaking and lived to be a formidable engineer and competitor until late in the 1950’s.

Doug Whiteford, Black Bess, DNF after 3 laps (N Howard)

Bess at rest, Lobethal 1948 (Lobethal Museum)

By lap 4 the positions on handicap were the Harrison Ford Spl from Ron Edgerton’s MG TC and Whitefords Ford Spl, the latter on a path, at the speed he was going, to win the race before a rear tyre threw a tread. With no spare the Melbourne driver was out.

By lap 7 Gullan led from local driver Harrison in the ex-Phillips Ford V8 from Skinner in the Ballot Ford and Andrews Austin 6 in 4th. Barraclough withdrew due to low oil pressure on lap 9 and Bill Patterson was out of fuel on the same lap.

On the last lap Gullan still lead by several hundred metres from Harrison and Edgerton’s MG TC. Harrison did the races fastest time and Whiteford its fastest lap at 6 min 7 seconds, 88mph and won the Lobethal 50, the final event of the program.

R Hamilton, MG TC , 4th (N Howard)

Ballot Oldsmobile…


Jim Gullan, #21 Ballot Olds, an MG then the Dennis Curran Curran Ford V8 Spl DNF Australian Grand Prix, in the Nuriootpa paddock, Barossa Valley, South Australia 1950. Gullan 3rd outright and 1st on handicap (State Library of SA)

Jim Gullan replaced his Ballot Ford in 1944 with a 2 litre Ballot bought nearby to his families garage in South Melbourne, a chassis for the car was designed and built by Gullan styled on the ERA, the racer was fitted with an Oldsmobile engine and gearbox.

Noted journalist and historian Ray Bell; ‘Jim Gullan’s Ballot will always rank as one of those cars that looks the part of an Australian Special. The raked nose, the heavily drilled chassis, steering wheel close to the chest and mandatory straps over the bonnet, its wire wheels carried a car that mixed European and American as well as any other’.

Gullan’s book, ‘As Long As It Has Wheels,’ is a fascinating account of a drivers career which evolved from road racer pre-war, to racing an Alta in Europe after hostilities ceased, through being a pioneer of drag-racing in Oz in the 1960’s and finally as a club racer in his dotage living on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Amazing. Jims book covers the Ballot in detail.

Gullan’s Ford V8 powered Indianapolis Ballot, his new acquisition was a 2 litre with sohc engine and knock-on wire wheels, it had a poor body and as inspection proved, the chassis was in even worse shape.


Gullan, AGP, Nuriootpa 1950, 3rd place outright and 1st on handicap, Ballot Olds. Doug Whiteford won in his Ford V8 Spl, ‘Black Bess’ (unattributed)

Ballot Olds in the Lobethal paddock during the 1948 SA 100 meeting (Lobethal Museum)

Soon after buying it a workmate offered money for the engine, gearbox and radiator to fit into a Bugatti chassis. Said Gullan, ‘It seemed a dubious exercise but I suppose any engine was better than none.’  Having just the chassis left, he was reluctant to go for another Ford engine having had bad experiences with the V8, so an ad for an Oldsmobile unit and ‘box (unused spares purchased for a taxi) overcame his problems. It was to have triple Ford carbies and extractors.

A chassis was made styled on the ERA but lower in profile, and used nothing from the Ballot chassis such was its parlous condition. ‘By the time the Ballot Olds was completed, about the only parts left of the original Ballot were the wheel hubs. The only reason the Ballot name was retained was for (ease of) registration purposes’ wrote Gullan.

It new chassis was 760mm shorter and 230mm narrower than the Ballot, designed to be ‘strong in the middle,’ boxed and drilled liberally ‘as on the SSK’ for lightness. ‘To lower the car new, new springs and hangers were made to sit outside the chassis rails. To stop front axle movement and to assist steering geometry, the spring shackles were located at the front of the spring instead of at the rear, this also assisted the brake reaction cables to keep the axle from turning whilst braking. Wheels were built to suit the wider, smaller diameter, modern tyres.’

With new cross members the engine and gearbox were installed into the chassis and the body shape was outlined using welding rods and strands of string.

Bob Baker lived only a few doors away from Gullan and built the body round an angle iron frame, which was screwed to the chassis with small reject aircraft bolts. A deliberate effort was made to reduce frontal area, hence the car’s low appearance. Quick-fill petrol and radiator caps were fabricated by Jim and the instruments (like the carbies) came from army disposals.


Gullan at 16th Rob Roy, 2/5/1948 Ballot Olds. Superb looking body built by Bob Baker, the first of many racing cars he built bodies for. Gullan’s design was ingenious in its amalgam of parts and a consequence of his vast experience with previous cars (Thomas)

With Baker’s assistance a 3 carb inlet manifold and extractor exhaust system was made and a Ford radiator shell reworked to look like an ERA, the gorgeous little car was painted blue with silver wheels. Finned alloy drums off a spare 2-litre Ballot Jim bought and sold were the first of many modifications over the years.


Ballot Olds cockpit shot taken at the SA Grand Prix 70 year celebration at Lobethal in 2008 (Veloce)

The Ballot’s first meeting was at Greensborough Hillclimb in 1945 (see below), teething problems were limited to the throttle linkage bending and as a consequence full power could not be applied. The rear axle ratio was made taller, the drawings for the 3.5:1 ratio done by Gullan.

The first post-war race was at Ballarat at the beginning of 1947. Gullan had a good meeting including winning the Ballarat Cup, after this meeting the cars braking system was converted to hydraulic operation.

The next race was the Lobethal 100 covered at the articles outset, ‘The main reason for my quick times was my familiarity with the track. I had driven there in 1938 and 1939…in handicap racing it was our policy (Jim and his time-keeper wife Christine) and although the handicappers kept putting us up the field, we just made the car quicker’.

Gullan was a close friend of and in business with Doug Whiteford. When Doug imported an Edelbrock cam and heads (he’d melted a pair of alloy heads at Lobethal in 1940!) Bruce Rehn copied the cam profile and lift for the Olds.

By the time of the Point Cook AGP (1948) ‘…at a Dutch auction at the Light Car Club before the race, the Ballot was selected as the car most likely to win, a bad omen as far as i was concerned’,  quipped Gullan.

For the AGP there was yet another higher lift cam lifting rpm’s to 6000 and special ratios in the gearbox. As a result of the intense heat at Point Cook, with the Olds running so cool and well, the engine was subsequently bored by 5mm and also fitted with an enlarged sump with cooling tubes. Gullan had tyre problems in practice, but retired the car in the extreme heat after 15 laps. ‘I finished up sitting next to Alf Barrett, in the back of a van getting cooling down treatment’.

At Fishermans Bends first meeting Gullan won the Victorian TT, but the stop-start nature of the airfield circuit made it clear the cars brakes needed development. Jack Pearce at Repco PBR supplied some light commercial brake drums and made appropriate shoes with aluminium backing plates. ‘…They were so powerful they were bending the chassis making the car almost unsteerable when braking on the rough roads. The only thing to do was to apply them gently’.

ballot olds 1946

Gullan, 10th Rob Roy 17/6/1946, the bucolic Christmas Hills are pretty much the same today (Thomas)

In the months leading up to the 1950 Australian Grand Prix at Nuriootpa the Ballot was run in various minor events to get it sorted. Jim started 21st of 43 starters. The race was billed as a handicap race, Gullan won the handicap but not the Grand Prix which was awarded to Doug Whiteford in Black Bess. Jim was not happy about the result and emphasis given to the ‘fastest time’ as against the ‘handicap winner’, the AGP having been run as a handicap since it’s start at Phillip Island.

‘Normally the car would run 130 miles on a tank of fuel, but with the car developing more power, it was decided that if i was far enough in the lead i would pull in for a quick stop to add 10 litres. This i did and drove over the line to win what i thought was the Australian Grand Prix. There were still 20 litres of fuel left in the tank at the end of the race’ and therefore he could have completed the race without a stop.

‘The Adelaide Advertiser ran a big headline ‘Big Car Handicap to J Gullan’, the article didn’t even mention that Doug Whiteford had finished in 5th place. At the presesntation i got the wreath, the trophy and the prize money, Doug received equal money for fastest time. Once again i had driven a copybook race, but was later disappointed it would not be recorded as a Grand Prix win. Sometimes i wish i had just gone for broke…’

A counterpoint to Gullan’s viewpoint is contained in ‘The History of The AGP’ which makes it clear, quoting the Australian Motor Sports contemporary magazine coverage of the race. It says, that consistent with the 1949 policy of the Australian Automobile Association, from 1949 the AGP would be a scratch title,’The Australian Grand Prix will be run as a handicap but the Grand Prix winner will be the competitor finishing with the fastest time for the race’, that is, Doug Whiteford in his Ford V8 Special Black Bess.

Gullan raced the car one last time at Fishermans Bend before selling it.

Interestingly the two great mates, Whiteford and Gullan who had developed their clever specials together drove one anothers cars one evening at Albert Park ‘Dougs impression of the Ballot; very smooth high revving engine, steering and brakes too sensitive, difficult to drive!’ wrote Gullan. Albert Park is a public park, it would have been interesting to be going for a post-dinner walk and seen two Grand Prix cars being driven at high speed around the sleepy confines of Albert Park, the first GP there was still several years away at the time!


Love this shot for its vibe, Fishermans Bend, October 1953. Greg McEwin HRG left, O’Donohue’s now red Ballot Oldsmobile and Otto Stone’s MG K3 (SLV)

It was now 1950, the Ballot had reached the end of its development, and Jim decided to race in Europe, an interesting story for another time. Alan Watson and John Cummins (the latter very sadly died only last weekend) bought the car for 850 pounds.

Ray Bell, a writer of the ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ puts Gullan’s wonderful car and his design and development skills in context ‘The car was Gullan’s expression of all he’d learned from observing racing and running his own Salmson, Wolseley, Austin and Ballot V8′.

‘Considering just how it came together – the bits that just happened to be there, the chance acquisitions – it worked very well. Gullan was a handicap specialist, with his wife Christine timekeeping and acting as strategist, and they beat the handicaps with monotonous regularity. He comments that he just had to keep on making the car quicker to keep on beating them, so it was well developed when sold to Alan Watson.’

‘He mentions getting airborne over the top of the hill approaching Lobethal at 110mph, touching 116mph on the straight and holding it flat all the way from Lobethal to within sight of the pits at that early stage of its development. By the time it won the handicap section of the 1950 AGP it must have been a fairly quick car’.

The car passed through many hands over the next 20 years, raced as late as 1963 at Calder, Victoria. It has been used since 1970 in historic events, and is still alive today in Frank Moore’s Collection of Australian Specials in Queensland.


Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds, Greensborough Hillclimb. Crowd control and safety barriers well to the fore! (Thomas)

Greensborough Hillclimb…

Its interesting this internet thingy, data and images are being uploaded all the time. When I wrote the article about the Lobethal AGP 1950 12 months or so ago some of the images in this article weren’t there, but information is being continually shared through this wonderful medium.

The shot above is of Jim’s car at the second Greensborough Hillclimb on 7 October 1945, an Australian Motorsport article describes the casual nature and speed at which a new venue could be created all those years ago!

The Australian Motor Sports Club sought the use of the LCCA’s Rob Roy Hillclimb to run its first post war event. When the LCCA refused the club permission they sought other venues. Every alternative ‘smooth enough and close to Melbourne’ failed until the club secretary George Beecham fluked on a market gardner, an ex-motorcycle rider…His property had a very stiff hill. It was decided at the club meeting on the Thursday night before the Sunday scheduled for the climb to hold it at Greensborough on the market gardners hill. The owner of the property Bill Halliburton, did everything in his power to knock the hill into shape for the club…to get the hill right in time’.

Try getting a hillclimb built and certified by the FIA/CAMS in two days today, different times weren’t they!

Jim Gullan recalls the event in his book, he was Vice President and Doug Whiteford President of the AMSC. The two great mates loaded up a utility filled with reject concrete slabs from the Hume Pipe Company, for whom they worked and set off for ‘Orchard Farm’ to lay out a starting grid, completing the exercise in pouring rain.


A couple of young-bloods take to the Greensborough Hill to get a better vantage point, marshalling/start area below. Public address system you can just see to the bottom left, crowd numbers would be interesting to know in immediate post war-starved of entertainment, Melbourne (Thomas)

So much rain fell on the Saturday the event looked to be a washout but the can-do attitude of the members, starved of competition during the war years prevailed and after the track dried competition took place with FTD going to Ern Seeliger’s Ford V8 Spl. (the car destroyed in the SA 100 event in 1948 described at this articles outset)  It was the union of an Itala chassis, with large drum brakes, a 3:1 diff ratio powered by a modified ’38 Ford V8 modified with high compression heads and a Vertex magneto providing the spark. The engine was mounted low in the chassis, the car raced in chassis form devoid of body.

‘Greensborough No 2 was just as well organised and ran as smoothly as the No 1 event was bad. Everything seemed to go right, even the Melbourne weather! The hill had been prepared at some very substantial cost to the club and was as smooth as a table-a good table too’, you will note from the photographs that the surface was gravel.

The AMS report notes the pace got hotter as the day progressed with several cars leaving the track, notably an elderly Morris Spl, a Vauxhall, Stud Beasley’s Speedcar and Ted Gray’s Ford V8 powered Alfa Romeo 6C1750, Ted broke the diff of the car in the process.

Ken Wylie set fastest time of the day in his Speedcar but ‘in doing so rushed through a fence after he had completed his climb, cleaned up half a dozen push-bikes leaning against said fence, bowling over a gum tree and ended up in a ditch…’.

Gullan notes ‘…luckily we had plenty of money to be able to compensate the cycle owners…We were not prepared for the huge crowd that turned up. The narrow country road was blocked for kilometres, many never reached the entry gate. The entry fee was a ten shilling note, to get his share the farmer stood at the gate and stuffed his shirt full of banknotes (not much different to BC Ecclestone today really). By the time the hundreds of spectators had left, the place was in a shambles, the irate farmer said “never again”, but we figured a shirt full of banknotes more than made up for it!’


Unknown Wolseley and driver, Greensborough (Thomas)

Doug Whiteford fitted dual rear wheels to his Ford V8 engined 1950 AGP winning special ‘Black Bess’ but struggled to get traction, as did Ern Seeliger’s car the AMS report noted. That report concludes by listing other competitors cars; Ken Hume’s 8/60 Buick engined Talbot, Tom Hollindrake’s MG s/c, Les Phillips Austin Spl. Gullan’s Ballot Olds only had two runs, as the event organiser he was preoccupied, Bob Chamberlain’s Chamberlain 8 and Stud Beasley’s Willys 77 Speedcar also competed.

What is interesting is the way a large number of hillclimbs relative to the population of Melbourne at the time, popped up in an arc on the cities outskirts from the north-east to the east of the city; Greensborough is 23 km from town, Templestowe 19, ‘Rob Roy’ at Christmas Hills 43Km and the two climbs at Lilydale, the Davisons ‘Killara Park’ property and Ern Abbott’s ‘Lakeland’ circa 45 Km from Melbourne. They weren’t all running concurrently mind you, some were. I suppose the reasons are availability of the right terrain and proximity to the city for competitors.


Frank Moore, who still owns the Ballot Olds, at the Lobethal carnival in 2008, lines of Gullan’s car still look great don’t they? The ERA influence clear (Veloce)


‘As Long As It Has Wheels’ James Gullan, ‘History of The Australian GP’ G Howard and Ors

Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ February 1946

Jim Gullan, MG K3, Albert Park 1956 (J Millard)


Adelaide Advertiser, George Thomas, Veloce Magazine, John Millard, Norman Howard

Tailpiece: Gullan and Ballot Olds, Geelong Road, Australian Motor Sports Club, sprints, 4 August 1946…