Posts Tagged ‘Lex Davison’

Herbert Johnson were one of the preferred purveyors of bash-hats to racing’s elite in the pre-Buco, pre-Bell early-mid 1960’s era.

The company, founded in 1889, made its name for its silk-velvet top-hats. By the outbreak of World War 1 its output was dominated by the demands of the military. Goldie Gardner was the first racer to commission a ‘protective hat’ from then proprietor, Geoffrey Glazier. Stirling Moss was a later customer as demand for the firm’s race products grew.

(K Devine)

Lex Davison is shown so equipped at Caversham, near Perth in November 1962. It’s the Australian Grand Prix meeting, the four-times AGP winner is shown on the dummy-grid – looking very pucka in Herbie Johnson with British Racing Drivers Club badge on his overalls – about to jump aboard Len Lukey’s Ford Galaxie in a mixed touring/sportscar support race. The nose of the Elite belongs to Anthony Osborne.

Credits…

Ad from Motor Racing 1948-1949 BRDC Yearbook, Ken Devine

Tailpiece…

‘If yerv’ got a $10 head wear a $10 helmet’ was Bell’s compelling mid-sixties tagline. A mix of technology and innovation, quality, marketing and a great distribution network ensured the Bell Corporation did their bit to improve the safety of our sport. Dan Gurney’s Eagle depicted is his 1966-68 F1 Mk1 Weslake V12

Finito…

stan 2

Stan Jones wins the 1954 Victoria Trophy at Fishermans Bend in his shortlived, brand new Maybach 2, 21 March 1954…

Regular readers may recall the feature on Stan, Alan’s dad and a champion in his own right a while back. There are not many photos of Maybach 2 as it was only raced briefly before Stanley comprehensively destroyed it after a chassis weld failure, at the ’54 AGP at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Jones raced Maybach 2 at Easter Bathurst, then Altona, Victoria on May 2 and at Fishermans Bend in October before that fateful November weekend. Still, he was lucky not to lose his life in the high speed trip backwards through the Southport scrub and trees.

The beauty of these online blogs is that you can continually update them as you find new shots, this set are so good I thought it worth a fresh post.

davo HWM Jag

Davison in his new HWM Jag (VHRR Archive)

Maybach wasn’t ready for the Victoria Trophy preliminary on Saturday, but contested the 64 mile feature event on the airfield circuit in Melbourne’s inner west.

He took the lead from Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar before the first corner. Davos’ original intention was to fit the HWM with the engine from his Alfa Romeo P3, the complexities of that undertaking with the straight-eight, supercharged engines central power take-off were immense! He therefore fitted the HWM with a Jaguar engine topped by a C-Type head, the car was victorious at Southport in November winning the first of Davison’s four AGPs.

It was Jones’ Victorian Trophy though, he lapped the field, leading Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol over the line by three miles.

jack brabham

Davison #3 HWM Jag, Ted Gray #8 Alta Ford V8 and Brabham’s obscured Cooper T23 Bristol. Fishermans Bend 1954 (VHRR Archive)

jb and art wylie

Arthur Wylie in the Wylie Javelin ahead of Brabham’s Cooper Bristol. Victorian Trophy 1954 (VHRR Archive)

sil massola HRG

Silvio Massola’s HRG, Fishermans Bend 1954 (unattributed)

Etcetera…

(The Age)

Stan won in 1953 too.

Here he is, two happy chaps Ern Seeliger at left, again at Fishos, on this occasion Ern had prepared Maybach. But he was also a racer as well as an engineer, famously adapting Maybach 3 to accept a Chev V8 creating, you guessed it, Maybach 4.

A very talented man, little has been written about him and the products of his Richmond workshop, a great future topic.

Photo Credits…

Victorian Historic Racing Register archive

Finito…

(DKeep/oldracephotos.com.au)

Sir Gawaine Baillie’s Ford Galaxie leads Bob Jane’s Lotus Cortina at ‘Pub Corner’, Longford in March 1965…

Four time Australian Grand Prix winner Lex Davison was a racing purist. He was very much a single-seater man having raced some classic machines to much success post-war- Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3, Ferrari 500/625, Aston Martin DBR4/250, various Coopers and Brabham BT4 Climax to name several.

While a traditionalist he was also a realist, a successful businessman who knew that flexibility was sometimes needed so as he set his plans for 1963 they were somewhat thrown up in the air by the offer to drive just retired Gold Star Champion, Len Lukey’s brand new R-Code Holman-Moody built Ford Galaxie four-door sedan.

Lukey’s choice of driver was a surprise to many but a political coup really – what better way to neutralise an opponent of touring car racing via his monthly racing magazine column than entice them into-the-fold, so to speak?

Len’s rapidly growing, profitable Lukey Mufflers business provided the means to acquire a Holman-Moody built LHD 6.7-litre V8 engined Ford Galaxie in full racing trim. Lukey imported another RHD car in less-fierce spec as a road car and mobile parts source.

Other than, perhaps, Norm Beechey’s Chev Impala, the 405bhp Galaxie was the most powerful racing car in Australia of any sort upon its debut in November 1962. The plan was for either Jack Brabham or Bruce McLaren to race the car in the November ’62 Sandown meeting just prior to the 1962 Caversham, WA, AGP, the reason for which both GP aces were in Australia.

In the end the big beast was not going to land at Port Melbourne in time for Sandown, so the intrepid Lukey unloaded the car in Brisbane and drove it – a car of full race specification – the 1100 miles south from Queensland to Victoria. As one does!

While a relative touring car novice Lex ran second to Beechey’s Chev after Bob Jane’s Jaguar Mk2 suffered a burst radiator and spun. Lex’ best lap was an impressive one second behind Norm’s new lap record. Not a bad debut.

Caversham paddock during the November 1962 AGP weekend (K Devine)

Caversham 1962 (K Devine)

Galaxie in the AGP Caversham paddock in 1962 (unattributed)

At Caversham during the AGP weekend he was third and set fastest lap. During the GP itself he was a distant eighth. with Cooper T53 Climax dramas.

Into 1963 Lex missed the opening Calder meeting with a dodgy-back, so Norm Beechey took the Galaxie’s wheel (a compare and contrast analysis with his Chev Impala would have been interesting) but Ern Abbot’s well sorted straight-six Chrysler Valiant beat the Big Henry.

Lex took the car back for Warwick Farm’s International meeting and again proved its utility as a road car, he drove it to Mass on his way to the circuit at Liverpool that morning! Perhaps prayer assisted in yielding second place behind Bob Jane’s Jag despite Bob rotating the car.

At Longford both Jane and Lex were timed on The Flying Mile at 223kmh but the Jag had the better brakes and handling. In race one Lex won the Le Mans start, spun at the Longford Pub and later needed the escape road at the end of the main straight having endured the inherently under-braked Beastie- Davison needed to train the back of his brain the car was not a Cooper! In the handicap race to end the long weekend of racing Lex gave a start to every car in the race other than Jane and pushed the car even harder – spinning into straw bales at The Viaduct and then lost his brakes completely at the end of the straight, going down the escape road 200-metres before stopping in a drainage ditch. He quipped to the Launceston Examiner that racing the Galaxie was “like driving a haystack.”

Davison and Jane at Longford, just before the off in 1963 (oldracephotos)

At Sandown during a ten-lapper he spun on the first lap, with Jane and Beechey going at it in a race long dice. Lex later spun again in the fast Dandenong Road Esses. The big Galaxie frightened the Armco with a huge thump on the outside of the track and then came back across the road to hit it on the other side. The Ford then caught fire as he sought to restart…

The Galaxie was in no condition to race again until September, no doubt Len Lukey thought that the ongoing safety of his expensive car was best served by a change in pilot.

Graham Howard wrote that “It’s (the Galaxies) absence was not greatly mourned by Diana (Davison), or by Alan Ashton, both of whom believed the big sedan did nothing to help Lex’s single-seater driving.”

Lex explained the background to the Sandown accident in a letter Lance Lowe of Peter Antill Motors, then the local Koni distributor. “Appalling rear axle tramp under braking was one of its less endearing features, and this has now been cured to such an extent that the car is un-steerable…Perhaps it (the accident) will solve the problem of me having to drive it again.”

In1964 Len threw the keys to Beechey who raced the car with the sympathy of a specialist touring car ace. Note that when Lukey’s car arrived some of its H-M goodies were removed to comply with Australia’s Appendix J touring car regs; some panels, bumpers and brakes were amongst the changes. The R-Code car was fitted with a 427 lo-riser big-block Ford side-oiler V8. Some sources have it that the car as raced by Davo was fitted with a 406 cid engine which was replaced by a 427 by the time Beechey got his hands on it in 1964 – no doubt at the time the bonnet-hump appeared. The car survives as part of the Bowden Collection in Queensland.

To complete the summary of the Lukey cars, Len imported another Galaxie, a 1964 Holman-Moody car in parts to avoid Australian import duty but died before the car was completed. This is the car acquired by Dennis O’Brien via Harry Firth’s introduction to Lukey’s widow in the mid-seventies. O’Brien built the car up with a shell found in Canberra, a new 427 hi-riser, alloy bumpers, the right diff, gearbox, polycarbonate windows and competition roll-cage.

Bob Jane Jag Mk2, Norm Beechey Ford Galaxie and Ern Abbott Chrysler Valiant, Sandown 1964 (Bob Jane)

Turn in and hold on! Beechey exits the long, fast right-hander under the Dunlop Bridge, Sandown 1964 (unattributed)

Davison had a busy racing 1964 including providing valuable emotional and public relations support to Donald Campbell’s Bluebird LSR attempt at Lake Eyre, South Australia. Campbell was copping plenty of flak globally at the time for perceived lack of progress. Oh yes, Lex had a steer of Bluebird at a preset limit of 155 mph.

Davo started the season in his ex-McLaren 1962 AGP winning Cooper T62 Climax but bought a Brabham Intercontinental chassis – Brabham’s ’64 Tasman car – to remain competitive with Bib Stillwell and others.

But his touring car aspirations were not put to one side. Ecurie Australie mounted a professional, well prepared campaign together with Australian Motor Industries in a Triumph 2000 in that years Bathurst 500. Lex drove the car fast, consistently and sympathetically to eighth in the class despite being slowed by wheel bearing failure, and co-driver Rocky Tresise parking the car unnecessarily until Lex told him ‘to go and geddit matey’!

All the same, what was somewhat bizarre, given Lex’s experience with Len Lukey’s Galaxie was that he signed up for an even bigger Galaxie challenge, this time involving his own funds.

The Sandown promoters, the Light Car Club of Australia, planned a Six-Hour race for Group 1 cars in November 1964 and sought interest from teams and manufacturers from around the globe.

By September two British Galaxie owner/drivers had shown interest; Sir Gawaine Baillie and Alan Brown. Sandown planned to pair Baillie with three-time Australian GP winner Doug Whiteford, and Brown with Davison but when Brown withdrew Lex arranged to share Baillie’s car which the aristocrat then hoped to sell in Australia after a summers racing.

Lex, whatever his then view on touring cars, and the Lukey car, was keen to take on the challenge of driving the later model Holman-Moody Fastback. These cars were built at the request of British Ford dealer, John Willment, who wanted to take on the then dominant Jaguars in British touring car racing.

Gavin Fry’s shot of the Baillie Galaxie at Sandown in November 1964 shows the lines of the handsome big car to good effect. Note heavy steel wheels, brake duct and vestigial roll bar (G Fry)

It’s time to explore the cars build and technical specifications.

Holman-Moody were approached to produce some road racing versions of the latest 427cid Ford Galaxie factory lightweights, which had been developed for NHRA Super Stock competition on the quarter mile dragstrips throughout the US.

Except for a few early cars such as Lukey’s, these 1963½ Galaxie lightweights all emerged from the factory as white two-door Sports Hardtops with red interiors; 212 of them were made in one batch sent down the production line together.

“Some featured a Ford 300 series chassis frame made from lighter gauge steel. All body sound-deadening compounds were deleted and lightweight fiberglass replaced steel in construction of the boot lid, bonnet and front mudguards (some had fiberglass doors and inner front guards as well). They also had aluminium front and rear bumpers mounted on lightweight brackets” wrote Mark Oastler. The interiors were basic racer-specials with unpadded rubber floor mats, thin-shell bucket seats with no radio, heater or clock or other road going frills.

The engine was Ford’s 427cid side-oiler V8 from the FE big block family with 425bhp and a choice of high-riser and low-riser cast aluminium manifolds running huge dual four-barrel carbs. The high-risers ran in NHRA’s Super Stock category with the low-risers in the slightly less modified A/Stock class.

The gearbox was a butch Borg Warner T10 four-speed manual with cast-aluminium bell-housing and casing to save weight, with a set of close-ratio gears. Ford’s ultra strong, ubiquitous nine-inch rear axle was used with short 4.11:1 final drive and heavy duty leaf springs, shocks and four wheel drum brakes inside 15-inch steel wheels.

A standard 427 Galaxie Sports Hardtop tipped the scales at circa 1900kg, whereas the lightweights were a massive 290 kg less – those fitted with fibreglass doors and front inner guards dropped another 40 kg.

These Ford factory lightweights laid the foundation for the handful of cars produced by Holman-Moody for road racing overseas, one of which was the Sir Gawaine Baillie car. At around 1600kg, they were now competitive with the Jags in weight but with around 500bhp  they had a bit (!) more power! The circuit racers, like the drag cars were equipped with lightweight fibreglass front guards, bonnets and boot-lids, aluminium bumpers and stripped interiors.

H-M also developed a front disc brake kit to replace the standard 11-inch drums based on Jaguar 12-inch diameter solid rotors clamped by Girling two-spot calipers mounted on heavy-duty spindles.

“Other H-M tweaks included steel wheels with immensely strong double-thickness centres developed for Grand National (NASCAR) stock car racing. The booming exhaust system was also NASCAR inspired, featuring huge three-inch diameter open pipes neatly routed through the chassis rails that exited in front of the rear wheels. Shock absorber mounting positions were altered with most equipped with two shocks per wheel. Some of the export cars, including Baillie’s, were equipped with an additional shock absorber on the rear axle which through suspension movement pumped diff oil through a remote oil cooler to control rear axle temperatures during races held in warmer climates.”

“The Holman-Moody Galaxie lightweights (with either low-riser or medium-riser 427 engines) were very successful. John Willment’s car soon shook Jaguar out of its complacency in the BTCC, proving dominant in 1960s UK tin-top racing where it was prepared by John Wyer (of Gulf GT40 fame) and driven by Jack Sears and Graham Hill.  Another 427 Galaxie campaigned by Alan Brown Racing in the UK also proved highly competitive, driven by such luminaries as Jim Clark, Dan Gurney and Sir Jack Brabham. Baillie had his share of success in the UK…”

Bouyed with the success of the cars in the UK, and convinced the latest lightweight would be a better car than Lukey’s machine, Lex threw himself into the task of dealing with the arrangements to bring the car to Australia, together with a long list of spare parts including a new engine direct from H-M. A separate shipment from the UK comprised extra wheels and racing tyres.

The car was already on the boat when Sandown race organiser Max Newbold realised that the car was modified to Group 2 specs. Borrowing parts from the then dormant Lukey Galaxie would still not have brought the Baillie car within Group 1 so Newbold simply altered the race regulations to include a Group 2 class.

Pre race Sandown PR shot- Lex and Baillie’s Galaxie at Port Melbourne alongside the ship which brought it from Southampton (Davison)

Davison with suit, tie and hat about to have some fun! A road trip in his racer from Port Melbourne to Armadale, 10 km or so on built up inner urban Melbourne roads (Davison)

When the car arrived at Port Melbourne in mid-November, Lex and Alan Ashton, Davison’s longtime engineer/mechanic boarded the vessel to see the car in the hold. Newbold was caught out when the huge trailer he organised to collect the beast was not large enough. So, the likely lads fired up the 500bhp racer, Lex jumped aboard complete with suit and tie and rumbled off in the direction of AF Hollins workshop in twee High Street, Armadale 10 km away. I wonder if Lex had a bit of a flurb along the new South Eastern Freeway to see ‘whaddl she do?!

While Lex’ new engine had reached Sydney, shipping difficulties meant it was struggling to go any further, the wheels and tyres hadn’t arrived from the UK either.

On the Saturday before the race Ashton and Lou Russo took the car to Sandown where Lex did about 30 laps, checking fuel consumption, getting the feel of the car, establishing tyre pressures. As part of the pre-event publicity build up he gave a couple of eventful laps to a Melbourne Herald reporter including a demo of the Galaxie’s loss of braking power on the drop down through the Dandenong Road Esses!

Lex got down to 1:24, Beechey’s lap record in Lukey’s Galaxie was 1:23.5. Davo reported seeing 5500 rpm in top gear, 217kmh and reported signs of brake fade after 10 laps circulating in the 1:26 mark; it was a portent of things to come.

The new spare engine reached Melbourne on the Friday and was installed overnight, but the car was still on its old tyres. Baillie jumped aboard and circulated in 1:28’s, then Lex did a 1:24.9.  Baillie did 1:25.3 and finally Lex did a 1:23.7. The car completed about 50 laps all up with the crew practicing wheel and driver changes.

Allan Moffat’s Grp 2 Lotus Cortina, just acquired from Team Lotus – of which he had been a member – arrived from the US after practice had finished, while Bob Jane’s Grp 1 Lotus Cortina three-wheeled around in characteristic style in 1:30.1. During practice the Galaxie’s wheels and tyres arrived air freight from the UK- so, all was prepared with the Galaxie demonstrably the fastest car on the circuit.

Davison’s Galaxie alongside the Studebaker Lark at the start, Sandown 6 Hour 1964 (unattributed)

Race morning was fine and sunny. 27,000 Melburnians rocked-up to enjoy what promised to be an interesting, spectacular race.

Lex was on pole amongst the Studebaker Larks, and took the first stint at Baillie’s request. At the drop of the flag Lex spectacularly bagged-’em-up and simply disappeared into the distance. He was 200 metres ahead of the second placed car at the end of the first lap and lapping the tail-enders prior to the end of lap two; lapping in the 1:24s literally in a class of his own.

The team planned a driver change at the end of lap 61, with a strategy to build up a big enough lead to be able to change all four tyres and replenish the beasts 155 litre fuel tank.

By lap 40 Lex had a three lap lead over Moffat’s second placed Lotus Cortina – at that stage he needed six-pumps of the brakes to get a useful pedal. Then, as he started his 47th lap he could get no pedal on the 170 kmh run along Pit Straight before the second gear, slow Peters left hander. “I managed to change down to second, then to first, and tried to spin the big car in this very tight corner. I managed to pull off this manoeuvre once before when driving Len Lukey’s car, but this time I did not manage it quite so cleanly and the tail whacked the fence.”

Hit 1: Lex backwards into the Peters corner fence (autopics)

Slightly second hand Galaxie post hit 1, entry to Peters from Pit Straight (autopics)

Davo completed the lap – effectively a full lap – but still had trouble pulling the car up at the AF Hollins pit, so much smoke was coming from the offside brake it appeared to be on fire. The offside front brake had worm through both pads but also one of the backing plates allowing a piston to contact the disc, damaging both it and the caliper! It took 22 minutes to replace the caliper, then Baillie rejoined in 30th place, 8 laps behind the leader – still with the damaged disc- while a spare was tracked down.

Moffat’s Cortina had clobbered the fence too so the race was a duel between Jane’s Cortina and Alec Mildren’s Alfa Romeo Giulia TI Super driven by Roberto Businello and Ralph Sach.

Baillie was not comfortable with the car and brought it after 20 laps, Lex took over, his first flying lap was an amazing 1:24.6, he pitted after 7 laps and then pitted on his 75th lap for the car to have the disc replaced, and then took off again at undiminished pace.

And then, as they say in the classics, it happened.

On lap 91 he had the same problem at the same place as earlier but this time had total brake failure. Davison lost some speed by jamming the car into second gear but muffed the change into first – and thereby lost the opportunity to lock the rear wheels and spin the car – so, utterly a passenger, ploughed headlong into the thick planks intended to arrest cars before a 20-foot plunge into the Dam below.

The Galaxie, brakeless and in neutral at about 120 kmh smote the timbers head on an amazing impact, smashing through the planks with all the physics of a 1600kg car. He displaced a 12 inch diameter fence post which drove the right front wheel back against the firewall. “The car stopped halfway through the fence, nose down on the edge of the 20 foot drop into the reservoir, only escaping the fall because the front of the car was resting on the hefty fence post.” Lex’s door was jammed, the right hand door was locked but eventually he got out, severely shaken but otherwise amazingly ok.

Things look innocuous enough from this angle for Lex as the Studebaker Lark passes (autopics)

Not so good from this angle though- and it does not show the water 15 feet or so further down (G Edney)

The Ecurie Australie team, on Pit Straight, ran to Lex’s aid with all immensely relieved “Lex being supported by Gawaine Baillie and Rocky Tresise, then, with one arm holding Diana, still supported by Baillie, trying to explain the accident to Alan Ashton and Lou Russo…The big bitch nearly killed me…” Lex told Baillie.

Graham Howard notes in his Davison biography that for the 40 odd minutes it lasted, his drive after taking over from Baillie was “…another of his never give up drives from the back of the field…but this time he knew he was driving a car which he knew was suspect.”

The race goes on around the stranded, mortally wounded Ford Galaxie- not the hay bales behind the car (G Edney)

“Common sense said to put the car away; so why did he keep racing? The Galaxie was a sedan car, an American made one at that, and a clumsy compromise as a racing car, and these were all the things Lex disliked about the touring car push. But at the same tine it was a big, noisy, heavy car to manage, racing car virtues Lex could never resist. Even before it reached Australia the Galaxie had excited him, and from the first drive of the car Lex was exploring its limits. Gawaine Baillie was no playboy- he had been racing since the 1950’s, had been racing the Galaxie for two European seasons, and had led the Brands Hatch 6-Hour race in June with it, setting fastest race lap – but Lex in the Galaxie was always faster. At Sandown Lex was responding to one of the primal challenges of motor racing: to show the machine the driver was in charge. But finally, provoked beyond endurance, the big bitch showed empathetically he was not.”

Howard continued “Lex had also been shown in no uncertain terms, that continuing to drive hard in a car with a known mechanical problem had been an error of judgement which went to the very heart of his personal approach to racing. So while he had big accidents before, they had not been in circumstances like this. The accident brought home to both Lex and Diana how much was at risk when he went racing: he was the valued head of a large and lively family with children aged from 5 to 17, and the leader of a minor business empire which by then extended beyond footwear manufacture and retailing and into property development and car sales. He was a few months short of his 42nd birthday, he had been racing since 1946, and now, Lex decided, it was time to stop. He would just run a few more races, he told Diana and then he would retire.”

As many of you would know the great irony and sadness of all of this is that Lex died at Sandown of a heart attack aboard his Brabham only several months later- an event which rocked his family, the sport and Melbourne to the core. But I don’t want to dwell on that fateful day, which is covered here; Bruce’, Lex’ and Rocky’s Cooper T62 Climax… | primotipo…

As Lex gathered himself up to prepare for the 1965 Tasman Series- and proved at Pukekohe during the NZ GP that he had not lost a yard, but had in fact gained several, started the race from the front row alongside Clark J, and Hill G before retiring with overheating problems.

The Galaxie returned to AF Hollins for repair, there were Tasman support races to run in Australia in January/February to prepare for.

Baillie ahead of Brian Muir’s Holden S4 during the Warwck Farm International meeting in February 1965 (B Wells)

Warwick Farm again across The Causeway (autopics)

Baillie raced the car at Warwick Farm, but not Sandown out of respect for Lex, and also the tragic Longford weekend in which Ecurie Australie’s plucky young driver, Rocky Tresise perished in an accident aboard the teams Cooper T62 Climax, a race Rocky insisted he start out of respect for Lex – his neighbour, friend and mentor.

Baillie left Australia but the Galaxie remained, contesting the one-race 1965 Australian Touring Car Championship in the hands of John Raeburn at Sandown in April 1965. Run to Group C Improved Touring Car regulations, Bob Jane started from pole in his Mustang with Raeburn alongside him – the cars pace at Sandown was now rather well known. Norm Beechey aboard his new Ford Mustang from Pete Geoghegan’s Lotus Cortina and Brian Muir’s EH Holden S4- Raeburn was fifth, a lap behind.

With the Mustang making rather clear the future for outright touring cars – smaller lightweight V8 engined machines, there was little interest in the car in Australia so it was loaded up and returned to the UK by ship, it’s destiny and whereabouts unclear to this day.

While the Galaxie touring car phase of racing in Australia was short it was certainly sweet, if a 1600kg, 500bhp, big, lumbering beastie could ever be described thus!

Great shot of Baillie convincing the Galaxie off Long Bridge, Longford 1965 (oldracephotos)

Bibiography…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, various online forums, Mark Oastler on Shannons.com

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com.au, Bob Jane Collection, Graham Edney Collection, Bruce Wells, autopics.com.au, Gavin Fry

Tailpiece…Finish where we started- Baillie ahead of Jane, Longford 1965, this lap is on the entry to Pub Corner rather than its exit…

(oldracephotos)

Finish where we started – Baillie ahead of Jane, Longford 1965, this lap is on the entry to Pub Corner rather than its exit.

Finito…

Towards Hell Corner for the first time. Jones’ Maserati 250F, Gray’s blue Tornado 2 Chev with Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 at left. Mildren’s green Cooper T43 Climax FPF 2.0 then Tom Clark’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo 3.4 and Merv Neil’s Cooper T45 Climax FPF 1.7 (M Reid)

The October 6, 1958 Australian Grand Prix was regarded as one of the great AGPs- a battle between the big red Italian cars of Stan Jones and Lex Davison and the booming blue homegrown Australian special raced by Ted Gray.

In the end Davo’s evergreen ex-Ascari/Gaze Ferrari 500/625 prevailed over the 100 miles, while the attacks of Stan’s Maserati 250F and Tiger Ted’s Tornado 2 Chev fell short.

The event took on greater significance over time as it showed the front-engined Italians at the height of their power in Australia before the full force of the Cooper onslaught bit.

Lex Davison dips his fuel level before the off, Ferrari 500/625 (R Reid)

 

Ted Gray during his glorious run in front for two thirds of the race. Tornado exiting Murrays (R Reid)

Lou Abrahams and his team had developed, arguably, the fastest car in the country during 1958. In addition they had improved Tornado’s reliability as they addressed, step by step, shortcomings in the machines drivetrain exposed by the prodigious power and torque of it’s fuel-injected Chev Corvette 283cid V8 fitted later in 1957.

Stan Jones found the consistency he needed to win the Gold Star in 1058 but Tornado was quicker. Lex Davison, the defending champion, wasn’t seen during the Gold Star as the AF Hollins & Co crew took a long time rebuilding the Ferrari’s 3-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine which blew after piston failure during the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore in January.

Gray’s promise was proved with a win in the heat which contained the quicker cars. Not only was the car speedy over a lap, he was also considerably quicker than the opposition down Conrod – 152.54mph from Davison’s 146.74 and Jones’ 139.5

Tension mounts before the start of the second heat. #22 Clark and Davison, then Gray and Jones. The dark car on the outside of row 3 is perhaps Len Lukey’s Lukey Bristol with Ray Walmsley’s Alfa Romeo P3 Chev on his inside. The red car with the white nose-roundel is Tom Hawkes modified Cooper T23 Holden-Repco Hi-Power (R Reid)

 

Tail of the field thru Hell on lap 1- Alf Harvey’s light blue Maserati 4CLT OSCA 4.5 V12 with what looks like, perhaps, John Schroder’s Nota Consul. Harvey’s just rebuilt Maserati won it’s heat but ‘blew a spark plug right through the bonnet’ on lap 16. The Nota was out on lap 10 (ABC)

Early in the race the lead changed between the big three, who cleared away from the rest of the field to lead by nearly a minute at the conclusion of the first 10 of 30 laps- at this point Gray was 8 seconds up on the Jones/Davison battle.

By lap 22 Ted was ahead by a steady’ish 10 seconds but pitted to report erratic handling. A messy, unplanned pitstop ensued during which fuel was topped up and slopped all over the place. A post-race examination showed cracked rear suspension mounts were the cause of the handling misdemeanors. Ted returned to the fray determined to make up the gap but in his haste, and still with his problem, Tornado glanced off the fence on the mountain, then did a couple of slow laps before retiring on lap 24.

Stan Jones then appeared set take a race he deserved to win (he did at Longford in 1959) but he had been shifting gears sans clutch for 7 laps- during his 26th lap the 250F dropped a valve and he was out. Davo completed the remaining four laps to win from Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev and Tom Hawkes’ Cooper T23 Holden-Repco Hi-Power. It was a happy day for Ern as he prepared both cars, and Tom’s was out of oil with a split sump!

Stan The Man in one of his muscle-shirts while in the lead early on. Maserati 250F exiting Murrays (I think) into Pit Straight (R Reid)

Etcetera…

(R Reid)

Credits…

‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and Ors, Ron Reid Collection, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Tailpiece…

(R Reid)

A slightly fuzzy Jones, Davison and Gray through Reid Park in the early laps before Ted cleared out- Maserati, Ferrari, Tornado.

Finito…

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)

Etcetera…

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)

 

(SLSA)

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; https://www.shannons.com.au/club/bike-news/old-bikes-australasia-the-eldee-velocettes/

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

Bibliography…

‘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 clisby.com, 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

Tailpiece…

(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.

Finito…

(N Henderson Collection)

MG on Mount Tarrengower, Maldon, Victoria circa 1946-1947…

Its funny what ya find sometimes, this was a random catch found sitting in front of the tello whilst searching for something else.

The photograph, from artblat.com, is part of the Nicholas Henderson Collection and thought to be Tarrengower given the preponderance of Maldon shots in the collection- further evidence cited the surrounding box-ironbark trees. We had a country drive to Castlemaine, Kyneton and Maldon inclusive of a cruise up the mountain again six months ago-Tarrengower it is i suspect.

I am no pre-war expert but the stance of the machine and its grille reek of MG, perhaps not a supercharged one mind you, so that narrows the model choice somewhat- but it’s no more than a guess, perhaps it’s Peter Vennermark’s Maserati 4CL?

Below are two more cars, one sporting and the other not- love to know what they are, bonus points for the drivers and the date of the meeting.

(N Henderson Collection)

For some of you the dress of the spectators may help give us a fix on the date, as perhaps will the model year of the most recent car built- perhaps the sedan below.

Another car (not shown) in the same batch of photos had a registration expiry date of February 1947 and was therefore indicative of the approximate timing of the photographs to the curator of artblat.com, Dr Marcus Bunyan.

(N Henderson Collection)

 

1947 postcard of the meeting that year shows the spectator car park at the bottom of Mount Tarrengower- horse and cart is a nice touch!

 

A little bit more research shows the the first pot-war event was on Easter Saturday, April 5, 1947. The climb has been pretty much in continuous use since the dawn of motoring in Australia. The ninetieth anniversary of the first event was held last year- 2019.

The climb had not been used for a couple of decades until the Vintage Sports Car Club ran an event on 29 February 1964, FTD that day went to Bill Leach in an E Type Jaguar. The club returned that October when FTD was set by no less than Lex Davison’s Cooper T62 Climax 2.5 Tasman car in 50.34 seconds. Davo was a very experienced hill climber with an Australian Championship amongst his many racing achievements, see here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/05/mount-tarrengower-hillclimb/

I’ve never raced there competitively but I did run my Elfin Crusader Formula Vee up the hill during an Elfin Owners Club event from Bendigo to Mount Tarrengower and back in November 1993. About 40 cars did that event from Peter Brennan’s MR8C Chev F5000 ‘down’ to one or two Vees- a Gendarme up front in a fast pursuit car ensured speeds were civil but quick on 80km of public highways. What fun it was.

Jim Hawker and George Wightman aboard the awesome Chamberlain 8, Tarrengower April 1947 (The Chamberlain)

 

(Maldon Museum Archive)

A group of competitors gathered in Maldon during the Easter 1947 meeting.

Many thanks to the combination of David Zeunert, Tony Johns, Bob King and Stephen Dalton who between them provided the shots and nutted out the date and competitors.

We are not sure of the white sportscar by the kerb, then the Hugh Stuart aka Tim Joshua Frazer Nash single-seater, Jim Gullan’s Ballot Oldsmobile and at right Lex Davison’s Alfa Romeo 6C1500 s/c Spl aka the ‘Little Alfa’.

Stephen reminded me this site at 51-57 High Street is still a servo, Robert Cox Motors are the current operators.

Entry list of the Easter 1947 meeting (Ash Tracey)

 

Later 1960’s shot of a Geneer Outlaw VW, I think, gives perspective on the open nature of the tourist road and surrounding terrain (Ken Bolitho)

 

Peter Vennermark, Maserati 4CL 1.5 at Tarrengower, 24 March 1951 (Maldon Museum)

 

Lex Davison, Cooper T62 Climax, Tarrengower October 1964- Davo in collar and tie (M Williams Collection)

The climb is about 1500 metres long, the bitumen is narrow, patchy and rough at the edges- the shot above of Lex in 1964 is not that much different to now, it is a tourist road with a lookout at the top. It’s a very fast open climb, a big challenge, I notice that a chicane half way up was used last year which is a bummer in some ways but probably makes good sense.

My first visit to Mount Tarrengower was as an official with a mate in 1978. We camped overnight and took up our post about two thirds of the way up the hill on Sunday, a beautiful clear, hot day. What impressed was the speed of the more powerful cars but the dangers were great given the unguarded edges and unforgiving trees awaiting those who goofed.

During the afternoon we heard the unmistakable wail of a Porsche flat-six off the start line- it was the very impressive Dr Will Darvall’s 2.7 RS mounting another assault. The rise and fall of the engine note indicated his commitment and rapid progress until about 100 metres or so below us the throttle closed rapidly, then followed a sickening series of dull-thuds as the gorgeous car pinged from eucalypt to sheoak. I will never forget that sound.

We looked at one another and said in unison ‘He’s fucked!’ It seemed and sounded that bad. But the good doctor recovered, I know this as he was ‘me mate Big Bad Brucie’s GP in Heidelberg, but he was a sick boy for a long while. The car was rooted, but it too lived to fight another day after bulk dollars were spent on its resurrection around a new shell.

The point to be taken here is that there is no ‘good place’ to leave the road on this challenging mountain.

Maldon High Street 1934 (Maldon Museum)

 

Maldon High Street circa 1975 (Ellen Hansa-Stanyer)

 

Maldon High Street 2019, refreshingly little change over the last eighty years or so (Maldon FB)

The Central Goldfields area of Victoria is quite beautiful and so named as a consequence of the 1850’s Gold Rush which attracted massive numbers of fortune seekers from around the world.

The ‘Golden Triangle’ area marked by the towns of Ballarat, Maryborough and Bendigo yielded massive amounts of the precious commodity, Mount Tarrengower is a couple of kilometres from the tiny village of Maldon at the Triangle’s northern end- short walks around and from the village allow this wonderful history to be seen and experienced- the steam train ride is a beauty for ‘big kids’ too.

Maldon is a must visit for any Victorian international tourists list, the town was classified by the National Trust way back around 1970 so the streetscape now is little different to the way it was during that 1947 hillclimb weekend.

Peter Holinger on the line aboard the very fast Holinger Repco ‘620’ 4.4 V8 circa 1978, the dimensions of which were provided by Jack Brabham’s 1969 Tasman contender- Brabham BT31 Repco (John Bowring)

Etcetera…

 

(M Bisset)

A couple of happy-snaps of the Elfin ‘Tour To Tarrengower’ in November 1993 I mentioned.

The five red cars are Catalina, Mono, Mallala sports, Mono and Catalina, then a white and blue pair of 620s- this is in Bendigo.

Below is Pete Brennan’s MR8 F5000 and the arse of his 400 Chev at right, the big white monster is the ex-Schuppan MR8 in Can-Am dress, now owned by Bill Hemming, it is in F5000 guise. The other white sporty is a 360, a personal favourite.

(M Bisset)

Peter Brennan on the way to FTD circa 1982 in his Elva Mk8S BMW 2 litre.

(P Brennan Collection)

 

(A Tracey)

Another crop of Peter Vennermark’s Maserati and a report on that meeting below, Easter Saturday 24 March 1951- where he had an off.

Chassis #1555 was later sold to long time racer Cec Warren who alighted the machine during the March 1954 Fishermans Bend meeting for adjustments, collapsed with a heart attack and died.

 

(A Tracey Collection)

 

(D Zeunert)

Lovely photo of the vibe in the ‘modern era’, crowd and carpark in the background, 1982 with Stuart Anderson on the line, Maserati 4CM 1100, above and below.

(D Zeunert)

 

(G Thomas in L Sims Collection)

Bob King has his money on our opening car being the Lindsay Head driven Riley Austin Spl, here being driven over Skyline at Rob Roy in 1946- without its lights, it is a possibility’

Photo and other credits…

Nicholas Henderson Collection on artblat.com, Maldon Museum, Maldon Facebook, Ellen Hansa-Stanyer, Max Williams Collection, The Chamberlain, Tony Johns Collection, ‘Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys’ Ray Roberts, John Bowring, Ken Bolitho, Peter Brennan Collection, Ashley Tracey Collection via Tony Johns, George Thomas in the Leon Sims Collection, David Zeunert/Collection

Tailpiece…

Bentley in High Street, Maldon circa 2018, Tony Johns tells me it’s a 1950 Mk6 rebodied coupe. The Mount Tarrengower road and car park is well worth a visit on race weekend and a tootle up from Melbourne for the day anytime.

The many closed shops in town at the moment are a bit of a worry, I have not seen the place so depressed in all the years of regular visits since 1978.

Back to the Bentley, with a bit of assistance from John’s copy of ‘Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys’.

The car was designed by Queensland graphic designer Ian Shaw who was considerably influence by the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.

The chassis (#B4JO) ‘was reclaimed from an earlier touring body conversion’, seven inches were taken from the frame, the engine moved aft twelve inches and lowered- whilst the ‘X brace’ part of the chassis was removed other cross members were added to restore and enhance torsional rigidity.

Mechanical upgrades include dual boosted hydraulic brakes, Koni shocks, sixteen inch wires and a smaller than standard MkVI steering wheel.

The steel body was built to Ian’s full scale drawings by Venkat, Bodrog and Evans around one inch by one inch steel tubing and incorporates highly modified MkVI front wings, a shortened radiator shell and bonnet.

Initially a 4.25 litre Bentley motor was used, this was later replaced with an ‘S type’ 4.887 litre straight six which was blueprinted and modified by the incorporation of a higher lift cam with the head ported and fitted with larger valves.

This beautiful looking 2+2 motor car is a credit to the fine eye of its creator, it first ‘broke cover’ over the 1998 Bay to Birdwood weekend in Adelaide and is now good for 125mph which would make it a fine interstate express.

Finito…

(L McGrath Collection)

The photographer, Mr McGrath, has composed and executed a brilliant oh-so-wide format shot of the battle for outright honours between Alec Mildren’s leading Cooper T51 Maserati and his pursuer, Lex Davison in his new but old-school, glorious front-engined Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre during the 1960 Australian Grand Prix.

The shot really has drama doesn’t it?

The action is framed by the crowd in both the foreground and background, half of them are sun-smart- love the ‘coolie-hats’ (am I allowed to say that these days?) but my favourite headgear is the ‘Cockie’ to the left in the worn Akubra. Checkout the two ‘thrill-seekers’ atop the Castrol sign filming the action- hopefully there was no involuntary swan-dive before the end of the race. Marvellous shot despite the flat as a tack ex-airfield terrain McGrath had to work with.

The other shots herald the death of Lotus 12 Lycoming ‘351’ aka ’Sabakat’ in a preliminary event after the fearless Ern Tadgell lost control of one of the biggest piles of merde ever allowed through a scrutiny bay in this country.

The inspecting fellas must have misplaced their guide dogs that day even if I try to apply the standards of the day which were far less risk averse than in the litigious lilly-white politically correct world in which we live today.

(L McGrath Collection)

 

(AAA)

Crop duster pilot/entrepreneur Tadgell had wedding tackle of porn-star proportions to drive the Lycoming aero-engined monster he created from the delicate little flower imported from England, but in the end the laws of physics got the better of him- either a rear hub broke or the car ran wide on a corner, it then rolled, throwing Ern clear whereupon the whole lot burned to death in a conflagration Guy Fawkes would have been happy with. Tadgell, thankfully and luckily, lived to fight another day in an exciting life lived to the absolute full.

(AAA)

 

(L McGrath Collection)

‘Far-canal, what are we going to do with it now!?’ seems to be the issue at hand.

Digger at right awaits instructions, which are just about to be provided by the ‘fog-horn’ wielding Queensland Racing Drivers Club official in blazer and tie (must have been hot in that). The lean fella at left in the white overalls appears to be a crew-member, he is holding a cast iron brake rotor which has survived as has the steel spaceframe chassis, or parts of it anyway.

You can see the rear of the chassis frame- it is upside down with the rear facing us. There are a couple of driveshafts and remains of wheels, a fuel tank at right, a coil spring and the remains of some of the torn fibreglass bodywork. The Lycoming 7.86 litre six cylinder engine was constructed mainly of light alloy, so it, and the Cheshunt made cast components melted in what was a decent old bonfire.

Whilst the wreck was deemed beyond economic repair back then many a modern ‘rebuild’ has started with far less than this, a nose badge or vinyl decal will do. As you will see from the Sabakat story attached Graham Howard would have been delighted to have had these discarded, very well heat-tempered chassis parts when he chased the remains of this car in the early seventies before building the faithful replica we all know and love today; https://primotipo.com/2019/08/22/just-add-lightness/

(L McGrath Collection)

 

(AAA)

Mildren and Davison race to the line- in the end the 2.5 litre Maserati four triumphed over the brawny 3 litre Aston Martin six in that final sprint, a well deserved win for Alec, this time Davo’s famous AGP luck did not not quite hold by half cars length, with the epitome of a sportsman gallant and generous in defeat. Click here for a full report of the race towards the end of this feature on Mildren’s Cooper; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Credits…

Lindy McGrath Collection, ‘AAA’- Aussie Automotive Archives

Race Footage (no sound)…

Tailpiece…

(L McGrath Collection)

It burned and burned, famously, the start of the AGP was delayed so much that Alec Mildren was able to repair his Cooper’s broken driveshaft in time to take the start- and subsequently win the race.

Ernie was a very lucky boy that day but that car…

Finito…

(P D’Abbs)

Beautiful Peter D’Abbs photograph of Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4/250, chassis number ‘1’ 3 litre with Austin Miller, Cooper T51 Climax in the background, Phillip Island, 23 October 1960…

Lex became famous for his retirements from racing and then his Dame Nellie Melba type returns to the grid, his 1958 AGP win at Bathurst was the last time he raced the marvellous ex-Ascari/Gaze Ferrari 500/625 and then he took a break, but heading into 1960 he planned to take a holiday in Europe with his wife Diana and to acquire a new racer.

He watched the increased ‘Cooperisation’ of Australian racing from the sidelines and decided that a modern incarnation of his HWM Jaguar would be competitive with the growing number of mid-engined cars. He initially pitched the idea of a DB4 3.7 litre engine in a DBR4 Grand Prix chassis but Aston Martin Racing Manager John Wyer assured him the motor would not readily fit and that the David Brown five-speed transaxle, already marginal, would be pushed beyond its design limits.

After plenty of argy-bargy about price a compromise was settled upon which involved DBR4 chassis 1 fitted with a 3 litre DBR1 sportscar engine, and the purchase of a DB4GT road car- rather a nice combination of roadie and racer!

The car was completed by late March 1960 and after testing by works test driver Jack Fairman and Roy Salvadori over two days at Goodwood the car was shipped to Australia. Davison drove the car on the second, and wetter of the days to within a fraction of a second of Fairman’s best.

It appears Lex raced the car, the first of the DBR4s built- raced by Roy Salvadori during the factories abortive 1959 Grand Prix season, four times in 1960.

An initial test session with Allan Ashton and the AF Hollins crew at Phillip Island after arrival at Port Melbourne was followed by THAT ‘missed a win by a bees dick’ Australian Grand Prix at Lowood on 12 June where Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati led Davo home by an official margin of one half of a second after a little over an hour of Grand Prix motor racing of the first order- click here for a feature on Mildren inclusive of a full race report on the AGP; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Davison in his new car, Aston DBR4/250 ‘1’ during the 1960 AGP at Lowood, Queensland (B Thomas)

 

Davison and Mildren hard at it at Lowood during the AGP- flaggies absorbed in the battle, not sure if it is Glynn Scott or Jon Leighton’s Cooper Climax behind (B Thomas)

Lex and the boys made the long trip back to Queensland in September and ran it again at Lowood in another Gold Star round for third place behind Alec and Bib Stillwell, both T51 mounted, then at the non-championship meeting at Phillip Island in October and finally the soggy Warwick Farm opening meeting on 18 December where he was fourth behind the T51s of Stillwell, John Youl and Austin Miller having started from the front row.

Famously these Aston Martins were at least two years too late to be competitive in Grand Prix racing- the honour of the last successful front-engined GP car goes to the Ferrari Dino 246 and that of the most sophisticated to the Lotus 16 Climax, if not the most reliable.

Two of the magnificent shapely machines came to Australia in 1960, Davo’s ‘DBR4/250 (1)’ and Bib’s ‘DBR4/250 (3)’- Stillwell had an each way bet, he had a Cooper or three as well as the Feltham beastie whereas all of Lex’ eggs were in one basket- until he borrowed one of Stillwell’s Cooper T51s and ‘nicked’ the 1961 Mallala AGP from under the noses of the established ‘water-cooled’ Cooper aces. I say that as Lex had been winning races and hillclimbs in two Phil Irving fettled Vincent engined Coopers for years- he was hardly unfamiliar with the handling characteristics of these little mid-engined missiles.

Ain’t she sweet our friend is thinking. Ballarat 1961 (P Skelton)

 

Davison’s DBR4 ‘1’ in the Ballarat paddock with Warwick Cumming at the wheel and perhaps Allan Ashton doing the pressures. I am not sure whether #4 or 14 is correct but both shots are Ballarat (P Coleby)

Into 1961 Lex raced the Aston in the late January Warwick Farm 100- Q11 and DNF oil leak,  the race was won by the Walker/Moss Lotus 18 Climax, Davison then contested the Victorian Trophy at Ballarat Airfield on 12 February- the colour photo taken above by Phillip Skelton at that meeting could almost be a BP PR shot!

This time the car was out after completing 9 laps with gearbox dramas- the hot and dusty race was won by Dan Gurney from Graham Hill in BRM P48s- it was the only international win for these cars.

Three weeks later Davison and Stillwell took the cars to Longford- whilst Bib practiced the Aston he raced his Cooper whereas Davo raced to the finish of the 24 lap 100 miler albeit in fifth place behind Roy Salvadori, Bill Patterson, John Youl and Austin Miller in 2.2 litre and 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engined Cooper T51s.

Davison howls off Kings Bridge, Longford during the 1961 ‘Longford Trophy’, Aston DBR4/250 ‘1’ (oldracephotos.com.au/JSaward)

 

Dunlop HQ at Longford in 1961 with Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Aston Martin DBR4/250 ‘3’ in attendance. This car was built to a later spec than Davo’s DBR4/250 ‘1’- in fact it was of the same specs of his new in 1961 chassis ‘4’ inclusive of Maser transaxle and ‘80 degree’ engine (R Lambert)

 

Davison, practice at Longford in 1961, DBR4 ‘1’ (G Smedley)

After Longford Lex shipped the car back to the UK, it needed a major rebuild as ‘the chassis was breaking up’ wrote Graham Howard- the AF Hollins crew had repaired chassis tubes and added strengthening gussets to the machine in their Armadale, Melbourne workshop between the Ballarat and Longford meetings.

Lex’ plan was to race an Aston Martin at Le Mans and contest a number of Intercontinental Formula races that ‘61 season. In the event, after ongoing discussions with John Wyer Aston Martin provided Davison a later chassis, ‘the sister car to Stillwell’s later model DBR4’, chassis ‘4’ which was built but unraced in 1959, for Lex to use at Silverstone in July and Brands Hatch in August.

It was equipped, as was chassis ‘1’ with a five speed Maserati transaxle instead of the heavy, recalcitrant David Brown unit, the latest cylinder head design which had the valves arranged at an included angle of 80 degrees rather than the earlier variants 95 degrees- in 3 litre form it was good for circa 296bhp @ 6700rpm, a good deal more mumbo than the 230 or so BHP of an FPF 2.5 but of course the chassis was no svelte nymph.

This article tells a bit of Bib and Lex’ 1961 European Adventures here; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/

(TC March)

Davo above having his first race in the second Aston DBR4/250 3 litre at Silverstone during the July 8 1961 British Empire Trophy Intercontinental Formula race- DNF gearbox quill-shaft after 17 laps, up front after 245 km were Moss and Surtees in Cooper T53 Climaxes.

Davison had a busy weekend as he contested the GT race in John Ogier’s Aston Martin DB4GT, ‘a bit of an old nail’ and finished third behind the Ferrari 250GTs of Stirling Moss and Graham Whitehead.

The Australian’s DBR4 drive received good press coverage but, Graham Howard wrote that it added to confusion for later historians as to which car Davo raced. The Motor described the machine as an ex-works DBR4 Grand Prix car fitted with a much modified 3 litre sportscar engine, whilst Autosport added to the confusion by noting that ‘a new chassis was fitted.’

Aston Martin themselves didn’t help either, in a letter to Lex about a variety of things including shipment of the car to Australia in late 1961 Wyer advised ‘the Aston had now been shipped, although there had been a mix-up with chassis numbers and it had been stamped DBR4/1 rather than DBR4/4′.

To be clear on this point, Graham Howard makes no comment about the chassis number of Lex’ first Aston, nor does Doug Nye whilst Anthony Pritchard, his book published later, says that the car is generally accepted to be DBR4 ‘1’. John Blanden in the second edition of his book simply lists one car and applies two chassis numbers to the ‘one entity’.

The correct position seems to be that the two cars were quite separate- Lex raced DBR4 ‘1’ in Australia, returned it to Feltham in early 1961 then raced DBR4 ‘4’- the unused 1959 built chassis in the UK and then later in Australia. The chassis, body and engine were different, built to a later spec- whether the Maserati gearbox and other componentry fitted to chassis ‘1’, which was interchangeable, was carried over to ‘4’- who knows.

What is clear is that Lex was not happy with his new car after Silverstone, Autosport quoted Lex as saying its ‘handling was nothing like the original car.’

A month later Davison contested his second and last Intercontinental race, the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch on 7 August.

This time, in dry, sunny conditions he brought the ‘new dinosaur’ home in sixth place, ‘bruising’ the nose of the car- up front, 4 laps up the road in fact, Jack Brabham headed Jim Clark in Cooper T53 Climax and Lotus 18 Climax respectively.

The relative size of the Aston Martin is put into context by Lorenzo Bandini’s Centro Sud Cooper T51 Maserati going underneath Davison into Surtees at Brands- the Italian was seventh and last of the finishers and several months later was a popular contestant in our 1962 summer internationals.(Getty)

 

Davison cruising through the Silverstone paddock during the July 1961 International Trophy meeting- first race in DBR4/250 ‘4’ (unattributed)

A week or so after Brands the family headed home to Australia with the Aston Martin left behind at the factory for further work including repair of the panel damage sustained at the Kent circuit and to fit 12.5:1 pistons to suit the alcohol based fuel Lex used in Australia.

Howard reports that Davison was still unhappy with the handling of the car, he quotes from a letter written by Lex to Brian Josceleyne of the Aston Martin Owners Club thus, ‘My Grand Prix car is still at the works, where they are endeavouring to sort out some of the handling bugs, for the new chassis proved rather twitchy, unlike my earlier one which was a superb handling car and could be thrown about in a rather flippant way.’

Davo returned home, as stated above, via America including Hawaii, in time to win the AGP in South Australia on 9 October in one of Stillwell’s Cooper T51s, a car he rented from Bib after it became clear the DBR4 would not arrive in Australia on time for the race, that story is here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/29/the-naughty-corner-renta-gp-winner/

Pat Hawthorn in the second of the Davison DBR4/250 Astons, chassis ‘4’. The eagle eyed will note that the induction and exhaust ports of this car/engine are the reverse of the earlier machine (P Hawthorn)

There was still life in the old design though- Davison raced the Aston Martin to second place in the Victorian Trophy at Calder behind Stillwell’s Cooper T53 Climax in late February 1962 and then, again not too far from home, the Sandown opening meeting ‘Sandown Park International’ on 12 March where he was eighth behind a swag of Climax engined Coopers and Lotuses as well as the Chuck Daigh driven Scarab RE Buick 3.8 litre V8- it too was a mid-engined machine.

By that stage he had ‘got with the strength’ and was racing a Cooper T53 ‘Lowline’ which famously met its maker in a huge accident at Longford on March 4 caused by a gust of wind catching the car whilst airborne on the hump in the road before the Longford pub- it was a very lucky escape. The Yeoman Credit Cooper was geared for 170mph @ 6700rpm that weekend, Davison described the accident, raconteur that he was, to John Wyer in one of the many letters they exchanged.

‘I was managing to lap at 110 to 112 mph, some three seconds faster than Brabham’s lap record of the year before, when I became airborne over a hump some 200 yards prior to a 90-degree corner in the middle of a little town. A gust of wind caught me and I landed in a drain beside the road. I motored along this at some 140 mph causing some uneasiness to the police, radio announcers, officials, television cameramen and various others cluttering up the entrance to the escape road. I regained the road again but the heavy rear-engined end slid in the gravel and I shot down the road sideways. I hit a tree with the nose, which plucked everything forward of the soles of my feet off the car and spun the car around in the process. It then shot along a hotel wall at window height, demolishing the floral display, pot plants etc, then a 360 degree spin around the entrance porch of the hotel and back up the wall again. The car then fell off the hotel wall and back into the road and shot across the road backwards into a grain mill. I shook what was left from me and went back into the pub and ordered a brandy. They even made me pay for it, which was the cruellest blow of all.’

After the international visitors returned home Lex ran the Aston at Sandown in May 1962 winning a race for front engined racing cars but did not run it again until February 1963 when he gave it a gallop at Calder in part to demonstrate it to potential purchasers- in the process he provided 5 thrilling laps for spectators in a three car match race with Bryan Thomson’s supercharged Cooper T51 Climax and Frank Matich’s new, works Elfin Catalina Ford pushrod 1.5.

The Aston Martin was advertised for sale in Australian Motor Sports during 1962 and was soon acquired by garage proprietor and Calder Raceway part owner Pat Hawthorn who is photographed above proudly showing off his new acquisition at his ‘Clayleigh Service Station’ in Clayton, not too far at all from Sandown where, by March 1963, he was mixing it with the heavies in the ‘Sandown Park International’…

Pat Hawthorn on the way to fourth place in the Advertiser Trophy 1963 Mallala Gold Star round- and kids just want to have fun below! Circuit uncertain. Aston Martin DBR4/250 ‘4’ (P Hawthorn)

 

(P Hawthorn)

Hawthorn raced the car through until 1966 in both Victoria and South Australia, perhaps the last championship points the car scored were in the 14 October 1963 Advertiser Trophy, Mallala Gold Star round where he was fourth amongst the mid-engined hordes, behind the Cooper T55 of John Youl, Bib Stillwell’s Brabham BT4 and Wally Mitchell’s MRD (aka Brabham BT1) Ford Formula Junior.

Pat sold the car to UK historic racer Neil Corner in 1966- there he was a consistent race winner, the ‘Calder Raceway’ signed Rice Trailer cut quite a dash on UK Motorways! DBR4 ‘4’ of course still exists.

Aston Martin DBR4/250 cutaway drawing, 95 degree engine spec (conceptbunny.com)

Chassis Numbers and Development of the GP cars in summary…

My ‘standard reference’ for all things chassis numbers is Allen Brown’s great site oldracingcars.com (ORC)- i say great in the sense that most of the ‘standard texts’ were written in the pre-internet days before it was possible to debate the merits of ‘what is what’ and ‘which is which’ amongst knowledgeable enthusiasts to land on generally agreed positions based on facts which have been often vigorously debated.

Using ‘Howard’ (see bibliography) published in 2004, ‘Nye’ in 1993, ‘Blanden’ in 2004, ‘Pritchard’ in 2006 and ‘ORC’ as my source material the Aston Martin Grand Prix cars built are as follows and their destiny, i think and hope…

Reg Parnell does all the work as Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze share a joke- Aston Martin DP155/1 at the Dunedin Wharf rail head, New Zealand, January 1956 (T Selfe)

1. DP155

Aston’s first ‘toe in the water’ GP exercise was the DB3S based ‘DP155’ i wrote about at length six months ago, its most significant racing was with Reg Parnell at the wheel during the 1956 New Zealand Internationals, click here; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/05/the-gp-aston-martin-dp155/

‘Its bones’ were converted back into a DB3S albeit there is a car doing the rounds in the UK ‘sorta in the style’ of DP155 which has none of the original car’s core componentry.

Getting more serious, in the summer of 1956, Aston Martin’s engineers designed and built a spaceframe chassis to which they fitted a short-stroke version of their 3 litre sportscar ‘RB6’ engine- this 2493cc DOHC, two valve, 50DCO Weber fed engine produced 250bhp @ 7800rpm on the Avgas which was mandatory from 1958.

The design was period typical in having upper and lower wishbone suspension at the front, with torsion bars and co-axial shock absorbers and de Dion rear suspension with torsion bars the springing medium, the axle located by a Watts linkage, radius rods with Armstrong providing the shocks front and rear.

A transaxale was used at the rear- the unpopular with drivers David Brown ‘CG537’ five speeder, Girling provided the brakes, Borrani the wire wheels and initially rack and pinion steering from the Morris Minor was used- later the DB4 rack and pinion was adopted.

Roy Salvadori in practice aboard DBR4 ‘1’ during practice at Zandvoort, 1959 Dutch GP weekend, DNF overheating after 13 laps- Jo Bonnier won in a BRM P25, BRM’s first championship GP win (Getty)

2. DBR4/250 chassis number ‘1’

‘This prototype’ was built in time for testing by Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori at MIRA in December 1957 and then further testing there into February 1958 before being put to one side as sportscar racing was prioritised.

Stirling Moss as you all know, won the Argentinian GP in a Rob Walker Cooper T45 Climax in early 1958- time was of the essence with the DBR4/250- oh so sexy a beast, it was in effect  obsolete by the time of its public launch in April 1959.

By then the car was fitted with modified DB4GT coil and wishbone front suspension which was more practical than the torsion bar arrangement but was 15 pounds heavier- in a car which was already a pork-chop.

Salvadori’s second in the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone flattered to deceive- initial problems were an engine at the wrong end of the car (cheap shot), too heavy and most critically engine bearing lubrication issues meant revs had to be kept down to an uncompetitive level.

Aston Martin won Le Mans in 1959- Salvadori and Carroll Shelby took a splendid win in the DBR1 and were poised to win the World Sportscar Championship so the F1 program, rightfully, took second place in the allocation of scarce corporate resources.

In the winter of 1959/1960 chassis ‘1’ and ‘2’ were modified, after surgery they were two inches slimmer and some 55 lb lighter. ‘Merely replacing Brown’s own heavy and baulky ‘CG537′ transaxle with one from Maserati (the Type 5M-60) saved 50 lb. The Aston gearchange, reliable, but heavy and slow- tolerable in a sportscar, was out of place in Formula 1’ Doug Nye wrote.

After negotiations between Davison and Wyer DBR4 ‘1’ was fitted with engine number ‘RB6/300/1’ from sportscar chassis ‘DBR1/1’ and shipped to Australia, John Blanden wrote.

DBR4 ‘1’ was returned to the UK by Davison in early 1961 and was eventually bought by Neil Corner, to use as a spare for his DBR4 ‘4’ he ran in historic racing with chassis ‘1’ built into a complete car by Geoffrey Marsh in the early eighties.

Front and rear suspension of Trintignant’s DBR5 ‘1’, British GP weekend, Silverstone 1960. Upper and lower front wishbones, torsion bar, roll bar, Armstrong shock, Girling solid disc brakes- the major difference to the DBR4 is the use of a torsion bar instead of a coil spring. De Dion rear suspension, Armstrong shock and radius rods- same as DBR4 (Getty)

 

Carroll Shelby during the 1959 Portuguese GP at Monsanto Park, eighth in DBR4 ‘2’, Moss the winner in a Cooper T51 Climax (LAT)

3. DBR4/250 ‘2’

Was Carroll Shelby’s chassis in 1959, and like ‘1’ contested only the Dutch, British and Portuguese GPs that year.

1959/1960 winter modifications as above.

DBR4 ‘2’ was scrapped.

Bib Stillwell susses the equipment, DBR4 ‘3’ in the Ardmore paddock, NZ 1962 (E Stevens)

4. DBR4/250 ‘3’

This car was lighter than the first two cars built by virtue of a stressed skin body centre section, one piece de Dion tube and lighter Maserati gearbox- its race debut was at Monza in September 1959.

Salvadori retired it whilst running sixth- Moss won in a Walker Cooper T51 Climax. Front engined Ferrari 246 and BRM P25s filled six of the top eight places so a good front-engined machine could still do well- on fast circuits at least!

Stillwell bought the car on a bit of a whim, frustrated as he was by not being able to buy a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine for his Cooper T51 at the time- the motors were in short supply, allocation preference was to the ‘works favoured or contracted’ Cooper, Walker and Lotus teams.

In the event, no sooner had Bib committed to the Aston Martin, he was able to buy the Cooper T51 Jack Brabham had raced in Australia that year, fitted with a 2.5 litre FPF.

In fact the Kew, Melbourne Holden Dealer had possibly fallen out of love with the Aston before its arrival to Australia- Bib raced his new 2.5 litre T51 to first at Port Wakefield in October, then second at Caversham and third at Phillip Island on consecutive December weekends and finally topped his late season form by winning the (non Gold Star) Warwick Farm Trophy on 18 December, whilst back in fourth place was Lex’ DBR4 surrounded by a sea of Cooper T45/51s…

Fitted with 3 litre ‘RB6/300/7’ sportscar engine, DBR4/250 ‘3’ arrived in Australia late in 1960 and was almost immediately shipped to New Zealand to contest the NZ GP at Ardmore, Auckland in early January 1961- he placed fifth in a heat and was classified twelfth in the GP- Jack Brabham won in a Cooper T53 Climax.

Bib Stillwell’s Aston DBR4 ‘3’ in the Ardmore paddock during the January 1961 NZ GP weekend. Jo Bonnier’s Cooper T51 Climax right rear, David McKay’s Stan Jones owned Maserati 250F #12 and the #38 Cooper is uncertain- Denny Hulme drove a car with that number in this race but the car shown is not the dark coloured Yeoman Credit T51 Denny raced (TRS)

 

A nice compare and contrast shot- Stan Jones’ Cooper T51 Climax alongside Stillwell’s DBR4 ‘3’ before practice at Longford in March 1961

Back In Australia, he practiced the car for the Warwick Farm 100 in late January but did not race, running the T51 he finished third behind the Moss and Innes Ireland Lotus 18 Climaxes. The crew then took the car across Bass Straight to Longford in early March and practiced it, but the engine burned a piston, he raced his Cooper T51, retiring with plug problems in the Longford Trophy won by Roy Salvadori’s Ecurie Vitesse (Jack Brabham) Cooper T51 Climax.

Bib continued to race his T51 but returned with the Aston Martin to Warwick Farm in May, winning the (non Gold Star) 10 lap Racing Car Scratch from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati 2.9 and Noel Hall’s Cooper T51 Climax 2.2- was this the only race win of a DBR4 ‘in period’ anywhere?

And that was it, Bib displayed the car at Jim Abbott’s Melbourne Racing Car show in August before racing it again in the 1962 NZ GP, doubtless, given his flotilla of Coopers, with a view to selling the car in New Zealand. He was tenth in the sopping wet race won by Stirling Moss having qualified seventh inclusive of a plug-change mid-race.

Bay of Islands driver Lionel Bulcraig acquired the car after the race, running it in NZ through to 1965, his time in the car is covered here; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/02/waimates-aston-martin-dbr4-250/

Bulcraig advertised the car in ‘Car and Driver, the American international magazine, in late 1965, it was acquired by Peter Brewer who dominated Historic Racing in the UK in the late sixties with it. It was bought by Tom Wheatcroft’s Donington Collection in 1970 as ‘a collection of horrible bits’, as Doug Nye described it, for restoration to original 1959 specifications.

Stillwell, DBR4 ‘3’ during the 1962 NZ GP, site of a Stirling Moss Lotus 21 Climax wet weather master-class. Stillwell was tenth, 6 laps in arrears (Ardmore)

 

DBR4 ‘3’ chassis in recent times in the Hall & Hall workshop. Rare chassis photograph (H&H)

 

Plug change for Salvadori’s IRS ‘diabolical handling’ DBR5 ‘2’ during the 1960 British GP weekend, nice cockpit shot. Trintignant’s de Dion DBR5 ‘1’ in front (Getty)

5. DBR4/250 ‘4’

Chassis built at the same time as ‘3’ but was unraced in F1 in 1959 and 1960.

After DBR4 ‘1’ was returned by Davison to Feltham in early 1961, DBR4 ‘4’ was built to ‘ultimate spec’- de Dion rear, Maserati gearbox, 80 degree head magnesium alloy block RB6/300 engine specification for use in the Intercontinental Formula in the UK, and thence limited use in Australia before sale to Pat Hawthorn in early 1963.

Later to Neil Corner in 1966, who also acquired DBR4 ‘1’ which was eventually built up as an historic car.

Trintignant’s DBR5/250 ‘1’ being unloaded from Aston Martin’s AEC transporter at Silverstone during the July 1960 British GP weekend at Silverstone- a poor eleventh the result (LAT)

Cars 6. and 7. DBR5/250 ‘1’ and ‘2’- also sometimes referred to as ‘DP201’

For 1960 Aston Martin designed a new car, still front engined mind you, the DBR5/250 was 3 inches shorter than the DBR4- the wheelbase was 7 ft 3 inches- it used torsion bar independent front suspension. Two cars were laid down, DBR5/250 ‘1’ which was built with a de Dion rear and chassis ‘2’ which was fitted with independent rear suspension by torsion bars.

Both DBR5s were scrapped- after unsuccessful performances in the International Trophy, at Zandvoort and in the British GP.

Doug Nye wrote that ‘The new rear end merely made the cars handle worse, so following the British GP, David Brown wisely withdrew his team from the dying Formula’- the 2.5 litre F1 ended on 31 December 1960.

In summary, Aston Martin built seven Grand Prix cars- one DP155, four DBR4s and two DBR5’s with three extant- DBR4 ‘1’, ‘3’ and ‘4’.

Zandvoort 1960- two cars for Roy Salvadori- DBR4 ‘3’ at left was brought along as the practice hack and DBR5 ‘1’ at right, the racer. DNS along with the Scarabs when the Dutch GP organisers reneged on the start money deal- the cars were rumbling back towards the Channel by the time the race commenced- nice side by side shot, the only obvious difference is the 95 degree engine in the DBR4 and 80 degree ‘exhaust on the left’ motor in the DBR5 (D Friedman)

 

DBR5 ‘1’ with Lucas fed 80 degree twin-plug 2.5 litre six- 245bhp @ 7500rpm, Zandvoort 1960 (D Friedman)

Anthony Pritchard wrote that ‘By this time (Zandvoort) Aston Martin realised the hopelessness of their position.’

Team Manager Reg Parnell asked Stirling Moss to try the car and the best that he could manage was a 1:40 compared to 1:33.2 in his Lotus 18 Climax- trying his very hardest, Salvadori achieved 1:37 seconds.

Zandvoort, (D Friedman)

 

British GP July 1960. Nice compare and contrast of the Weber DCO and Lucas injected engines. Independent rear suspension shot is Salvadori’s DBR5 ‘2’ which handled atrociously- upper and lower wishbones, roll bar, Armstrong shock and two radius rods, torsion bar (Getty)

Etcetera…

(Michael Oliver Collection)

After publication Lotus historian and author Michael Oliver got in touch and sent these two marvellous shots of Lex during the Brands Hatch Guards Trophy meeting taken by his father, and his dad’s mate, below.

Whilst Lex damaged the nose of the car during practice he also knocked off the right-front corner of the Aston- the shot captures the damage, a rare colour image of the suspension.

(Michael Oliver Collection)

 

(K Harley)

Ecurie Australia at Longford in 1961.


Photo Credits…

Peter D’Abbs via Mark Ellery Collection, Pat Hawthorn Collection via Russell Hawthorn, Phillip Skelton via the Tony Johns Collection, Getty Images, Ron Lambert, oldracephotos.com.au/JSaward, Peter Coleby Collection, Tony Selfe, David Friedman Collection, LAT, E Stevens, Brier Thomas, Hall & Hall, TC March, conceptbunny.com, Michael Oliver Collection, Kim Harley

Bibliography…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘History of The Grand Prix Car 1945-65’ Doug Nye, ‘Aston Martin: A Racing History’ Anthony Pritchard, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, oldracingcars.com

Tailpieces…

(P D’Abbs)

The opening shot of Lex again but cropped a tad tighter to focus that little bit more on the car- DBR4/250 ‘1’, and below the same car eighteen months before in the Dutch sand dunes rather than the Australian ones, Roy Salvadori at Zandvoort during the 29-31 May weekend in 1959.

(LAT)

Finito…

(J Manhire)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical…

(S Dalton)

 

(S Dalton)

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

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

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

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

(J Ross)

 

(Autosport via S Dalton)

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

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

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

(J Ross)

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

(J Ross)

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

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

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

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

(J Ross)

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

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

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

 

Etcetera…

(S Wills)

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

Arcane and sorta relevant…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(unattributed)

Bibliography…

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

Photo Credits…

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

Tailpiece…

(CAN)

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

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

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

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

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

Finito…

(G Paine)

Lex Davison, excited to win the 1956 ‘Bathurst 100’, Easter 1956…

Any win on the mountain in any era rates highly with drivers, such is the challenge of the place.

Lex took victory aboard his Ferrari 500 3 litre- the famous ex-1952/3 F1 Alberto Ascari/Tony Gaze chassis # 005 from Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F and Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar XKD. The ‘100’ was a handicap, Formula Libre race. Reg gave Lex a 1 minute 18 second start, Davo eased towards the end to win by exactly a minute from Hunt who made the fastest race time by 18 seconds from Lex.

These professionally taken images are from Glenn Paine’s collection are simply superb, the subtle, monochrome greys grab the eye and ooze period. The portrait is the best of the great driver I have seen.

(G Paine)

By this stage the Victorian was something of a veteran, winner of the Australian Grand Prix at Southport, Queensland in 1954 but his best years were still to come, his career stretched all the way into the mid-sixties.

It would have been easy to crop Glenn’s comments made all those years ago from the shots but they add to the interest and patina bigtime. Wonderful photos, I’d love to know who the photographer is if anyone can pick it?

Ferrari 500 F2 cutaway (P D’Alessio)

The Ferrari 500 was the dominant car of the 1952/3 period in which the world championship was run for what had been 2 litre Formula 2 cars.

Ferrari were ready for the rule change the FIA made due to a probable lack of decent grids of F1 cars as a consequence of the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo from GP racing at the end of 1951. Apart from BRM, an unreliable proposition, promoters were looking at a Ferrari rout over competition comprising out of date or uncompetitive machinery.

The Ferrari 500 made its race debut in the hands of Alberto Ascari at the Grand Prix of Modena on 23 September 1951- he won from the Ferrari 166F2/50 of Froilan Gonzalez and Lance Macklin’s HWM Alta. By the commencement of 1952, the cars were well and truly race ready.

The Aurelio Lampredi designed, utterly conventional, forgiving and reliable powerful cars gave Ascari two champonships on the trot- he won six of the eight qualifying rounds in 1952 and five of nine in 1953.

2 litre Ferrari 500, DOHC, 2 valve gear driven, Weber fed, twin Marelli magneto sparked, two plug four-cylinder engine. In 2 litre guise the capacity was 1984cc- bore/stroke 90x78mm, power circa 185bhp @ 7500rpm. The gearbox was a 4 speeder located at the rear in unit with the differential (G Cavara)

‘005’ was then re-packaged for Tony Gaze use with a 750 Monza engine carrying chassis number ‘0480’ as a Formula Libre car in South Africa and Australasia before sale to Davison. The cars (a twin was built for Peter Whitehead) are usually described as Ferrari 500/625 but were raced at a capacity usually nominated as 2968cc- 3 litres.

In Lex’ hands it became one of the most iconic cars ever in Australian motor racing inclusive of wins in the 1957 and 1958 Australian Grands Prix at Caversham, WA (noting Bill Patterson’s co-drive) and Bathurst respectively, and the Australian Drivers Championship in 1957- the coveted Gold Star, the very first time the title was awarded.

At some time a comprehensive article on this car is something i would like to do, in the meantime the cutaways show the elegant simplicity of the ladder frame chassis, wishbone front and de Dion rear, drum brakes and all aluminium, DOHC, 2 valve, Weber fed, four-cylinder engine.

Check out this article which has quite a few photos of the car whilst owned by Doug Green in Western Australia; https://primotipo.com/2017/03/23/bunbury-flying-50-allan-tomlinson-ferrari-500-et-al/

Etcetera…

 

(H Coleby)

Davo pops up everywhere, even on the box of a contemporary Scalextric set!

That’s Lex in the Ferrari 500 leading from Stan Jones’ Maserati 250F, with some creative licence as to the car’s colour! then Ted Gray in Tornado 2 Chev and Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S sportscar- Albert Park circa 1958. Wonderful!

Credits…

Glenn Paine, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Bob Williamson, Giuseppe Cavara, Paolo D’Alessio

Tailpiece: Lex, Ferrari, Hell Corner, Bathurst…

(B Williamson)

Finito…