Posts Tagged ‘Lex Davison’

(J Manhire)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical…

(S Dalton)

 

(S Dalton)

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

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

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

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

(J Ross)

 

(Autosport via S Dalton)

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

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

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

(J Ross)

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

(J Ross)

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

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

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

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

(J Ross)

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

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

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

 

Etcetera…

(S Wills)

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

Arcane and sorta relevant…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(unattributed)

Bibliography…

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

Photo Credits…

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

Tailpiece…

(CAN)

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

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

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

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

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

Finito…

(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…

1953 AGP grid. Front row L>R Davison HWM Jag, Jones Maybach 1, Whiteford Talbot-Lago T26C, car 11 on row 2 is Ted Gray Alta Ford V8 (Dacre Stubbs)

The allocation of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix to Albert Park was the result of over two decades of work by the Light Car Club of Australia…

I live 800 metres from Albert Park Lake, I awoke this morning to F1 music at 7.05 AM- the sound of two-seater Minardi V10 engined cars ferrying their lucky cargo around gods motor racing country at high speed. The dawn of the 2019 race seems an apt time to upload this article on the 1953 event- the first Albert Park AGP.

Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Glory Days’, writes that there was a strong push to race at Albert Park in 1934. The Light Car Club of Australia, (LCCA) the promoter of race meetings at Phillip Island were aware of the ‘Islands growing unsuitability given its loose gravel surface as speeds increased.’ Extensive negotiations secured Albert Park as the venue for a race meeting to celebrate the Centenary of Victoria in 1935.

The ‘Sun News Pictorial’ one of the Melbourne daily tabloids, and then as now a good thing in which to wrap ones fish n’ chips, announced the event on June 4 1934.

In doing so the ‘paper lit the fuse of naysayers who brought about the events cancellation, but not before racers Arthur Terdich, Bill Lowe, Barney Dentry, and Cyril Dickason in Bugatti, Lombard, and Austins respectively, lapped the track with mufflers fitted to prove noise wasn’t the issue.’

Stan Jones at speed in Maybach 1, Albert Park 1953, DNF. Stan made this series of cars sing, Maybach 1 won the ’54 NZ GP at Ardmore but none of the Maybachs- 1,2,3 or 4 won an AGP, such a shame! If the Chamberlain 8 is Australia’s most brilliant and innovative special surely the Maybachs are the greatest? Hopeless bias declared! (R Fulford /SLV)

Post war things were little different, but a partnership between the LCCA, the Australian Army- who had a facility at Albert Park, and Victorian Labor Senator Pat Kennelly was more successful.

The three groups/people provided the combination of race organisation, promotional ability, logistical capability- the Army being able to ‘man’ Albert Park, a site of some 570 acres, and political power and influence.

For all, the ability to raise funds in the aftermath of World War 2 was important. For the army, it was money for war widows and orphans, for Kennelly to finance much needed improvements to the park for to upgrade the local amenity, and for the LCCA, the betterment of motor racing.

The parties all were aware they needed to be very careful with the use of the facility so the event was a one day affair, with practice in the morning, racing in the afternoon with the roads open to the public in between. Total time absorbed by the racing activities was less than seven hours!

And so, the 1953 Australian Grand Prix, held at Albert Park over 64 laps, 200 miles in total, on Saturday 21 November, was won by Doug Whiteford in a Lago-Talbot, the last AGP win for ‘French Racing Blue’.

Doug Whiteford’s Talbot Lago T26C passes the abandoned MG Spl of Jack O’Dea on the way to victory. Writing on the side of the car is a list of race wins. Whiteford owned two TL26C’s- this one, 1948-ex Louis Chiron chassis ‘110007’ and later, an earlier but higher spec car, chassis ‘110002’. Vern Schuppan is the current owner of ‘110002’. Crowd right to the edge of the track (R Fulford/SLV)

Entry…

The entry list was headed by local Melbourne businessmen Doug Whiteford, Stan Jones and Lex Davison.

Whiteford was perhaps the form driver, he won the AGP at Mount Panorama the year before in the same Talbot-Lago T26C. Doug was a tough grafter who owned an automotive repair and sales business a drop kick from the shores of Albert Park Lake in Carlisle Street, St Kilda.

The preparation and presentation of all of his racers was legendary. His career stretched back well pre-war to motor cycles circa 1932. He raced Norman Hamilton’s blown Ford. V8 Spl at Phillip Island circa 1935, an MG Magnette and a supercharged Ford Roadster before building the Ford Ute based ‘Black Bess’ his 1950 AGP winner.

A racer to the core, he competed all the way through into the early to mid seventies, after his long time at elite level, as a works driver for the Datsun Racing Team in small sedans and sportscars.

What a shot! Not at Albert Park I hasten to add, Fishermans Bend is my guess. Whiteford changing plugs on his TL T26C. A mechanic by trade, he toiled on his own cars, his race record, standard of preparation and presentation legendary. Date unknown (R Fulford/SLV)

On the up was Stanley Jones, another tough nugget from Warrandyte, rapidly building an automotive retailing empire which would fund an impressive array of racers over the decade to come- all of which would come tumbling down in the credit squeeze of 1961. Jones had thrown in his lot with Charlie Dean and Repco a year or so before- Jones bought Maybach from Dean with Charlie and his team at Repco Research in Brunswick continuing to maintain and develop it. Jones was as forceful as Whiteford was stylish- both were impressively fast.

Also on the rise was Lex Davison, native of St Kilda but then a resident of Lilydale and fast building the shoe manufacture, importing and retailing business he inherited from his father.

Lex by this stage had learned his craft on a varied mix of cars, most recently an Alfa Romeo Tipo B/P3 GP car. He had just bought an ex-Moss/Gaze F2 HWM to which he fitted a Jaguar 3.4 litre six-cylinder DOHC engine to ‘C Type’ specs and gearbox, this clever combination took his first AGP win at Southport, Queensland in 1954- a race Jones had a mortgage on until the chassis failure of Maybach 2 at very high speed.

Elite Racers All: L>R Jack Brabham Cooper T23 Bristo, third in this group, #3 Lex Davison HWM Jag and #8 Ted Gray Alta Ford V8. Shot included to show the HWM and Alta- Victoria Trophy Fishermans Bend 22 March 1954. Lex is soon to win the ’54 AGP, Jack is soon to travel to the UK and Gray is soon to get a competitive mount in Tornado 1 Ford! (VHRR)

Lex was an urbane man of considerable wit, bearing and charm- but he could and did go toe to toe with racers of Whiteford and Jones ilk and beat them. His career, which had far from peaked in 1953 stretched all the way to early 1965 when he shared the front row of the NZ GP grid with Clark and Hill, a couple of fellas ‘still in short pants’ in 1953.

Frank Kleinig and his Kleinig-Hudson straight-8 Spl could not be discounted nor could the Ted Gray driven Alta Ford V8 Spl- much more would be seen of this outstanding pre-war driver who cut his teeth on the country speedways of Victoria in the years to 1960 with the Lou Abrahams owned Tornados 1 and 2.

Oh to have seen this bloke drive at his best!- as here at Rob Roy Hillclimb, 2 November 1947. Frank Kleinig, Kleinig Hudson 8 Spl, a remarkable marriage of MG chassis, Hudson mechanicals and various other donor parts continuously developed over a couple of decades. A car which shoulda won at least one AGP. Kleinig another driver/mechanic ace (G Thomas)

Kleinig should have won an AGP or two, or three.

The Sydney driver was one of the very quickest immediately pre and post war but times had changed. The AGP was now a scratch race, not a handicap and Frank’s machine, development of which never stopped simply wasn’t quick enough to win outright whatever the undoubted skills of the bloke behind the wheel.

Ted and Frank both needed the ‘guns’ up front to retire and have a dose of reliability themselves for the long 200 mile race to win.

The Reg Nutt, Talbot Darracq 700, DNF dropped valve on lap 14 (Dacre Stubbs)

The balance of the entry was a swag of MG Specials, pre-war GP cars, sports cars and a sprinkling of Coopers including several new fangled JAP mid-engined cars.

Above and below. Davison, Jones and Whiteford. Further back #11 Gray, his Ford V8 creating the smokescreen, #7 Kleinig, #10 Hayes Ford V8 Spl #6 Vennermark/Warren Maser 4CL (unattributed)

Practice and the Race…

Practice commenced early at 8.30 AM and before too long their was drama aplenty amongst the topliners.

Davison’s HWM suffered bearing problems in practice, the session started at 8.30am, the team linished them as best they could prior to the race start at 2.30 pm, but the same affliction stopped the car during the race.

Another top driver I didn’t mention above was Sydney ex-speedway star Jack Brabham but his new Cooper T23 Bristol succumbed in the morning session, like Davison, to bearing problems. The ace engineer/mechanic did of course turn this car into rather a formidable weapon- one which inspired him to try his hand in England a year or so hence.

Also having practice dramas was Whiteford, who had a lose, the car was quickly loaded up and trailered back to Doug’s ‘shop closeby ‘…where the front suspension was stripped. Jim Hawker used the table of a mill as a surface plate and found a bent stub axle he straightened in a press. The Lago also needed a new flexible hose; without a word Whiteford took a pair of side-cutters, walked across to the pre-War Triumph his nephew Doug McLean was rebuilding and liberated precisely the correct hose. This was fitted, the brakes were bled…’ wrote Graham Howard.

The Jones Maybach in for the pitstop which changed the race, albeit the car retired in any event. Passing is the Jag XK120 of Frank Lobb (Dacre Stubbs)

From atop a double-decker bus race officials and a crowd estimated by local newspapers variously at between 50,000 and 70,000 people saw Whiteford, Jones and Davison form the front row with Lex’ HWM leading into the first corner under heavy, muggy skies.

The start was fraught and chaotic as several crews were still with their driver and car as the flag dropped!

Davo’s lead was shortlived, Stanley passed him on the first lap and then drew away. McKinnon was a lap 1 casualty when he nosed the hay-bales but got going again, Arthur Wylie spun the Jowett Javelin Spl at Jaguar Corner but he too got going.

Early in the race Jones led Whiteford, Davison, Arthur Wylie’s Jowett powered Wylie Javelin and Curley Brydon’s  ex-Bill Patterson MG TC Spl.

Davo was out on lap 3, he watched the balance of the event from Stan’s pit.

Bob Pritchett in Australian Motor Sports (AMS) wrote that ‘The trouble with the HWM was that the oil pressure relief valve was cockeyed on its seat allowing all the oil to rush right back into the sump through bypass: most surprisingly, the XK120 oil pressure gauge is so hooked in that, under such circumstances, full pressure was still indicated. Lex’s boys did their best with emery strip and managed to have the car on the line for the GP, but it was of no avail.’

Same scene as above from a different angle- Charlie Dean at bottom right (unattributed)

By half distance Stan still had a good lead over Whiteford, but on lap 40 he pitted for fuel and with his Maybach straight-six engine overheating- the car also needed a water pump drive belt.

His crew were not expecting him and in the confusion Stan was bathed in methanol fuel which necessitated a speedy dismount and then being doused in water before returning to the fray.

Whiteford could not believe his luck.

He perhaps lacked the pace to win, although Pritchett observed on the other hand that he didn’t think ‘Doug was unduly worried…Every few laps he would come up from his half-minute or so back and have a a look at the Maybach and then fall back into line again, so he must have had something up his sleeve’? Stan always pushed hard and was said to lack mechanical sympathy, something Doug had in spades. Jones retired Maybach on lap 56 with clutch failure.

Whiteford’s right rear separates from the Talbot Lago on the exit of Dunlop Corner (AMS)

It was not an easy win though.

Melbourne weather is capricious, the skies darkened and rain tumbled down and cars spun- Wal Gillespie’s HRG (shared with Thompson) amongst others. Spectators added to the challenge with ‘suicidal disregard for their own safety…John Calvert rammed a strawbale…when he had to take avoiding action. I suppose they just can’t understand that towards the end of the straight, the quick drivers are covering the best part of fifty yards each second…’ Pritchett mused.

Whiteford slows the TL 26C at the pits to change wheels having lost his right rear tyre. Fortunately the separation happened close to the pits and his efficient crew (Fairfax)

Two laps from home the right-rear tyre of the T26C came off its rim, fortunately only 300 metres from the pits.

After a stop of 30 seconds to change the wheel, with a huge gap to his pursuers, the local lad was on his way to win the race ‘in a Largo Talbot by 5 laps at an average speed of 82 mph for the 200 miles’ The Melbourne Sun, with its characteristic great attention to motor racing reporting detail, recorded in its 22 November account of the race.

Curley Brydon, a member of the RAAF’s crack 78 fighter squadron during the war, was second in his MG TC Spl 5 laps adrift and South Australian Andy Brown third in an MG K3 Magnette. Then came former AGP winner Les Murphy, MG Q Type and Lou Molina in the MM Holden Spl sportscar

Third placed Andy Brown’s very pre-war MG K3 in for a pitstop. K3 ‘030’ still in Oz- ex-Bira/Snow/Dunne/Davison/Brown and many others! (Dacre Stubbs)

Graham Howard in his ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP) account of the race reports on some post race controversy which reader and owner of the Curley Brydon TC, Richard Townley develops further in his note below this article.

Howard wrote ‘…Curley Brydon, who had provisionally been placed third, protested that too many people had assisted with Whiteford’s tyre change, and indeed it was suggested one of the helpers was no more than a gate-crashing spectator; but it was agreed that Whiteford could have changed the wheel single-handed and still had time to win, and Brydon’s protest was withdrawn.

Curley Brydon, in the 2nd placed MG TC Spl s/c leads the 16th placed John Nind MG TB Spl (K Wheeler)

Whiteford is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) as saying ‘Our pit was very congested and there were more spectators around than mechanics. Evidently someone we didn’t know tried to help.’ Note that the SMH report states the protests were heard on Sunday 22 November, the day after the race.

As Richard Townley relates in his comments post publication of this article, Phil Irving wrote in his autobiography that Whiteford ‘…was not immediately declared the winner, through an unofficial report that he had been helped by a bystander to get the Talbot back on course after over-shooting a corner. Not having the use of a telephone, the marshal on the corner concerned wrote out a report to be delivered to the Clerk of The Course, who did not receive it until long after after the race had ended.’

‘Doug, who knew the rule book by heart was aware that the official report of the incident had not been lodged within the stipulated half-hour of the race finish, and shrewdly claimed that it was ultra vires and could not form the basis of a protest. This view being upheld by the stewards, Doug was awarded his third AGP, but it was not a very popular victory’ Irving wrote.

Let’s come back to this after dealing with the balance of the protests.

Howard continues ‘However, he (Brydon) also protested Andy Brown’s second placing, and after investigation it was agreed Brydon was second: Murphy protested Brown as well, claiming to have passed him on the last lap, but this was not upheld.’

‘Fifth was Lou Molina first time out in the neat little Holden-engined MM Special, and the first AGP finish for a Holden engine, Sixth was Jim Leech, a nice reward for his part in securing Albert Park for the race.’

‘Seventh, with a plug lead off, with only first and fourth gears useable and with his seat belt broken, was Frank Kleinig; from six AGP starts, going back 15 years to 1938, it was the cars first finish, and very popular. Nonetheless, the days of 15-year old AGP cars could not last much longer’ Howard concluded.

No doubt Kleinig was well pleased with the result as Pritchett wrote that he left Sydney very late for the meeting with trade-plates affixed to the racer to run it in on the Hume Highway!- when that process was complete the car took its place on the trailer for the balance of the trip south.

So what do we make of Phil Irving’s claims of Whiteford receiving outside assistance?

I can find no record of this in any of the published information I have access to.

It is not mentioned in any of the contemporary newspaper reports of the meeting- not in Howard’s AGP account in HAGP, Howard’s ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’, Barry Green’s superb long piece on the meeting in ‘Albert Park Glory Days’ or in the November or December 1953 issues of Australian Motor Sports.

Lets not forget that the protests were heard and decided, according to the SMH, on the day after the race- Sunday 22 November.

The Stewards of the meeting, given all of the circumstances, and I have in mind the logistics of communication at the meeting, could choose to admit as evidence what they saw as appropriate- and call witnesses.

By that i mean the Marshal concerned could have been called, and no doubt others who were stationed on the corner at the time to give their account of what Irving wrote occurred, to the Stewards, and for them to then make a determination accordingly.

So, on balance, and in the absence of other accounts which agree with Irving’s I don’t believe his version of events to be the correct one. I am happy to alter that position if other proof, a photograph or first-hand spectators recollection, for example can be made available.

I wonder if Phil, writing his book years later- it was published after his death in 1992, is somehow linking DW’s Saturday morning practice spin with the Saturday post-event protests? Irving makes no mention in his book of the other protests addressed by Howard, Green and the SMH in their reports.

Intriguing isn’t it?

(Fairfax)

Winners are Grinners: ‘Dicer Doug’ has won his third and last AGP.

His birthdate is a bit of a mystery but a consensus seems to be during 1914, so it makes him 39, still a young man albeit a racing veteran of not far short of 20 years then.

A great shame to me was his purchase of a 300S Maserati when the factory lobbed with five cars- three 250F’s and two 300S for the 1956 AGP right here at Albert Park- those machines were driven by Messrs Moss and Behra.

I mean it’s a shame in that, if he had bought and raced a 250F he would have been right in amongst Jones, Davison, Reg Hunt and Ted Gray with an equal car. He made the 300S sing but a 250F would have been a more appropriate car methinks

Things go better with Melbourne Bitter- Coke in this case for ‘Dicer Doug’ (Fairfax)

’53 AGP Australian Motor Racing Context…

This excerpt from the 1953-54 LCCA Annual Report is self explanatory and whilst it is self-serving does provided valuable information about the positive impact of the event in terms of the public’s perception of motor racing.

‘When your committee finally obtained permission to conduct the Australian Grand Prix on Albert Park circuit the victory was only half won.

To overcome public prejudice has been the major bugbear of organised racing on public roads and any incompetent handling of this delicate situation could easily have touched off an explosion of indignation.

That we did not receive even one complaint can be attributed to good fortune and untiring organisation of directors and officials. As it can be said that enthusiasts will make the best of the most adverse conditions, our achievements at Albert Park was the greater in having gratified both the general public and the competitors.

In justifying the faith which the Albert Park Trust, inexperienced in motor racing, was prepared to place in our ability, we have broken down one of the few remaining barriers to a more general acceptance of motor racing as one of the national sports.’

Etcetera…

Whereizzit?! Whiteford sneaks a peek at what he already knows- his pit is close and he has 5 laps in hand, but still a heart in the mouth moment.

Bob King recalls the moment ‘My memory says I saw Doug on the bare rim at Melford Corner, but this must be wrong. This photo is probably taken on the way from Jaguar Corner (which is still there if you look for it) and the pits. After all, I was only 15 and it was my first motor race: A life changing event.’

(S Wills)

Ted McKinnon’s 15th placed Maserati 6CM1500. An ex-works car, this machine first raced in Australia at the 1951 AGP at Narrogin, WA, raced by visiting Englishman Colin Murray.

Car #57 alongside is not entered in the AGP (Dacre Stubbs)

(Dacre Stubbs)

 

(D Elms)

Lou Molina’s fifth placed Molina Monza Holden Special and then Les Murphy, MG Q Type fourth, about to be rounded up at speed by Stan Jones in Maybach 1- an unusual angle of Albert Park at its south end.

(R Townley)

Bibliography…

‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ Graham Howard and ors, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Phil Irving: An Autobiography’, ‘Glory Days’ Barry Green, Australian Motor Sports December 1953,

Melbourne Sun 22 November 1953, Sydney Morning Herald 23 November 1953

Photo Credits…

Dacre Stubbs Collection-Martin Stubbs, R Fulford Collection, State Library of Victoria, VHRR Collection, Fairfax Media, Ken Wheeler via Richard Townley Collection, Spencer Wills via Bob King Collection

Tailpiece: Whiteford on the way to victory, Talbot-Lago T26C…

(R Fulford/SLV)

Finito…

 

(M Wiliams)

Lex Davison boots his Tasman Formula ex-Bruce McLaren Cooper T62 Climax off the line at Mount Tarrengower Hillclimb, Maldon, in Victoria’s Goldfields, 25 October 1964…

Davo just loved to compete- anywhere and everywhere. Apart from his four AGP wins he was adept on the dirt in Redex Round Australia Trials competition and in the hills. He won the Australian Hillclimb Championship thrice on the trot from 1955-1957 at Toowoomba, Bathurst and Albany respectively, in all cases aboard the Cooper Mk4 Vincent/Irving.

(M Williams)

This non-championship event was an easy one for the great man. Toorak to Maldon is a nice 150 km drive up the Calder Highway so would have represented a nice weekend away with the car and no doubt a few of his kids.

Having said that Tarrengower is still a very fast, dangerous place especially with a car of the performance envelope of Davo’s GP machine. This T62 chassis was Bruce McLaren’s 1962 Caversham AGP winner before its sale to Lex, and is a car I’ve written a feature about, click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/2016/05/20/bruce-lex-and-rockys-cooper-t62-climax/

The internet gives and gives in terms of photos seeing the light of day after decades hidden in boxes. This wonderful batch were taken by a friend of Max Williams, he posted them on Bob Williamson’s amazing Facebook ‘Old Motor Racing Photographs-Australia’ page. In amongst hundreds of recycled touring car photos are some jewels, including this lot!

(M Williams)

Bob King attended that day, it was ‘..the second hillclimb of the new era, the venue revived by the Vintage Sports Car Club of Victoria, with the event held on 25 October 1964’.

‘Graeme Thomson raced the ex-Whiteford Talbot Lago T26C but ‘Doug was there and advanced the magneto by about half a turn and then did an electric run. In those days the finish was right at the top, and having finished my run i was privileged to see Whiteford sideways across the finish line at about 100 mph. Davo was pretty exciting also taking the FTD with a 50.34 seconds run’.

(M Williams)

Ron Simmonds picked the ex-Whitehead/Jones/Phillips Cooper T38 Jaguar (above) as probably driven by John Ampt at Monks Corner, Templestowe Hillclimb, again in Victoria.

Enthusiast Les Hughes said of the car ‘One of three, the first and shown without body at the Paris Show. It was bought by Peter Whitehead and raced by he and his brother Graham at Le Mans and Dundrod in 1955. He sold it to Jones in New Zealand who made his Australian race debut in it at Albert Park’.

Pictured is the car below at Le Mans ‘…coming through The Esses and about to be passed by the ill-fated Pierre Levegh (Mercedes Benz 300SLR) who would die on this lap. The Cooper Jag retired’.

 

Another Templestowe shot below , the corner at the end of Banana Straight, the wide loop hairpin onto The Shelf which then led up to The Wall.

Who is it and what is it though?

( M Williams)

Credits…

Max Williams, Bob King, Les Hughes, Ron Simmonds

Tailpiece: MGA coming out of The Hole at Templestowe heading down to Barons Corner…

(M Williams)

Finito…

Most Australian enthusiasts are aware of the Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Tony Gaze assault on the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally in the first Holden 48-215…

In doing some research on Tony Gaze recently I came upon this snippet from the great fighter ace in an Eoin Young interview published in the June 1997 issue of MotorSport- it made me smile given my abiding interest and respect for these three highly competitive racers, rivals and friends.

‘We had a good run.

Before the final test I think we were in sixth place and then we had an argument.

Stan wanted me to drive the final test because he felt I was better on ice than Lex (highly likely given the length of time TG lived in Europe compared to the other two), but Lex said he had put all the money into it and was determined to drive that final stage (which would have been exactly my view if in that position!)

That did it. Stan sulked.’

Gaze, Davison and Stan all smiles after the finish at Monaco (SMH)

‘He was navigating and I was braced in the back with the stopwatches. I suppose Stan might have been feeling car sick but he wouldn’t read out the markers and we finally came in 64th out of 100 finishers. It was probably a good thing because if we had done well they (the scrutineers) would have torn the car apart. On the way back we stopped off at Monza and our best lap average with three up and all of our luggage was 5 mph faster than a standard Holden’s top speed!’

GMH Australia were so delighted that they gave Stan and Lex a Holden each as a bonus but Gaze never received so much as a thank-you note.

The enterprise was an amazing one given the logistics of the time, the cost (4000 pounds- four times the cost of a new Holden then), lack of support from General Motors Holden and the lack of European rallying experience of the intrepid pilots whilst noting their stature as racing drivers.

Jones had never driven on the continent before. The February 1953 MotorSport reported the trio delighted the European press by saying that they had never seen snow before- whilst that may have been true  of Davison and Jones it would not have been the case for Gaze given his lengthy residence in the UK, a photo of him at Davos in Stewart Wilson’s biography of the man rather proves he was familiar with the white stuff!

Upon reflection, Jones grew up in Warrandyte and Lex lived at Lilydale, both places not too far from Mount Donna Buang where snow falls each year, so on balance we can conclude the above was PR bullshit!

Much was made at the time of the lack of rallying experience of all three but Davison and Jones had extensive trials experience- these events in an Australian context were typically of 100-200 miles duration, sometimes at night combining road navigation with sub-events which emphasised performance and car control.

In the all-rounder style of competition of the period keen racing types like Davison, Jones, Whiteford and Patterson contested trials, hillclimbs and circuit races. Indeed both Davison once, and Jones four times won the Light Car Club of Australia’s annual Cohen Trophy for best overall performance in the clubs trials.

‘Lex and Stan saw a lot of each other, since they were competing not only in the same trials but also the same hillclimbs and race meetings. The two were already great friends, and during 1952 this grew into an informal business relationship’ with Lex selling some cars through Stan’s car yards and splitting the profits with him Graham Howard wrote.

Peter Ward, friend and fettler of Lex’ cars engineered the two into sharing a Holden in the November 1952 Experts Trial, the pair finishing third with Ward navigating. Ward had proved the pair could co-exist in competition conditions- by mid 1952 Australian racer and AGP winner John Barraclough had secured two entries for the 1953 Monte- for himself and John Crouch and for Lex and Stan.

Tony, in the UK racing an Aston Martin DB3 that year, met Barraclough at London’s Steering Wheel Club and became the third member of the Lex/Stan crew. Gaze lodged all of the paperwork and later attended to getting the car through Customs.

Tony Gaze in his 2 litre F2/F1 ex-Moss HWM Alta during the 1952 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring- Q14 and DNF gearbox on lap 6 in the race won by Alberto Ascari’s Ferrari 500. Ascari’s car was acquired by Tony in 1954 and raced successfully by both Gaze and then later Davison to two AGP wins. The car above is the HWM referred to later in the text- acquired by Lex and re-engined by his team in Templestowe to Jag XK120 ‘C Type’ spec it won the 1954 AGP and is still extant in Australia in sportscar form in the hands of the Hough family (LAT)

Graham Howard in Davison’s biography wrote that by the time the final decision was made to compete there were just two weeks before the car had to loaded aboard a freighter sailing from Port Melbourne on 25 November!

The intrepid Melbourne duo acquired a 1952 Holden 48-215 with 6000 miles on the clock which had been nicely run in by their friend and Repco Research boss Charlie Dean. Dean was a racer and engineer- the constructor of the Maybachs which Stan owned and raced but prepared by Repco. Dean was paid 550 pounds by each of   Lex and Stan for the car.

With no interest or support from GMH (who had a waiting list for the cars at the time) the car was stripped, rebuilt and repainted in Dean’s home garage in Kew- not too far from Stan’s Superior Motors and Lex’s Paragon Shoes businesses in Abbotsford and Collingwood respectively.

Charlie was the ‘industry link man’ ‘…calling in many favours from many corners of the Melbourne motorsport world and the broader motor industry. Via his contacts through Repco, not only with Holden but also with component suppliers…A lot of people put in a lot of work into the sprint to get the Holden ready ready for Monte-Carlo- after all it was a marvellous adventure. But much more than that, it was a consciously Australian expedition into international territory, in the 1950’s spirit of optimism and confidence which led thousands of Australians overseas in search of fame and fortune’ wrote Graham Howard providing broader context outside motor racing itself.

The Monte Holden getting plenty of attention from Port Melbourne’s ‘wharfies’ at Station Pier. That’s Charlie Dean removing the Victorian ‘plates from the boot lid (Davison)

Some modifications to the cars were allowed by the organisers.

A Buick speedo which read in kilometres was dropped into the Holden binnacle, a ten gallon fuel tank was added, two driving lights were mounted on the bonnet and recessed fog lamps into the front guards below the headlights.

A heater-demister and windscreen washer was installed with the washer reservoir located next to the exhaust to keep it warm. An emergency electric fuel pump was mounted on the bulkhead with a change-over switch on the dash.

A ‘rug rail’ which ran between the B-Pillars behind the front seat back provided useful chassis stiffening.

Dean’s knowledge of the 2.2 litre, OHV, cast iron Holden six was pretty good by that stage- he fitted stronger con-rods, bigger ex-Buick valves ‘and an inlet manifold which had been carefully sliced in half, internally enlarged, then welded back together and returned to standard external appearance’ which gave a useful boost in power if not, perhaps (sic) in accordance with the letter of the rules.

By the time all of the luggage, spares, men and clobber was loaded up the six-cylinder sedan weighed 8 hundred-weight more than the 20 hundred-weight of the standard car.

Lex’ pride in Australia was clear in his post-event Australian Motor Sports magazine article; ‘It was considered that this car had to be an example of Australian workmanship, that nothing should be skimped, and no short cuts taken, as one of the main reasons for our making this journey was to endeavour to show that industrially, Australia has come of age, that we have an engineering industry, quite a capable one, and that we are no longer a country of aborigines and back country sheep herders’.

‘A kangaroo with Australia printed underneath was painted on either side of the bonnet and the word ‘Australia’ was printed on the bootlid in gold, given the new Registered Australian Racing Colours of green and gold’.

On January 1 1953 the car landed in the UK, whilst on the other side of the world Lex rolled his Alfa P3 at Port Wakefield, South Australia after a tyre failed- Lex was ok, discharged from hospital whilst Stan winning three races on the day aboard Maybach 1. On January 7 they were enroute to the UK.

In the meantime Tony Gaze had borrowed a Holden used as a development car by Lucas in the UK to get the feel of it. He then tested the rally car when it arrived and was suitable impressed with its performance despite the added weight relative to the standard machine. He diagnosed a better heating system was needed for the rear passenger and windscreen, this work was done.

Start of the event outside the Royal Automobile Club of Scotland, Blythswood Square, Glasgow (AGR)

(AGR)

Competitors came from over 20 different countries- they could choose to start from different cities in Europe including Glasgow, Stockholm, Oslo, Monte Carlo itself, Munich, Palermo and Lisbon.

The Holden began the rally in Glasgow on 20 January 1953- Glasgow cars travelled the 2100 mile route to Monte Carlo via Wales, London, Lilles, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and Clermont Ferrand in The Alps.

The first 3 days were driven non-stop through thick fog. In the Alps on thee fourth night the crew ‘encountered a nightmare of falling snow and icy roads’, the Australians reported. MotorSport on the other hand described the conditions as generally kind.

Lex and Stan were completely unprepared for the driving conditions and soon the crew decided to abandon the sleeping roster to make use of Tony’s skill in fast driving in fog.

In any event only Lex could manage sleep on the back seat set up to allow someone to lie sideways.

As they encountered ice later in the journey ‘Lex was pleased with the handling of the Holden, and was confidently using the frozen snow on the outside of the corners to help the car around.’

During Stan’s stint in the ice, a truck they were overtaking veered out and hit the side of the car inches from Lex’ sleeping head but he continued in deep-sleep bliss.

The fog disappeared before dawn but still with plenty of ice about, the risk was a mistake close to the finish.

440 cars entered the event- of the 404 which started, 253 reached Monte Carlo without loss of points, including the Holden.

The event shot ‘everybody has seen’ but nobody knows where it is- intrigued to know the answer (Pinterest)

They drove unpenalised under the finish banner in Monaco and were’…escorted to a large marquee on the Boulevard where we were offered drinks, and we stood beside the sea-wall sipping brandy, blinking in the sun. We were terribly tired, and I noticed that Tony was fast asleep standing up leaning against the sea-wall’ Howard quoted Davison.

Then came an acceleration and braking test- with Stan at the wheel the car was equal 9th- with Stirling Moss in a Sunbeam Talbot. The quickest time was 21.9 seconds, the Holden Sedan showed good performance amongst the top group which comprised in order; an Allard, Porsche, Jaguar, Ford V8, Sunbeam Talbot, Riley and two more Jags.

Jones attacks the Monaco acceleration and braking test (Davison)

As a result of this test 98 cars qualified for a final, eliminating, regularity test- clearly this 46 mile run over the Col de Braus above Monaco was the event the subject of debate amongst the three racers.

Distances between the controls had been announced in advance- a set speed through the six controls was to be drawn early on the Sunday morning.

The experienced crews knew the regularity route the Australians did not, nor did they have a spare car as many others did to practise it. Late in the day they were able to do do one lap in a VW as passengers.

The troubles which Gaze reflected upon at the beginning of this piece were similar to those documented by Howard in Davison’s biography- ‘that Stan “went on strike”, and for at least part of the test could not be bothered calling out distances. It would have been a typically Stan Jones flare-up, gone as quickly as it arrived, because there were also sections of the test where Stan was sitting sideways and using his feet to hold Lex in place as the Holden hurried around the endless hairpin corners’.

By the end of the test the team were sure they had got several sections close to perfect and others very wrong.

The results were announced at 9 o’clock that night- 64th place, and much better than they had feared. The result was still admirable and polished both the reputations of the drivers and a car not exactly built with European conditions in mind.

(AGR)

The rally was won by the Maurice Gatsonides/Peter Worledge Ford Zephyr from the Ian and Pat Appleyard Jaguar Mk7 and Roger Marian/Jean Charmasson Panhard Dyna X86. Gatsonides had spent four weeks ‘holidays’ lapping the Col de Braus loop, in contrast to the Australians!

Picking up the speed of the Holden ‘People’ wrote ‘They had certainly not run out of steam, for immediately after the rally they took the Holden to Monza where its lap speed was 73 mph and its maximum 90 mph which was impressive as road tests of the day put the cars maximum at 81 mph…the checking from stem to stern that was carried out must have included some skilful tuning’.

Davison and his friends also visited Alfa Romeo whilst in Northern Italy ‘…where Guidotti, having many years before driven Lex’s Alfas, now drove the Holden. Bacciagaluppi, manager of the Monza motor racing circuit and one of Tony’s many European racing contacts, helped them to get the rally car onto the track, where, three up, they averaged a higher lap speed than the road-tested maximum for a standard Holden’.

(AGR)

They drove back through Switzerland to England, where Gaze shipped the car back to Australia with some of the spare parts for the ex-Moss/Gaze HWM Lex acquired prior to leaving Europe.

Davo put the HWM Jaguar to good use, winning the 1954 Australian Grand Prix in it at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast. It was the first of Davo’s AGP wins- his good mate Jones had the race ‘in the bag’ before catastrophic chassis failure (welds) pitched Stanley through the local topography at a million miles an hour- it was a very lucky escape for him which totally destroyed Maybach 2.

‘Autosport published two photographs of the Holden, one showing it looking immaculate in Monte Carlo after the event, and commented “The Holden, although not a prize winner, impressed everyone with its performance. It has distinct possibilities as a rally car”.

As Gaze commented early on, GMH invited Lex and Stan (later to become Holden dealers as ‘Monte Carlo Motors on the corner of Punt and Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne) to a luncheon at Fsihermans Bend (Holden HQ) where they were each given a new Holden FJ and a cheque to cover some of their outgoings- with Tony apparently forgotten.

There was enormous local press both during and after the event with Lex also doing extensive speeches and presesntations about the adventure to car clubs but mainly community groups upon their return. It was a very big deal indeed.

The Monte Holden’s competitive life extended into 1953 when Lex and Diana Davison- DD a very capable and experienced racer herself contested ‘The Sun’ Four Day Rally out of Melbourne, Lex won outright defeating 122 other cars in a new Holden shared with Peter Ward and Diana was second in the womens section of the event in the Monte car she shared with Pat Wilson.

The Monte Holden was used in several trials by Lex and Peter Ward including one in mid 1953 when Lex slid off the a hillside and knocked over a telephone pole- damage was mitigated by the aged rotten nature of the obstacle!

(Davison)

Peter Ward later bought it and used it on the road. ‘It had some vertical cracks in the firewall which puzzled the Holden engineers, but it gave no trouble, Peter drove it for eighteen months before selling the well travelled car for 750 pounds- it cost him 500.

I wonder what became of this car which really should have found its way into a GMH Collection!?

The first of the Redex Round Australia Trials commenced in 1953- a story for another time, no doubt Holden’s confidence in going into these events ‘boots and all’ was as a consequence of the trail-blazers- Davison, Jones and Gaze.

Etcetera…

Article on the Holden 48-215; https://primotipo.com/2018/12/06/general-motors-holden-formative/

(AGR)

Davo on the Monaco quayside. Without his drive and entrepreneurial skill, not to say resources, the assault would not have taken place- not that the other two fellas involved were exactly skint.

(AGR)

Tony Gaze would have been razor sharp in 1953- he raced his HWM Alta in both championship and non-championship events throughout Europe in 1952, his primary program in 1953 aboard an Aston DB3 sportscar. He started racing the Ferrari 500/625 so important in his and Lex’ career in 1954.

(AGR)

Credits…

‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘Almost Unknown: Tony Gaze’ Stewart Wilson, ‘Me and My Holden: A Nostalgia Trip With The Early Holdens’ Don Loffler, ‘GMH People’, ‘AGR’- anygivenreason.com for many of the images, Pinterest, ‘SMH’ Sydney Morning Herald

Tailpiece: Port Melbourne to Monaco- after the finish…

(AGR)

Finito…

 

(Davey-Milne)

Albert Park, March 1955- ‘Albert Park Trophy’ with #10 Patterson, #9 Davison and #81 Jones on pole…

Rather a sign of the times, Cooper were on the march to world domination, their mid-engine, air-cooled  designs perfected over the early forties into the fifties.

Between these three fellows were six AGP victories, or perhaps five given Davo and Patto shared one of them- and three Gold Stars, one apiece. They were front-running Victorians for well over a decade and shared a passion for cars and business- all three Holden dealers at one point in time.

Bill Patterson’s green machine is a Mk5 JAP, Lex Davison’s a Mk4 Vincent and Stan Jones a Mk4 JAP. Patto took the Albert Park win in a race of attrition from Gib Barrett’s BWA and Otto Stone’s MG K3- Jones pitted with a misfire and Lex also retired.

Stan behind, and Reg Robbins leaning on the Cooper Mk4 at Rob Roy (L Sims)

Jones aboard the Cooper Mk4 at Rob Roy, date folks? (L Sims)

Jones chassis ’10/53/50′ was imported by Melbourne Cooper distributor Keith Martin in early 1951 and was claimed to be an intermediate version having a Mk5 chassis and Mk4 bodywork. Fitted with a 1098cc JAP race motor, the 95bhp machine sat in Martin’s showroom for a year before acquisition by Stanley who first raced it at Rob Roy in March 1952.

‘The car became one of the top under 1500cc cars for both circuits and hillclimbs- the battle for hillclimb records between Jones, Davison and Patterson was a highlight of motorsport in the early fifties’ John Blanden wrote.

Holder of many outright records the car was offered for sale in AMS in December 1953 and finally acquired by Earl Davey-Milne in December 1955, he raced it first at Albert Park in 1956 and still retains the car which is said to be the lowest mileage air-cooled Cooper of them all.

Davey-Milne resplendent in collar and tie racing the Cooper at Albert Park during the Australian Tourist Trophy meeting in November 1956- DNF in his ‘rapid little Cooper-JAP’ in the Argus Cup (Davey-Milne)

Credits…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Davey-Milne Family Collection, Leon Sims, Graham Noonan, ‘Glory Days’ Barry Green

Tailpiece: Jones aboard the Cooper Mk4, circa 1954…

(L Sims)

Finito…

 

 

 

 

(R Lambert)

‘It goes just like a bought one Bib!’…

Jack Brabham about to give Bib Stillwell’s newish Cooper T51 Climax ‘F2-18-59’ a whirl during practice for the Longford Trophy in February 1960. Bib and his mechanic Gerry Brown are giving the car a shove.

Nobody knew those little babies like Jack of course. There was nothing wrong with the car a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF would not fix, but neither love nor money would get you one of those in Australia at the time.

Jack and Bib swapping notes @ Longford in 1960. ‘What ratio did you say again mate’. These fellas had much in common-racing, business and aviation. Bib bought a heap of stuff off Jack- Coopers, Brabhams and planes! (K Drage)

Stillwell’s new car was shipped from Surbiton to Australia in July 1959. Fitted with a 2.2 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, Bib first raced it in the 1960 NZGP at Ardmore where he finished 3rd behind the Brabham and McLaren 2.5 litre T51’s.

Back home, he won the Victorian Trophy Gold Star round at Fishermans Bend in February before the Longford International where was 2nd to Jack. He contested the Repco Trophy at Phillip Island in March where he was 3rd behind Brabham and Bill Patterson, Patto’s car 2 litre FPF powered like Bib’s that weekend.

Bib oversees Gerry Brown’s fettling of his Cooper in the 1960 Longford paddock. Near new car superbly prepared and presented as the racer/businessmans cars were right thru to the end of his historic racing career in the nineties (R Lambert)

The naughty corner bit came as a result of an accident Stillwell had at Easter in 1960.

He had won his Bathurst 100 heat but had an indiscretion with the fence at the bottom of Conrod Straight in the final, damaging the front of the car. Alec Mildren’s Maserati 250S engined T51 was victorious that weekend at the start of a very successful season for the veteran racer/motor dealer- he carted away the AGP and Gold Star.

Repaired, Bib’s machine was fitted with a 1.9 litre FPF and became his spare car  parked in the corner of his workshop. He focussed his affections on the just acquired ‘Victa’ T51- David McKay’s car ‘F2-14-59’ which was carefully assembled by Victa’s factory Foreman, Jim Roberts at Coopers before shipment to Sydney. The car, of similar leaf spring rear suspension specification to ‘F2-18-59’, was on the market after ‘Victa Consolidated Industries’, manufacturers of iconic Australian lawnmowers, decided to sell it rather than have David continue racing it after only 2 events.

The interesting part of the story, you knew I would get there eventually didn’t you?, is that in a quirk of fate and fortune the spare car in The Naughty Corner of Stillwells Cotham Road, Kew workshop won the 1961 Australian Grand Prix at Mallala, South Australia.

The sequence of events goes like this.

Lex Davison raced his Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre GP car to 2nd by a bees-dick to Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati in the 1960 AGP at Lowood in June. He raced the car again at Lowood and Warwick Farm in 1960 and the Farm, Ballarat Airfield and Longford in early 1961 before shipping it to the UK.

Lex Davison’s Aston DBR4/250 outside Gino Munaron’s Cooper T51 Maserati during the Guards Trophy Intercontinental race at Brands Hatch in August 1961. There were 17 starters with Brabham’s Cooper winning a race of attrition, the only other finishers Salvadori, Davo and Bandini. With the new 1.5 litre F1 ‘taking off’ this was the last Intercontinental race (Getty)

He raced it throughout 1961 in the Intercontinental Formula races prevalent that year during an extended family trip and racing holiday. He also contested some sportscar races and Le Mans with Stillwell in an Aston DB4GT Zagato, click on the link below for some information on that adventure.

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/

When it became clear the Aston DBR4 would not arrive back in Oz in time for the 9 October Mallala race he sought an alternative and immediately thought of his Melbourne competitor, friend and fellow Holden Dealer, Stillwell, who had five Coopers at the time according to Graham Howard! (4 single-seaters and a Cooper Monaco sports-racer I think)

Melbourne Holden Dealers meeting? Stillwell, Davison and Patterson cluster around Lex’s renta-drive soon to be AGP winning Cooper at Mallala in the lead up to the ’61 race. They had Holden dealerships in Kew, Richmond and Ringwood respectively until Bib jumped ship ‘sensationally’ from Holden to Ford circa 1965 (Davison)

Bib kindly agreed to rent Lex one of these, his Naughty Corner spare ‘F2-18-59’, fitted with a 2.2 litre FPF.

By that stage Bib’s frontline tool of choice was a T53 ‘Lowline’ Cooper fitted with a 2.5 FPF. Whilst he wanted Lex in the field Bib did not figure the ‘Crafty Cobbler’- Davison’s primary family business was in shoe manufacture and distribution- three time AGP winner would present too much of a problem to he and the T53 who, together with Bill Patterson’s T51 were the quickest combination in Oz at the time.

A quarter page agreement between the two racers dated 5 October- four days before the race provided for a hiring fee of £100 with the car to be returned in a condition satisfactory to the owner. If the racer was written off, Bib was to be paid £3000.

Stillwell T53, David McKay T51 and the nose of Jones T51 before the start of a Mallala heat. Stan DNS the GP itself with mechanical mayhem- a great shame. Gerry Brown is behind Bib’s car in the top shot with Kevin Drage leaning on the cars tail (K Drage)

 

 

In a race full of irony, David McKay, by then aboard his Scuderia Veloce ex-works T51 which Brabham raced in Australia that summer of 1960/61, was adjudged by the Race Stewards to have jumped the start. This is still a controversial decision in the view of objective observers all these years later- he was punished a minute for his alleged misdemeanour.

Bill Patterson dominated the race from the start in another T51 before fuel vaporisation problems caused multiple stops.

Bib was never a threat as his team managed to fit the wrong tyres to his T53. Accounts of this vary, but Graham Howard’s ‘History of The AGP’ version is that the team erroneously had a Dunlop R5 D12 and a D9 fitted to the rear of the car with a matched set of D12 R5’s at the front. The result was difficult handling and a ZF slippery diff which was worn out by the races end.

Lex took the win behind McKay on the road but ahead after application of McKay’s penalty. The Naughty Corner Car had been beautifully prepared by Stillwell’s Kew based team led by Gerry Brown before handover to Davison’ s crew led by Alan Ashton’s AF Hollins boys in Armadale not too far away from Stillwell’s Kew Holden Dealership and race workshop in Melbourne’s inner east.

Davison’s Cooper rolled to a stop several hundred yards after the finish of the race- a fuel union attachment on one of the cars fuel tanks had cracked when he hit a straw-bale after a spin at Woodrofe Corner, the borrowed Cooper was out of fuel, it could not have raced any further! Lex’s luck extended to the start of the race too when his crew noticed a gearbox leak which they plugged with a rag soaked in gasket goo.

Sometimes things are just meant to be!

Many say Lex was lucky with all of his four AGP wins, he was too. But he made his own luck in that his cars were always beautifully prepared and driven very fast with mechanical sympathy- he finished races where others did not. Was 1961 his luckiest win?, only he can say.

Ecurie Australie onto the grid. Peter Ward, Lex in his usual cloth cap, Alan Ashton, Warwick Cumming with T51 ‘F2-18-59’.  McKay’s car behind with then, I think then the amazing, fast, radical Eldred Norman built Zephyr Spl driven by Keith Rilstone (Davison)

Lex may have been a dark horse before the start of the weekend, his disdain of the ‘Anti-Climaxes’ as he called the Coopers a matter of record- then he won the AGP in his first race of a water-cooled Cooper, amazing really.

But he was hardly a Surbiton novice having raced air-cooled Coopers for years in hillclimbs and shorter circuit events, the Cooper Irving/Vincent s/c was a very potent device. He knew the probable handling characteristics of the T51 prior to commencement of Fridays practice in a car beautifully prepared by Gerry Brown but cared for by Lex’s mob- Alan Ashton and Warwick Cumming over the race weekend.

Further, like Patterson and Stillwell, he was razor sharp. Whilst Bill and Bib were the form drivers locally, Lex had been sharpening his skills in the UK in the DBR4 and some drives in a DB4 Zagato. He arrived home very much ‘ready to boogie’- the Cooper may not have been instantly familiar but he was in the zone from the moment he arrived in South Australia. Another factor to Lex’ advantage is that the 2.5’s were having trouble getting their power to the road. Mallala was a brand new facility, the bitumen was slippery, his 2.2 litres in the circumstances were enough to do the job that weekend.

Finally, the ‘rear-leaf sprung’ T51’s (later series T51’s had coil spring rear suspension) were very chuckable, forgiving devices. The Mallala layout then is the same as it is now with many tight corners- the circuit is a delight if your open-wheeler has good front end bite and a tad of oversteer on exit- the Naughty Corner Car was just the right spec T51 for that circuit on that particular weekend.

Last word on Mallala to Graham Howard in his biography of Lex; ‘On lap 31 Patterson pitted…Lex…in his first race with an “anti-Climax”- was leading an Australian Grand Prix. It was an odd situation, but even odder were Lex’s repeated attempts to overtake McKay (with a minute penalty applied): Lex only had to follow him over the line to win. Lex’s needless repeated attacks and waved fists spelled it out: he drove most of this race with almost red-mist passion.’

Back to the history of the AGP winning Cooper.

In late 1961 after occasional use by Stillwell and three-time Australian GP winner Doug Whiteford, the naughty Cooper was sold to Tom Wilson, then to Frank Coad who raced it on the Victorian country circuits. Barry Stilo was up next in 1965, then Ray Deighton in 1967 and later Michael Robinson.

For many years the car was owned and used in the early days of historic racing in Australia by Stan Rumble. I recall seeing it race a few times in that period. It was sold by him in 1996 to Sydney’s Peter Landan who completely restored it. I’m not sure who owns it these days.

T51’s to the fore, bucolic Bathurst ‘Craven A’ Gold Star race Easter 1961. Stan Jones from David McKay and Bill Patterson on the run to Forrests Elbow- Patterson won the 19 lap race from Jones and Stillwell- T51 2.5’s, 2.3 in Stan’s case (J Ellacott)

The Cooper T51 is one of the great customer Grand Prix cars. Its up there with the Bugatti T35 and Maserati 250F as the best of competitive tools for the privateer which could be acquired off-the-shelf.

Eleven factory built T51’s were resident in Australia ‘in period’, an amazing number given the size of the country and the racing scene at the time. The previous sentence was easy to write, but the research carried out to come up with the number was robustly tested and discussed by a group of very knowledgeable Cooper enthusiasts on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ between January and March 2010. Click here to read the thread, don’t do so unless you have 90 minutes though!

http://forums.autosport.com/topic/122950-how-many-cooper-t51s-came-to-australia/?hl=%20cooper%20%20t51

So, many thanks to Dick Willis, Stephen Dalton, the late David McKinney, Jim Bradshaw, David Shaw, Eldougo, Ken Devine and Ray Bell for their painstaking research through old records, race accounts and results, photographs and car sale advertisements.

The list is as follows, the fellows above were smart enough not to apply chassis numbers, I have done so using Allen Brown’s oldracingcars.com to assist but any additions to the experts narrative or errors of interpretation are all mine…

‘F2-20-59’: Bib Stillwell’s red and yellow new car. Delivered to Stan Jones and transferred to Bib Stillwell, then to Austin Miller incl Chev Corvette V8 fitment and Australian LSR (extant)

‘F2-18-59’ Bib Stillwell’s darker red car, Davison’s ’61 AGP winner, Whiteford, Wilson, Rumble et al as story above (extant)

‘F2-4-59?’: Bib Stillwell’s ex-works 2.5, Sternbergs in Tasmania (extant)

‘F2/14/59’: Victa Consolidated Industries/David McKay new car, Stillwell, Bryan Thomson (extant)

‘F2-15-59’: Bill Patterson’s new, first car crashed at Lakeside 1961, to John Brindley (unknown)

‘F2-2-57 or F2-5-57’: Bill Patterson’s replacement car, 1961 Gold Star winner, apparently ex-works via either Atkins or Tuck team (extant)

‘F2-16-59’: Noel Hall’s new car, destroyed in 1961 but parts used in the build of his Rennmax Climax 2.2 FPF (extant)

‘F2-22-59’: Alec Mildren’s new car, Maserati 250S and later T61 engine, 1960 AGP and Gold Star winner, dismantled and parts used to construct the Rennmax built Mildren Maserati sports-racer. Replica or reconstruction later built for Paul Moxham by Gary Simkin and Ivan Glasby (extant)

‘F2-7-60’: Stan Jones light blue new car 1960, later Sternbergs Tasmania (unknown)

‘F2-9-60’: John Youls 1960 car, stayed in Tasmania (Hobden, Curran) (extant)

‘F2-5-57 or F2-7-59’: Scuderia Veloce ex-works car, McKay, Cusack, Amon driven (extant)

Note that the Arnold Glass raced T51 Maserati 250S engined car ‘CTA/59/F1’ is excluded from the list as a machine built ‘offsite’ by Harry Pearce at Tommy Atkins workshop rather than at Cooper’s Surbiton factory.

Stillwell, T51 , Forrests Elbow, Easter Bathurst 1961, Gold Star round- this car the ex-works ‘F2-4-59?’ (J Ellacott)

Bibliography…

‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, The Nostalgia Forum, ‘Lex Davison: Larger Than Life’ Graham Howard, ‘History of The Australian GP’ Graham Howard and Ors, oldracingcars.com, The Nostalgia Forum

Photo Credits…

Ron Lambert Collection, John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, National Motor Racing Museum, Davison Family Collection, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Like ‘r-soles really, everybody has one! A plague of Cooper T51’s, ‘Craven A International’ Bathurst 2 October 1960…

Jones in blue, Mildren, Brabham up front, then John Leighton Cooper T45 FPF and Bib Stillwell in red, front engined car on row 3 is Arnold Glass Maser 250F, Noel Hall and Austin Miller in yellow. Then John Youl beside Bill Patterson’s white car- the other yellow machine is Doug Kelley’s ex-Miller Cooper T41 Climax FWB. The cars are all T51’s except where specified otherwise (NMRM)

Finito…