Posts Tagged ‘Lex Davison’

(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…

 

(B Thomas)

Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar won the Sunday 7 November 1954 Australian Grand Prix at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast…

Here, (above) just after the start, Lex is behind Kiwi Fred Zambucka’s Maserati 8CM, with Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 behind the HWM and then Jack Brabham’s partially obscured Cooper T23 Bristol ‘Redex Special’.

Race favourite Stan Jones, in the Repco Research built Maybach 2 is already out of shot and some distance up the road ahead of this next group. Stan led until lap 14 when some welds on the chassis of the new car failed causing a very high speed excursion backwards through the Queensland countryside, writing off the car but fortunately without causing injury to the plucky Melbourne motor-trader.

Sydney’s Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl s/c was second in the Formula Libre, scratch, 150 mile event from Ken Mitchell’s Brisbane built Ford Spl in third place. Davison’s time was 1 hour, 50 minutes and 18 seconds.

After heavy rain in the days before the meeting the race was run ‘on one of the hottest days of the season and drivers had a trying time with the heat and dust’. It was Davo’s fifth attempt at the AGP- a race he was to win four times- in 1954, 1957, 1958 and 1961.

Australia after the initial ‘Phillip Island AGP era’ (1927 Goulburn AGP duly noted) for decades had a wonderful tradition of each of the states hosting the AGP in turn- in that sense ‘everybody got a fair crack of the whip’. The disadvantage was that there was not until the sixties investment in a permanent facility to stage motor-racing let alone events on longer courses of the sort appropriate for events of Grand Prix length. Warwick Farm and Sandown are examples of fine venues and circuits but even then were built within pre-existing horse racing facilities.

The #15 John McKinney MG TC Spl 1.3 DNF lap 11 and Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl 1.3 s/c, 2nd in a fast reliable run (B Thomas)

Queensland’s first GP was held in September 1949 when 30,000-40,000 people converged on Leyburn, a quiet little hamlet on the Darling Downs- the race was held on a disused wartime airstrip and won by John Crouch in a Delahaye 135S imported by John Snow pre-War.

The venue for the 1954 event was similarly distant from major population centres, an hours drive from Brisbane on a good day, being a road circuit using roads in the Ashmore/Benowa/Bundall areas a mile or so from Southport. International readers are probably aware of the Surfers Paradise location from television coverage of the annual Indycar race, Southport is close by.

These days the Gold Coast City has a population of 560,000, back then before the tourist boom of the sixties the area was a quiet farming and agricultural hamlet adjoining the Pacific Ocean. The organisers, led by the Queensland Motor Sporting Car Club laid out a 5.7 mile course on public roads- the event was contested over 27 laps of the undulating, narrow bitumen surface in sparsely settled, scrubby coastal bush. The local population of 40 swelled to somewhere near 60,000 on raceday!

(Brisbane Courier Mail)

The organisers said the road, much of which had not been sealed before, had a minimum usable width of 22 feet made up of 14 feet of bitumen and at least 4 feet of smooth gravel shoulder on each side. There were two no-passing sections at the causeway leading into the main straight at Boston’s Bend and another about 40 yards long on a narrow bridge at the start of the tight section beside the Nerang River, past Dunlop Bend at the start of the second long straight.

The intersecting two straights as you can see above formed one corner of the triangular course , the section beside the Nerang up to the Courier Mail hairpin was continuously jinking. There were some very quick curves on the return section with a total rise and fall of 60 feet- including several jumps where faster cars became airborne and blind corners with the road overall very bumpy- and surrounded by barbed-wire fences for most of the distance.  The organisers forecast a 90 mph lap average by the faster cars which proved to be quite accurate

The Maybach main men- Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. With the marvellous but shortlived Maybach 2, perhaps at Fishermans Bend in early 1954- cars technical specs as per article linked at the end of this piece. Dean a remarkable fella- engineer, businessman, racer inclusive of several AGP’s and public company Director. No book about him sadly! (unattributed)

The bulk of the racers in the smallish Australian racing scene were based in Sydney and Melbourne so it was a long tow up north for many, but the competitors nevertheless journeyed north to contest the event, the biggest such social occasion ever held in South Queensland to that point.

From Victoria their were six entries including the fast-boys Jones and Davison. The New South Wales contingent of 11 included Stan Coffey in a Cooper Bristol and similarly mounted ‘Pre-race favourite ex-speedway champion Jack Brabham driving a 1971cc Cooper Bristol’, as one of the Brisbane papers saw it. No way did Jack’s 2 litre machine have the mumbo to win this event though.

Redex Round Australia Trial personality/winner Jack Murray added to the gate, he raced an Allard Cadillac V8. Dick Cobdens Ferrari 125 V12 s/c was acquired from Peter Whitehead after the ’54 NZ GP with the wealthy Cobden very quickly getting to grips with the tricky handling of the rear swing-axle suspension car. His dices with Brabham at NSW meetings in the months before Southport were a spectacle all enthusiasts looked forward to at the time with Brabham the better racer but there was little difference in lap times between the two cars.

This paddock shot does not show the muddy conditions competitors endured. #4 is Charlie Whatmore, Jaguar Spl 3.4 7th and #9, the 3rd placed Ken Richardson Ford V8 Spl (D Willis)

The Queenslanders came out in numbers, sixteen in all. The group included Charlie Whatmore’s Jaguar Spl built around a Standard 14 chassis with Jag Mk7 power and Rex Taylor who had bought Doug Whiteford’s dual AGP winning Talbot-Lago T26C. With the replacement Lago a long way off Doug raced ‘Black Bess’, his famous Ford V8 Spl and winner of the 1950 AGP. Arthur Griffiths had just bought the Wylie Javelin.

Much was expected of Kiwi Fred Zambucka’s Maserati 2.9 litre s/c but the very stiffly sprung pre-war machine was all at sea on the very bumpy country roads.

Stan Jones’s new Maybach 2 was a classic single seater built around the same engine and gearbox as Maybach 1 but was shorter, narrower and lighter and was the real favourite for the race. The Melburnian had his tail up as a consequence of his NZ GP win at Ardmore aboard Maybach 1 in January and the speed of Maybach 2 built by Charlie Dean and the rest of the Repco Research team in Bruswick after they returned from NZ. Its pace had been proved from its first appearance in winning the Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend in March and was reinforced at Bathurst over the Easter weekend.

The car was without doubt the quickest in Australia at the time, remember too by this stage the AGP was a scratch event (the 1951 Narrogin AGP was started in handicap order but the AGP winner was the car/driver which completed the distance in the fastest time- Warwick Pratley in the Ford V8 powered George Reed Spl) so a machine capable of winning the event on speed and reliability was required. This change had immense impacts on the content of our grids. Very quickly, older or lower powered machines which were half a chance in the handicap days were rendered uncompetitive at AGP level overnight. The time was right for the change mandated by the Australian Automobile Association but that view was hardly one universally held at the time.

Lex Davison, HWM Jag, Southport. Circuit safety aspects clear- crowd close to the action! (Davison)

Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar had been continuously developed by Ern Seeliger and his artisans over the previous 12 months since it’s unsuccessful debut during the 1953 AGP weekend at Albert Park.

There the ex-Moss/Gaze (then Alta powered) car ran its bearings in practice and did so again shortly after the start of the race. The car was modified terms of its lubrication, oil and water cooling and other areas almost on a race by race basis becoming fast and reliable. The ‘C Type’ spec 3.4 litre engine gave 187bhp on the Repco dyno in early 1954 but the clever car was not as quick as Stan, Jack or Dick’s- it had gained reliability though, a quality which was to be rather a valuable one come raceday.

Despite the new Southport circuit being unfamiliar to the drivers, practice was available for only two one hour sessions on the Saturday, the time was allocated after the longer sessions planned were diminished by clearing up the debris of the Mrs Geordie Anderson driven Jaguar XK120 Coupe which left the track on the fast swerves of the return section of the course and hit a telegraph post. She was not badly injured but the car was substantially damaged.

After a rainstorm cleared,  faster times were recorded in the afternoon session with Cobden a little quicker than Jones. There had been fifteen consecutive consecutive weekends of rain before the meeting, and plenty in between, so the course road shoulders were soft and the paddock areas boggy which made for rather grim conditions for crews and spectators alike.

Only Stan and Dick got under 4 minutes with Cobden the quicker at 3:55, an average of 88mph. Whilst the times were indicative of performance they did not count for grid positions which had been allocated by the organisers at their discretion.

Jack had engine problems running in a fresh Bristol motor which would also play out on raceday whilst Maybach needed repairs that evening to repair a split fuel tank and reportedly to raise the ride height. Davison’s HWM also needed repairs to the underbody and to straighten some suspension parts after an off by Lex, his best time was 4:14.

Whatmore’s Jaguar Spl, Standard 14 modified chassis and fitted with a Jag 3.4 Mk7 engine for this race. Car descended from a Studebaker powered ex-speedway machine he raced in the 1949 Leyburn AGP (HAGP)

Spectators near Skyline Bend, 4.5 miles from the start reported the faster cars were leaping two feet into the air as they crested the top of the hill. Over 5,000 people attended practice causing plenty of chaos to surrounding access roads indicating the challenges of race day access!

The quick guys were worried about the driving standard of some of the locals with Brabham not confident his Cooper would last the race without some sort of chassis breakage.

In an interesting sequence of events which played out during the race the Maybach’s aluminium fuel tank was split during practice, as was Davison’s.

Whilst Brian Burnett had built much of the Maybach body, chassis and other parts he attended Southport as part of Davo’s crew not Jones team so prioritised Lex’s repair over Stan’s. In the end he did not have time to complete the Maybach repair due to an incident whilst working on the HWM’s tank ‘…when Burnett prepared to weld up the crack by following his customary method of clearing fuel vapour out of the drained tank- by waving a lit welding torch inside- the tank exploded. He gathered up the scattered pieces, worked out where they belonged, hammered them back into shape and then, finally, was ready to start welding the tank back together again.’

Between 50,000-60,000 attended on raceday, the early birds camped overnight with day-trippers arriving from 4am. The day dawned bright and sunny in contrast to recent weather patterns… 

‘People dressed in gay holiday clothes, some in swimming costumes, went in transport ranging from a family in a horse-drawn buggy to the latest model sedans’ the Brisbane Courier Mail reported.

‘Farmers let down their fences to allow thousands of vehicles to park…at the township of Benowa people watched the roaring motors from the shade of a church. Others watched from houses, some from the rooftop whilst men and boys perched in the trees. Dairy calves not far away ran into the bush as the quiet bitumen road running through tall green turned into a snorting carrier for Australia’s fastest cars…’

Sounds fantastic to me!

The huge crowd blocked the track between races and strolled across the circuit whilst races were running, the chaos was not helped by the lack of an effective public address system throughout much of the course area.

Brightways and Farren Price Trophy sportscar race- A Mills Jag XK120, leads David Griffiths Triumph TR2 and G Greig’s Austin Healey (E Steet)

The program commenced at 11.15 am with the ‘Brightways and Farren Price Trophy’ 5 lapper won by won by Adelaide’s Eldred Norman in a G.M. 2-71 supercharged Triumph TR2.

Norman was an extraordinary character as a businessman, racer, engineer and specials builder- the twin Ford V8 engined ‘Double Eight’  and Zephyr Special s/c are at the more extreme end of his creativity and speed. Somewhat ironic is that his most conventional AGP mount, the TR2 gave him his best AGP result- he was 4th in the car later in the day.

The TR2 was still hot when he contested the ‘Cords Piston Ring Trophy’ First Division event which he also won, the Trophy was won by Les Cosh in an Aston Martin DB2 who did the fastest time in the Second Division event for closed cars.

At the conclusion of the meeting Eldred loaded up the TR2, the first delivered in South Australia, re-attached a lightweight trailer containing two empty 44 gallon drums of methanol racing fuel, some basic spares, tools, odds and sods to the sportscar and then drove back to his base in Halifax Street, Adelaide. The trip is 2050Km one way, so lets say he did around 6,000 Km in all inclusive of the return trip, a bit of tootling around the Gold Coast, race practice, two race wins…and fourth in the AGP. I’d call that a pretty successful trip up North!

The Grand Prix was due to commence at 2.45 pm, but by that time the program was an hour late for the reasons mentioned earlier. This was then exacerbated by speeches of the Southport Mayor to welcome Queensland’s Deputy Premier- who made a speech formally opening the GP and finally another by the local State MP who gave a vote of thanks to the Deputy Premier. Still, to their credit, the Queensland politicians allowed the race to take place on public roads, a situation which existed only in WA and NSW at the time.

Lex hustling the victorious HWM Jag thru Olympic Corner, preceding the start/finish straight (B Thomas)

The drivers waited patiently and nervously with the start, not based on lap times remember, and a road not nearly wide enough for the 2-1-2-1 grid. Their difficulties now also included the sun which was lower in the sky than would have been the case had the program been running to time.

The two front slots were allocated to the fast Stan Jones/Maybach and the slow Rex Taylor in the fast Lago. Then came Fred Zambucka’s very stiffly sprung pre-War Maser which was said to be almost uncontrollable on the bumpy Queensland country back-roads.

The sprint to the first corner with the quicks Cobden, Davison and then Brabham promised to be interesting whilst Stan, up front was not to be impacted if he got away cleanly.

AMS reported that ‘The two minute board went up, engines were started, then their was a minute to go, then ten seconds, then they were off in a mad frenzy of wheelspin, smoke, haze and dust.’

When the flag dropped Jones and Maybach disappeared, he had a lead of 10 seconds at the end of the first lap. All the front runners survived the first corner unscathed but there was a tangle of mid-fielders which was cleared by the time the leaders emerged 4 minutes later.

Stan led Lex by 10 seconds from Jack 6 seconds back who had already passed Dick Cobden’s Ferrari.

‘The order and intervals reflected the various drivers success at passing Taylor and Zambucka; Brabham and Zambucka’s cars had actually touched’ wrote Graham Howard.

Almost immediately Jack’s Cooper cried enough with re-occurrence of the Bristol engines practice dramas where a camshaft bearing shell rotated in the block, cutting off the oil supply and seizing the camshaft, shearing the timing-gear key, bending valves and pushrods. Jack would take a Bristol engined AGP win at Port Wakefield in his self constructed mid-engined Cooper T40 at Port Wakefield, South Australia in 1955.

John McKinney putting out an Xpag engine fire in his MG TC Spl. He needed assistance to restart so retired (HAGP)

Taylor has just spun the Lago and Jack Murray joins the fun in his Allard- the latter restarting, the former DNF after receiving outside  help, Ferodo Corner (HAGP)

Jack Murray provided early excitement and entertainment in the pits as he arrived very quickly in his Allard soaked with fuel from a failed jerry-rigged auxiliary fuel-tank system.

Murray unzipped his fuel soaked britches to reveal that the fuel had dissolved his nylon jocks- all he was wearing was the elastic waistband of said garment! He got the Allard going, having borrowed a set of overalls, only to retire on lap 8 but not before a half lose spinning and just kissing Taylor’s Lago which had arrived shortly before Murray, see the photo above.

Jones and Maybach 2, on the hop, as ever, Olympic Corner (E Steet)

Meanwhile up front the gaps between the top three cars widened by the end of lap 5 with the Maybach 20 seconds up the road from the HWM and then 40 seconds further back to the Cobden Ferrari.

‘Nonetheless there was a touch of desperation about Stan’s erratic lap times, and reports that the Maybach was again leaking fuel suggested he might have to make a pitstop.’ To be fair the cause of his erratic laptimes was passing back- markers- he was lapping them from lap 3.

Cobden started to speed up from lap 6 with times of around 4:04 sec- shown a ‘faster’ sign by the crew he dropped his times to 3:55 by lap 9 and closed the gap to Davo to 7 secs and Jones to 30.6 seconds. On that circuit, in that car that drive would have been great to see- he barged past the HWM on that lap taking 4 more seconds from Stan’s lead. And did the fastest lap of the race at 3:51.0 seconds.

The speed that thrills…On the next lap passing the Sefton Ford Spl after the no-passing bridge Dick was gone, Cobden was baulked, both cars spun away from the direction of the river with Cobden motoring the 2 litre, supercharged Ferrari into retirement. Sefton was illegally push-started but was not black-flagged until late in the race.

Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol ahead of Downing’s Rilry Imp Spl with Lex Davison bearing down on the pair, Olympic Corner (HAGP)

Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 #49 passes Rex Taylor’s Talbot-Lago T26C just after the pits at the start of lap 2, Taylor completed only 6 laps and Cobden’s wonderful charge was ruined when a back-marker took Dick’s line on lap 10 (HAGP)

Howard writes that Stan’s press-on style had not abated despite the easing of the threat ‘Stan Coffey had a chip taken out of his Cooper Bristol’s front wheel when Jones slashed past; one magazine reported Jones was black flagged for passing in a no-passing area, but did not stop, and the flag was withdrawn…Jones…in the fast curves of the return section…came through lap after lap, airborne and sideways over a crest at about 115mph.’ Oh to have seen the bellowing six-cylinder Maybach do that too!

AMS reported that Maybach was still leaking fuel and that therefore Stanley was building up sufficient a lead to do a ‘splash and dash’ to get him through the 157 miles. His margin over Davison at half distance was more than 40 seconds.

Howard, on ‘The next lap Jones too was gone. Through the fast sweeps and crests of the return section the Maybach had a major chassis failure, the car became unsteerable, and at well over 100 mph it slithered off the road and disappeared into thick scrub. Spectators rushed to rescue Jones- who was miraculously unhurt- and others manhandled the detached front suspension and wheels off the road.’

The very ill Maybach 2 in the Southport countryside, devoid of ‘front suspension section’ which detached, causing the accident. Its said Stan mowed down 4 trees, some of the more substantial ones in this shot would not have readily yielded to the car and its fearless pilot (HAGP)

The car had chopped down four trees, jumped a six foot deep culvert and finished in a gully under the tangle of uprooted casuarina trees with Stan still strapped in the driving seat, unhurt other than a cut on his face.

Lex drove past the mess- skid marks, dust, debris, scurrying officials and spectators and then did his fastest lap of the race, and then slowed right down at the scene to ensure his friend and Monte-Carlo Motors business partner was ok- and then raced on to victory.

He reduced his pace by about 2 seconds a lap, and other than muffing an upshift passing the pits had a comfortable run to the line having taken 1 hour, 50 minutes and 18 seconds to finish the 157 miles, an average of 83.7 mph. At the time of Jones accident his lead over Curley Brydon’s MG TC Monoposto was 1.5 laps.

#16 Snow Sefton Ford V8 Spl 4.2, being passed by Ken Richardson’s Ford V8 Spl with Owen Bailey’s smoke obscured MG Holden on the inside behind and then Gordon Greig’s Austin Healey. Meanwhile Taylor’s Lago is stranded at left. Ferodo Corner lap 2 (HAGP)

Courier Mail Corner action- #29 Frank Tobin in the Rizzo Riley Spl 1.5, 6th, leads the 10th placed Charlie Swinburne Cooper Mk4 Norton 500 and 5th placed David Griffiths Triumph TR2 (HAGP)

Doug Whiteford’s Black Bess was out mid-race with Ford V8 maladies, Bill Pitt’s Jaguar Spl had a tyre go flat with Whatmore’s Jag engined machine out with head gasket failure.

Survival was the whole story of this race.

On his victory lap Davison stopped at the crash scene and picked up Stan who rode back to the pits astride the tail of the HWM. Stan was a force in all of the AGP’s he contested, he finally took one, most deservedly, aboard his Maser 250F at Longford in 1959 whilst Lex took four as recorded earlier. Both were very fast drivers, both drove very well prepared cars, perhaps Lex was the more mechanically sympathetic of the two. For sure Lex had more AGP luck than Stan.

The remains of Maybach 2 on its trailer ready for the long trip back to Sydney Road, Brunswick in Melbourne. ‘…this photo shows how hard the car hit the trees- parts of the cast alloy cam-cover and upper cylinder head have been broken. Other evidence of the impact is the pile of broken SU pieces (bottom left) near the flattened right-side main tube frame. Closer inspection reveals some telling details: front wheels and nose section have just been dumped as a unit and the spare wheels have been almost thrown onboard, as has the hand operated pump which would have been used to fill a re-fuelling churn’- G Howard (HAGP)

For years Jones ‘carried the can’ for the 1954 Maybach crash until Graham Howard carefully researched the matter in preparing the ’54 Southport chapter of ‘The Bible’- ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’.

It seems that in the day it was chosen not to report in accurate fashion Repco’s engineering failure as the accident cause with Stan holding his tongue rather than ‘bite the hand which fed him’ in terms of Repco’s ongoing support.

Howard addresses all of this at length in the 1954 chapter he wrote. Note that this wonderful book was written by a number of writers- Howard, John Medley, Ray Bell….

I’ve included this section of the chapter in full as Stan still seems to get the blame from older enthusiasts for the accident to this day and for international readers who will probably not be aware of the situation, somewhat arcane as it is.

Graham Howard wrote ‘…It is difficult to find the full story of Stan Jones’ Maybach accident, partly because it happened well away from any of the crowded areas, but also- quite obviously – because most writers chose to conceal the truth.

The deservedly respected ‘Australian Motor Sports’- whose report of the race was written by by Bob Pritchett, one of Dick Cobden’s Ferrari pitcrew- offered a number of possible causes, none of them the real one, and a month later recounted what was termed “the correct story told to us by Stan Jones and Charlie Dean” which blamed chassis/axle contact which in turn put the car off line.

Brisbane’s daily ‘Courier Mail’ merely reported that Jones had crashed, and did not offer any possible reasons. General-motoring monthly ‘Wheels’ quoted “the official explanation” and “other probables” while obliquely making the point that “the car was in two pieces”. ‘Modern Motor’ came closest to an outright declaration. “Officials said a broken chassis had caused the accident…” its race report said, observing “the car appeared to split in two.”

Yet if this had happened it was remarkably quickly forgotten, and has never been referred to since in histories of the Maybachs. Without the ‘Modern Motor’ story there would have been no published clue to the real cause of the accident.

Only a remark by Len Allen sparked this book’s enquiry. He remembered how he and a mate had walked around the inside of the course, and had found a great spot to watch Jones, who was so spectacular they chose to wait for several laps purely to watch the Maybach aviate into view. On the critical lap, Allen remembers watching the Maybach touch down and immediately asking himself, “What’s happened to his ground clearance?” Allen and his mate joined the people running after the crashed car, which ended up hidden from the road down a trail of flattened scrub and trees. Allen was adamant something had broken on the car, and – while AMS, the Courier Mail and Wheels gave him no support- Modern Motor’s hearsay evidence suddenly became very credible.

In following up this issue, chapter and verse was willingly provided by Brian Burnett, the man who actually built the chassis at Repco. He explained that the two main chassis rails, of 4 inch 16g chrome molybdenum alloy steel, passed through holes in the diaphragm-type front cross-member and were completely electrically-welded in position. These welds crystallised and cracked, and in the course of the Grand Prix one chassis tube eventually broke away and touched the ground. It was as simple- and as enormous- as unfamiliarity with new materials and techniques.

The Maybach was not rebuilt in its Southport form, but emerged- after another incredibly fast revision- as the inclined-engine, offset driveline Maybach 3 which made its debut at Bathurst at Easter 1955. This car used locally-developed continuous- flow fuel injection, partly because at least two of its three 2 3/16-inch SU carburettors had been broken in the Southport crash. The amazing part was how little else had been damaged- not least the car’s remarkable driver.

Yet it was Stan Jones who became burdened with the responsibility for the accident. It was a situation which, 30 years later, (the AGP book was first published in the mid-eighties) says a lot about the rarity of mechanical failure at the time, and about the veneration which both then and today surrounds those wonderful Maybachs.’ Graham Howard wrote.

From top to bottom- Davison HWM Jag, Cobden Ferrari 125 and Brabham Cooper T23 Bristol (G Edney)

The question which flows from the collective non-reporting or misrepresenting the truth as to the cause of Maybach’s demise is why those choices were made by those who knew the facts?…

 Lets explore that, my ‘educated surmises’ are as follows.

 As Graham Howard wrote, the accident itself happened ‘out in the boonies’ away from the sight of large sections of the crowd or where the pro-photographers situated themselves. In the rush to rescue Jones the focus was rightly on him not so much the car. Not everybody had a camera then as they were expensive and iPhones were in short supply, so there is little in the manner of photographic evidence taken amongst the casuarina trees where Maybach came to rest.

 The racing scene in Australian then was very small with ‘everyone knowing everyone’ and Jones, Dean and all of the Repco crew were part of that scene, liked and respected. It is not the case that, unlike today, that ‘blame’ be sheeted home in a public way. Best we ‘keep it in the family’.

 Repco were the only corporate to provide significant support to motor racing in Australia at the time. Whilst Maybach 1 was built by Dean, the balance of the cars were built by Dean and his team with the tacit corporate support of Repco in the Repco Research premises in Sydney Road Brunswick. In fact this factory was where Maybach 1 was built before ‘Replex’, Dean’s electric transformer business was acquired and absorbed within the Repco conglomerate.

Jones certainly bought Maybach 1 from Dean but the commercial arrangements between Stan and Repco after that have always been opaque, but there is no doubt it was to their mutual advantage. When I say opaque I mean unknown not dodgy. Repco’s press advertisements of the day, on occasion used Maybach in its ads. Dean, a racer, engineer and arch enthusiast- and a Repco senior employee (and a decade or so later a Director of Repco Ltd) would have been intent on that Repco support continuing and therefore keeping quiet the accident. Jones equally wanted the support to race so the form of words given by he and Dean to AMS was a narrative which did not accurately portray what happened but were words unlikely to cause corporate offence or embarrassment to Repco- and at the same time making clear ‘chassis/axle contact put the car off line’ and in so doing sought to get Jones ‘off the hook’, unsuccessfully it seems, as the accidents cause.

 Repco were a major advertiser in the press of the day, that is the daily newspapers, general motoring magazines such as Wheels and Modern Motor and Australian Motor Sports, the racing specialist monthly. It would not have been in those publications commercial interests to put at risk valuable ad revenues by publishing the truth of the accidents cause in the event said ads were pulled as ‘retaliation’ for negative Repco press.

 Motor racing was still very much a fringe sport in Australia in 1954. The authorities (including the police) were downright antagonistic about motor racing generally and specifically about using public roads for that purpose, particularly in New South Wales. Negative racing publicity of any kind at the time was not needed by the sport as it sought to become more prominent, recognised and respected.

 Whilst negative press about motor racing was probably of no issue or concern to daily papers the general motor magazines and especially AMS would have been keen to avoid coverage detrimental to the growth of the sport, and therefore a circumspect approach by them makes sense. For the general press the day after the race they had moved on to the latest bit of death and destruction locally or globally.

 Its easy to take pot shots of course in retrospect. Hindsight is one of my strengths my sons tell me. But what would I have done, what would I have written in publishing the November 1954 issue if I were Arthur Wylie, racer, editor and owner of Australian Motor Sports- knowing the facts of the accident?

 Exactly what he did and wrote my friends in all the circumstances outlined above…

 For Davison the post race celebrations started when he saw the chequered flag, his wife, a noted racer herself was given the flag to greet Lex as he completed his final lap.

After the formalities trackside the HWM was driven on public roads from celebratory gig to gig by the very popular Davo who became increasingly pickled as the evening progressed. Different times, wonderful times.

Things were more serious in the Maybach camp of necessity, their debrief took place at the Chevron Hotel in Surfers. During these discussions Brian Burnett was stupid enough to tell Jones he had driven ‘too fast and recklessly’ only to have Stanley floor him with one punch. In the circumstances he is lucky the pugnacious, tough little nugget from Warrandyte didn’t launch him into the next decade.

Maybach would be back of course, Maybach 3 had more than a nod to the contemporary 1954 Mercedes Benz W196 but alas Maybach never bagged the AGP win one of the cars surely deserved?…

The Maybachs…

The feature I wrote about Stan Jones is as much an article about Charlie Dean’s Maybachs, click on the link below to read about this amazing series of three cars- albeit the cars were under constant evolution! as befits any ‘works’ racers, the cars effectively Repco factory entries.

In my analysis and assessment of Repco’s racing history there were a series of distinct steps which led to Repco-Brabham Engines P/L World Championship success in the mid-sixties. The first is the  ‘Maybach Phase’, the second the shorter ‘Coventry Climax FPF/Repco Phase’ and the next RBE itself. The final bit is the Redco Engine Developments P/L ‘F5000 Phase’ of 1969-1974. So, the Maybach piece is a long, critical foundation component to put its importance into the correct historical context.

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

(Wheels)

 

 

Bibliography…

Various newspapers via Trove, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ November 1954, ‘The History of The AGP’ Graham Howard and others, ‘Larger Than Life: Lex Davison’ Graham Howard, ‘From Maybach to Holden’ Malcolm Preston, Graham Edney Collection, ‘Wheels’

Photo Credits…

Eddie Steet, Brier Thomas, ‘Larger Than Life: Lex Davison’, ‘The History of The Australian Grand Prix’ (HAGP), ‘From Maybach to Holden’, Dick Willis, The Nostalgia Forum

Tailpiece: If only- Stan Jones, Maybach 2, Southport ’54, pressing on as usual, maybe he was a bit more of a ‘percentage driver’ towards the end of his career, maybe…

(HAGP)

Finito…

(K Drage)

Falls mainly on Warwick Farm, at least at its first open meeting it did, 18 December 1960…

Sydneysiders heap plenty of shite on Melburnians given our ‘four seasons in one day’ weather which does present its challenges to the ladies every now and again. Whilst I am a Mexican (Victorian) I am a Sydneysider by inclination having lived ‘in the guts’ of the place for nine wonderful years, in Observatory Hill/Millers Point. As a local when it does rain up there it can be sub-tropical in its intensity, it absolutely chucks it down in Cairns like fashion, as it did during the ‘Farms opening meeting- all of it.

Making like a duck in Kevin Drage’s opening shot is Derek Jolly, the wealthy Penfolds Wines heir’s equipe of Jaguar XK 140 Coupe and ex-works Lotus 15 Climax is behind him. Not sure how he fared in the Sportscar events, click hear for a feature I wrote about him and the Lotus a little while back;

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

(K Drage)

The photo above in the form-up area is #9 Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2, #21 Doug Whiteford’s Bib Stillwell owned Cooper T51 FPF 2 litre, then Stillwell’s red Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.5 and Austin Miller’s yellow Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2. Bill didn’t start the ‘Warwick Farm Trophy’ feature race so this is the lineup for the preliminary or before the Victorian Holden dealer pulled the pin.

The ‘Warwick Farm Trophy’ was watched by 12,020 soggy spectators and was won by Bib Stillwell’s T51 2.5 from John Youl’s 2.2 litre variant, then Austin Miller and Lex Davison’s big-bellowing six-cylinder Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre. In the following four years, when held in glorious weather, Warwick Farm attracted between 23,000 and 36,021 (1962) to its annual International Meetings- strong numbers to see the F1 stars of the day. It was most unfortunate to have such poor weather for the circuits first big meeting but it was not at all a portent of what was to come for ‘Gods Little Acre of Motor Racing’ for the next thirteen years.

Stillwell’s Rice Trailer behind Lex, the ‘Ringwood’ Rice is Patto’s (K Drage)

Lex’ Aston, chassis DBR4/250 number ‘4’ was powered by a 3 litre Aston DBR1 sportscar engine- Astons won the 1959 Le Mans and Manufacturers Championship with these wonderful cars.

Lex popped the front-engined car on pole- he came sooo close to winning the 1960 Australian Grand Prix at Lowood in it from Alec Mildren’s terribly clever Cooper T51 Maserati in June. Then Davo ‘crossed the fence to the dark side’ and raced a Cooper T51 to a somewhat lucky win in the ’61 AGP at Mallala.

Must get around to doing an article about these Aston’s in Australia, were there two or three?…

(J Ellacott)

John Ellacott’s grid shot above comprises Patterson, Davison and Whiteford (red), then Miller and Stillwell (red) . On row three is John Youl Cooper T51 FPF 2.2, Stan Jones blue Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.3 and Jon Leighton Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre (this side) A row further back Arnold Glass sits on his lonesome in a Cooper T51 Maserati 250S 2.5 then there is John Roxburgh Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Noel Hall Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2 and Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Spl XK120 3.4 litre and at the rear Alwyn Rose in the Dalro Jaguar 2 XK120 3.4 litre. As I said earlier the results I have say Patterson did not start so perhaps we lost him on the warm-up lap

David McKay’s Morgan Plus 4 #71 in the Sportscar race which he wins…

(J Ellacott)

Love this anecdote sent to me by journalist Ray Bell- ‘The first race ever at Warwick Farm was for sportscars and you have that pic of the Austin Healey leading McKay in the Morgan off the grid.

McKay dogged the Healey driven by Bob Cutler, until Cutler spun. McKay won, Cutler came in second. Later in the pits McKay went up to him and said, “You were never going to win that race, boy!”. And Cutler asked why.

“See his here” McKay said, pointing to the tiny service sticker on the window of the Healey (you know the ones, oil change due at x miles, with the oil brand or the servo name on it), “That’s advertising, I would have protested!”

Some people’.

For international readers, advertising as it also was in Europe, was banned on racing cars at the time.

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott

Special Thanks…

Ray Bell

Tailpiece…I don’t wanna get my feet wet! Derek Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax and ‘plug box contemplating a day for the ducks, and a damp practice session…

(K Drage)

Finito…

 

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(K Harris)

The Northern Territory entered Jaguar Mk7 of B Kingston and a Holden 48-215 line up for fuel at Bonds Chalet, Alice Springs during the 1953 Redex Round Australia Trial on 9/10 September…

It’s a quintessential Alice Springs scene, the red-brown parched soil and mid-green eucalypts framed in the distance by the MacDonell Ranges. Most of us of a certain age attended Primary Schools with artwork by Albert Namatjira, in these hues, hanging on the classroom walls.

Adelaide based Bonds Bus Tours provided ‘Parc Ferme’ and refuelling facilities for the rally in Alice Springs. These amazing photos were taken by a longtime employee, Kevin Harris. Rolled gold they are too, even though they are of the cars at rest, with one exception.

The post-war pent-up demand for entertainment, in those much simpler times was massive. Bouyed by an economy which was starting to boom, Australians turned out in their thousands to watch the progress of the 187 participants in the 1953 Redex Round Australia Trial.

In part it was because most roads west of Adelaide were challenging to say the least. The fact that the rules provided that cars were largely unmodified meant that the average man in the street could see how his car, or the one he aspired to own went created some interest. Cars were stock other than for underbody protection, carburettor, exhaust, lighting and instrument modifications.

Many of Australia’s better racing drivers competed, not that they were all household names by any stretch, but many were by the end of the decade in part due to their trial exploits in the years to come. The media, by the standards of the day provided massive coverage also fuelling the fire of public interest.

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Stan Jones Holden 48-215 and O Yates Austin A40 Atlantic, Stan a tough nut purpose built for an endurance event like this, even if his press-on style was not (K Harris)

Fifty thousand people lined the streets of Sydney from the start at the Sydney Showgrounds at Centennial Park on 30 August and lined the route through the major cities the circus traversed. Whilst the event was styled as a reliability trial it was effectively a race as we shall see. So there were plenty of acts of derring do and accidents aplenty.

Name drivers included ‘Gelignite Jack ‘Murray, the ‘Preston Holden Team’ of Holden 48-215’s driven by Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. David McKay and ‘Curley’ Brydon ran Austin A40’s and Jack Brabham a Holden 48-215. Norman (father of Alan) Hamilton, the Porsche importer entered a 356, Frank Kleinig a Morris Minor. Jack Davey ran a Ford Customline- the popular radio show host broadcast on local radio stations along the route and had a can of hairspray in the glovebox to look his best at all times. Bill McLachlan ran a Customline, Don Gorringe a Jowett Javelin, Peter Antill, a trials ace raced a Plymouth with Eddie Perkins in a Rover 75, Laurie Whitehead ran a Citroen and John Crouch a Peugeot 203, Ken Tubman another.

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Norman Hamilton, Porsche 356, I wonder if this car still exists? (unattributed)

The entry included all of the above as well as an Allard, Vauxhall Velox, Mercedes 200D diesels, MG TD’s, De Soto, Humber Super Snipes and a swag of big, strong 1948 Ford V8’s. In addition were Peugeot 203, Jaguar Mk7, Chrysler Airflow, Hudson Terraplane, Ford Anglia, Zephyr and Consul, Singer 9, Simca, Vanguard, Hillman, Riley and so on!

It isn’t my plan to cover the trial in detail but rather to showcase the Kevin Harris  photographs taken during the Alice Springs stopover on September 9 and 19 1953. A summary of the trial, a heavily truncated version of a couple of other articles follows.

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B Gurdon Austin A40 and Lex Davison Holden 48-215- the ever versatile Victorian racer/businessman was quick in anything or any sort of event from Trials to GP cars (K Harris)

Ted Hoy’s Chrysler Airflow, car #1 later to play a critical part in the result of the event, was the first to leave the showgrounds at 2pm, the last to travel along Driver Avenue was a Queenslander, Miss J. Hill aboard a Renault 750 at 11.33pm.

150,000 people lined the streets through Sydney’s northern suburbs to Hornsby to watch the start of this amazing 6500 mile adventure, the second longest event of this type in the world at the time. The first breakdown was a Jaguar Mk7 which died near the Hawkesbury River only 52 Km from the start!

The leaders averaged about 50 mph (80 km/h) up the Pacific Highway to Brisbane, with mechanical failure taking points from some of the novices. The first bad accident happened near Gin Gin, when Patience/Binks hospitalised themselves after rolling their Ford V8 down an embankment.

The field didn’t strike unsealed roads until after clearing Rockhampton. The challenges began with corrugations, culverts, cattlegrids, washaways, dry creek beds and everything else the vast brown land could throw at them. McLachlan, one of the favourites, lost two hours 15 minutes with water pump failure on his Customline, but still made the Mackay control on time.

In 24 hours’ rest at Townsville, the organisers counted 177 cars in control with 128 clean-sheeters.

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The Antill Chrysler Plymouth, no idea where (unattributed)

At this point the trial stopped being a rally and became a road race.

Word went thru the field that the organisers had decided that if several crews reached Sydney without loss of points, their times on the TownsvilleMt. lsa and Alice SpringsAdelaide sections would decide the winner. They were given 16 hours to cover the 609 miles (980 km) from Townsville to lsa. It was ‘game on’ amongst the racers.

Peter Antill’s Plymouth was fastest with an incredible 13:22. The first car to reach Mt. Isa was Possum Kipling’s, 14 hours 12 minutes after leaving Townsville. He had to get the control officials out of bed, he was so early!

Behind him was a nightmare of crashed cars, irate police and horror stories. Half the field was spread across most of Queensland. Bill McLachlan was directed wrongly in the middle of the night and drove 136 miles (219 km) off course before getting back on the right road, only to hit a cattle grid that had been de-guttered by the field. Stan Jones hit the same grid.

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Bonds Alice Springs vista ( K Harris)

Bill Murray rolled his Plymouth, Hamilton’s Porsche hit a kangaroo and deranged its front suspension, driving the rest of the way into the Isa on the undertray. The last car, Anderson in a Skoda, staggered into town after a 24 hour 44 minute trip following a trail of wreckage

The next stage over bitumen to Darwin, was 1098 miles (1760 km) the average set at 44 mph (71 km/h). Antill hit a galah (indigenous bird) which took out his windscreen, his car already had a cracked chassis.

McLachlan had broken his Customline’s diff housing, but the medium-sized cars, like the Holden of Kipling, who was second into Darwin, and the Rover of Perkins, 3rd into control, were in good shape.

‘Wheels’ magazine in its report of the trial wrote: ‘The myth that the only car suited for Australian conditions was the large American vehicle had been exploded’.

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‘Parc ferme’ #114 Charlie Deans Holden 48-215, the master engineer taking time away from his Repco Research/Maybach race preparation duties but no doubt keeping some kind of eye on his driver S Jones Esq in one of the other ‘works’ Holdens. Stan very much one of the quickest guys in Australia at the time and stiff not to win the Australian Grand Prix in Maybach 1 that November with mechanical problems ( K Harris)

From Darwin 132 cars set out for an easy drive down the bitumen to Alice Springs  for servicing and repairs at Tennant Creek, then on to the Alice.

At Alice Springs the field stopped at Bonds facilities as shown in the photographs. The cars were scheduled in from 8.51am on Saturday the 9th, and out, commencing 12.01am on the 10th.

Of the 41 clean-sheeters who departed Darwin, 38 were there when the field lined up for 368 miles (592 km) of desert to Kingoonya.

This stretch was considered impossible to cover in less than 48 hours- the organisers had set a time of 15 hours 10 minutes. In addition the field were given only one hour’s rest at Kingoonya before despatch for the 424 mile (682 km) run to Adelaide, an an average of 42 mph (68 km/h).

Lex Davison arrived in Kingoonya in an unbelievable 13 hours 39 minutes. Second was Possum Kipling in another Holden in 14:10. Tom Sulman, prominent racer, was fastest in his Humber Super Snipe when he emerged from the desert and drove south to Adelaide.

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Magic scene, the Cusso framed between the truck wotizzit? and old Shell bowsers. Driver is S Levy, NSW (K Harris)

By Adelaide there were 11 clean-sheeters. Crews had to be lifted from their cars after up to 60 hours at the wheel without a break!

 The road had decimated the field, who limped in with hair-raising tales of tying up rear suspensions with tyre chains, living underground at the opal mining settlement of Coober Pedy, jamming coir matting into a broken front end to keep going and crew members going crazy from the dust and heat.

The field of 11 clean-sheeters who left Adelaide faced only bitumen roads through to the finish in Sydney via Melbourne. They were Davison, Kipling and Davies in Holdens, Perkins (Rover), Tubman (Peugeot), Sulman, Ken Robinson and Jack Masling (Humber Snipe), Antill (Plymouth), Nelson (Vanguard) and David McKay (Austin A40).

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HR Smith, Pug 203 from WA, no idea where the crossing is (unattributed)

The journey was easier given the sealed roads and by this stage the police were very stroppy ‘about the crazy high speeds’. As a consequence the organisers threw in a special section or stage to help break up the field.

An 11-mile (17.7 km) stock route was chosen between Marulan and Bowral in NSW, part of a 30-miles (48 km) long elimination section which included a flooded river crossing, Paddy’s River. It was a metre deep with several cars being washed downstream.

Some drivers stopped and fitted protection in front of the radiator before entering the water, but the winner of the event, Ken Tubman was one who elected to drive right through. He stalled, but the 203’s engine restarted.

The Paddy’s River crossing and the strange action of Hoy, the man who had retired his Airflow at Mount Isa, got bogged, with the whole field held up for at least 30 minutes. The drivers naturally tried anything to get around him and save points.

No-one is quite sure what happened to whom or who set up the stage. The contest was so tight it took five hours for the Australian Sporting Car Club to work out that 37 year old Ken Tubman and his navigator, John Marshall won in their Peugeot 203 by 25 seconds from the Robinson Humber Super Snipe- 25 seconds after 10,500 kilometres of murderous country!

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Ken Tubman and John Marshall take the chequered flag in Sydney. Results not announced until some 5 hours later. Peugeot 203 (unattributed)

In one of those ‘Win On Sunday, Sell on Monday’ moments the victory caused a sales rush on Peugeots- every new Pug in the country was sold within a week.

The first Redex Trial went down in the annals of Australian automotive history as one of the harshest long-distance events ever run. It had everything- characters, heroes, bravery, stupidity, crashes, ingenuity and mayhem!

Off the back of its 1953 success, 31 203’s were entered in the 1954 Redex, that year won by Jack Murray’s Ford. Ken Tubman competed in rallies well into his sixties winning a re-run of the trial from ‘Gelignite Jack’ Murray in 1974. He also took part in a 1983 anniversary re-run in a Peugeot 505. He died at his Maitland, NSW home in May 1993.

Bibliography…

Redex.ru, Unique Cars and Parts

Photo Credits…

Kevin Harris

Tailpiece: End where we started with the Kingston Jag Mk7, here  lifting its skirts as it leaves Alice Springs…

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(Telegraph)

The highest paid Dunlop tyre fitter in the world attends to the needs of his Lotus 32B Climax, Warwick Farm, 1965…

Its practice prior to the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ so Jim Clark assists Ray Parsons in between on-circuit sessions on the Friday or Saturday before the race.

Its Frank Matich zipping by in his Brabham BT7A Climax, he was quick too, off pole and led Clark and Graham Hill for much of the first lap. He was 3rd, five seconds behind Brabham in 2nd with Jim a minute up the road from Jack in an emphatic victory.

Roy Billington, Brabham’s chief mechanic is the black clad dude to the left of Jim. In the white helmet is the tall, lanky frame of Frank Gardner and beside him his Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT11A Climax. A DNF for Frank that weekend with Coventry Climax engine dramas on lap 25.

(Telegraph)

In the photo above Roy Billington is tending Jack’s BT11A, its Jim’s Lotus behind. The tall fellow to the right, in the cloth cap is, I think Lex Davison- Lex retired on lap 3 with a busted steering wheel in his Brabham BT4, an odd failure for a driver of considerable deftness and touch.

‘Topless’ behind Lex is Jim Clark talking to Warwick Farm boss, Geoff Sykes- to the left near the pit counter is again Frank Gardner.

Its all happening, as I say…the first six home were Clark, Brabham and Matich, then Bib Stillwell, Brabham BT11A, Graham Hill similarly mounted in the Scuderia Veloce entered machine and then Kiwi Jim Palmer in his BT7A.

Credits…

Daily Telegraph, oldracingcars.com, Bruce Wells on The Roaring Season

Tailpiece: Jim and Lotus 32B Climax on the hop…

(Bruce Wells/TRS)

He is entering The Esses and has clearly given someone or something a ‘tap’, the nose of the Lotus is slightly bruised. I’ve written about this car, click here for the link; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/02/levin-international-new-zealand-1965/

Finito…

(more…)

lex davo rob roy

This fine George Thomas shot of Lex Davisons’ Alfa Romeo P3 ‘50003’ is undated but is in the mid-fifties, its become exposed over time which adds to its patina and drama of the occasion…

This wonderful Grand Prix car had to ‘sing for its supper’ in Australia, events were few and far between in the early post-war years. Davison was a keen competitor who raced his cars far and wide in trials, rallies, circuit races and hillclimbs like this one at the ‘Christmas Hills’ in Melbourne’s outer east.

The venue is still used by the MG Car Club, perhaps one of their historians can help date the shot.

Photo Credit…

George Thomas