Posts Tagged ‘Lex Davison’

lex aintree

2VEV Chassis # 0183/R…

‘2 VEV’ chassis # 0183/R was registered to John Ogier’s ‘Essex Wire Racing Team’ on 19 May 1961, the famous car was raced by Aussies Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell at Le Mans in 1961 alongside ‘1VEV’ driven by Jack Fairman and Bernard Consten.

The cars had factory support but the race was a disaster with both failing to finish due to head studs which had been insufficiently ‘torqued’, they had run as high as 15th and 17th behind the open Aston DBR1’s.

le mans start

Le Mans 1961 start;#1 Dewez/Kerguen DB4Z , #2 Fairman/Consten DB4Z, #3 Davison/Stillwell DB4Z, #4 Salvadori/Maggs Aston DBR1, #5 Clark/Flockhart Aston DBR1 all DNF! Race won by the Gendebien/Phil Hill Ferrari 250TR. (unattributed)

Both Davison and Stillwell, Australian multiple champions both, had immaculate Aston Martin connections, they raced GP Aston DBR4’s in Australia, Lex came within feet of winning the 1960 AGP in his at Lowood, Queensland, being pipped on the line by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati after a thrilling race long dice…the closest any of these wonderful but outdated cars came to a GP win. Lex also contested a few ‘Intercontinental’ races in the DBR4 for old 2.5 litre F1 cars in the UK in 1961.

davo

Lex Davison contesting an Intercontinental Formula race at Brands Hatch in his bruised Aston DBR4/250 ‘4’ in 1961. The car, 3 litre DBR1 powered came within feet of winning the Australian Grand Prix at Lowood, Queensland in June 1960. (unattributed)

Back in the Zagato, Lex Davison contested the 51 Mile GT Race at Aintree in July, winning the race after a battle with Jack Sears Jag E Type. He took the lead on the last lap and recorded the cars only race win ‘in period’. ‘Motor’ magazine reported that Davison ‘looked like the prosperous middle aged businessman that he is, rather than a dashing man about town’. In fact he was a champion middle aged racing driver…bloody poms, a four times winner of the Australian Grand Prix no less!

Jim Clark contested the 1961 TT at Goodwood in August, but the Ferrari 250’s were too quick, Salvadori and Clark taking 3rd and 4th respectively in ‘VEV1 and 2’.

‘2 VEV’ was lent to Equipe National Belge to race in the 1962 GP of Spa for GT cars. Lucien Bianchi led the race before losing the car and ‘totalling it’. In 5 weeks the car was rebuilt by the factory around a new chassis the car featuring a lower, flatter roofline, longer nose and tail and wider rear wheel arches than a standard DB4Z.

clarc

Oh So famous Goodwood shot of Jim Clark in Aston DB4 Zagato ‘2VEV’ Goodwood TT 1962. (unattributed)

Clark raced the car at the Goodwood TT in 1962 and was running 4th, he spun inexplicably whilst being lapped by Surtees, taking then both out and requiring more works surgery to ‘2VEV’. The car raced again in Clark’s hands in the Paris 1000km, but failed whilst driven by John Whitmore.

calrk and surtees

Surtees Ferrari 250GTO and Jim Clark’s Aston DB4 Zagato Goodwood TT 1962. Clrak spun taking John out, lap 62. Race won by the Innes Ireland Ferrari 250GTO. (unattributed)

The car then ran in minor events in Ogier’s ownership till 1964, it raced on into the late sixties and historic racing after that. ‘2VEV’ was damaged in a road accident in 1993 and was restored/rebuilt to its 1962 specifications, the car has had ‘more hits than Elvis’ as the saying goes…

goodwood start

1962 Goodwood TT start; Clark the bolter in his DB4Z,#15 winning Ireland 250GTO, #6 Surtees ill fated GTO, #5 Mike Parkes GTO, #8 David Piper GTO, #25 Trevor Taylor/Gil Baird Lotus Elite. (unattributed)

longford

Australia’s only DB4Z was owned by Sydney’s Laurie O’Neill. Here the car is pictured in the Longford paddock in 1962, it was raced in a support event by multiple AGP Winner Doug Whiteford. (Ron Lambert Collection)

The DB4 Zagato…
The Aston Martin DB4 GTZ was introduced in October 1960 at the London Motor Show. It was effectively a DB4 GT improved by Zagato in Italy, Ercole Spada is the designer credited with the work. It was smaller, more aerodynamic and lighter than the DB4GT. The Zagato’s engine produced 314 bhp 12 more than the DB4GT giving it a top speed of 154 mph.

Initially the factory planned to build 25 cars, but demand wasn’t strong, only 19 cars were built, although 23 chassis numbers were allocated. 4 modern ‘Sanction 2 Coupes’ were built on DB4 rolling chassis by Zagato in a project sanctioned by the factory in 1987 and completed in 1991.

The first competition outing of a DB4 GT Zagato was during the Goodwood Easter meeting in 1961. Driven by Stirling Moss the car finished 3rd behind an Aston Martin DB4GT and the winning Ferrari 250 GT.

motor show

1960 London Motor Show launch for the DB4GT Zagato.

Etcetera…

le mans paddock

John Ogier’s 2 Aston DB4 Zagato’s at Le Mans 1961 #3 Davison/Stillwell #2 Fairman/Consten(unattributed)

bernard reeves

Painting of the Davison/Stillwell DB4Z at Le Mans 1961. (Bernard Reeves)

Credits…

Ron Bert Collection, Bernard Reeves

 

12 th rob roy 1947

Its a very English car but not so the background, the year is 1947, driver a winner of the Australian Grand Prix…

Many thanks to contributor Stephen Dalton for correctly identifying the car and driver as Lex Davison and Bentley 4.5 litre s/c as the car, a big conveyance for that hill despite its open, fast flowing nature!

Lex entered the Bentley in the 12th Rob Roy Hillclimb in 1947. This picturesque venue, in the outer east of Melbourne in the Christmas Hills is still in use by the MG Car Club.

The stretch of main road which goes past Rob Roy’s location off Clintons Road a regular stretch for ‘early morning runs’ by car and bike enthusiasts heading into the Yarra Valley where drivers roads, wineries and fine food are plentiful.

davison 4.5 bentley 12th rob roy

lex davo

Who What Where and When?…its Lex Davison in his Alfa Romeo P3 ‘50003’…the where is a little more interesting?…

My writer/historian friend Stephen Dalton thinks its Fishermans Bend, Victoria at the 13 March 1949 meeting…the background looks bucolic to me so it may be Ballarat Airfield in 1950? All correspondence will be entered into.

The shot itself is by George Thomas, i tripped over it…ripper shot which catches the essence of these airfield circuits.

I will get around to writing about this wonderful Alfa in due course, on the basis that it is Fishermans Bend Davo won the 12 lap, 25 mile scratch race from Charlie Dean in Maybach 1, those of you who have read my Stan Jones article will be familiar with this car, Arthur Wylie in a Ford V8 Spl was 3rd.

Credits…

George Thomas, Stephen Dalton, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ 14 April 1949

davo nuri 1949

This fantastic shot of Lex Davisons’ Alfa Romeo P3 ahead of Doug Whitefords’ Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’, Nuriootpa, in South Australia’s’ Barossa Valley on 23 April 1949…

Look at the hay bales, stone houses characteristic of South Australia, the ‘Stobie’ light poles are still a feature of SA streets and the relaxed crowd. Captures the flavour of the day doesn’t it?

It’s funny where you find stuff. I was researching my article on Alf Barretts’ career and Alfa Monza a while back and tripped over this shot of Davo on the ‘South Australia History Hub’, but no details were provided. I knew who it was but not exactly when or where, Stephen Dalton fellow enthusiast/historian identified the place, date as well as the event.

‘The Vintage (as in wine vintage, the Barossa is a world renowned wine region) Festival Championship’ was a 25 mile event, 8 laps of the Nuri road circuit, it was reported in Graham Howard’s biography of Lex Davison, from which this article draws heavily.

As you will see from the cars described, the bulk of our elite fields were Australian Specials in the main, we are still several years away from a reasonable number of European GP cars on our grids and 5 years away from the ‘Red Car Period’ of the mid to late fifties, the factory cars then dominant.

The last AGP Win for an Australian Special was the 1951 Narrogin event in WA, won by Warwick Pratleys’ Ford ‘Flathead’ V8 powered George Reed Special. The last AGP win for an Australian built car was John Goss’ victory at Sandown in 1976 in a Matich A53 Repco F5000 car…Australian built but not a Special in the sense meant above!

nuri

‘The Vintage Festival Championship…’

‘Non-starters included Jack Days Talbot Darracq, Barracloughs Delage and Alfa Mercury. Cars were marshalled with the fastest at the back, Whiteford made the cleanest start. On his hammer was Jim Gullan Ballot Olds with Davison, Neale Ford V8 Spl, Wilcox Dodge Spl and Robinson Sunbeam Mercury, his car the 1922 GP Sunbeam fitted with a Ford V8 and with a body reminiscent of the Segrave 200mph car.’

‘In the next lap Davison passed Gullan and was right behind Whiteford, whose Ford V8 Spl was going very well, this car winning the 1950 AGP at this circuit, I covered this car a while back. Wilcox was close to Neale and behind Robinson.

Davo passed Whiteford by lap 4, the order remained unchanged from then. ‘Doug Whiteford did everything but tie knots in the Ford keeping up with the Davison Alfa and it was the first time he has been seeing really trying. The two leaders outstripped the rest by over a minute and a half and lapped the last man home…’

A great race and a portent of things to come from the two Melburnians… Davison the wealthy industrialist from Clendon Road, Toorak in the aristocratic GP Alfa and Whiteford the garage proprietor from Carlisle Street, St Kilda in the self built/developed but incredibly clever, quick Ford V8 Spl…several suburbs and poles apart but very much racing enthusiasts and champion drivers both.

4 AGP wins for Davison and 3 for Whiteford, some splendid racing was to follow in the ensuing decade from these two great competitors…

Credits…

SA History Hub, Graham Howard ‘ Lex Davison:Larger Than Life’, Stephen Dalton research

lex balcombe

Lex Davison’s ‘Little Alfa’ leads Lyndon Duckett’s Bugatti Type 35 Anzani, the brand new body of the Alfa gleaming in the Winter sun, Balcombe Army Camp, Victoria, Australia 12 June 1950…

The ‘race meeting’ at Balcombe was a small but historically significant part of Australian Motor Racing history, this wonderful shot is from the Dacre Stubbs Collection.

Balcombe paddock with Lyndon Duckett’s Bugatti T35 Anzani and the Davison Little Alfa in foreground (G McKaige)

It goes something like this, as reported in Barry Greens fine book ‘Glory Days’ which records the history of Albert Park in the 1950’s.

The army were keen to raise money for their canteen fund and asked the Light Car Club of Australia (LCCA) to run a race meeting using the grounds of their camp. The race meeting was a financial success, but key to the creation of a circuit was closure and use of a section of the Nepean Highway, the main road between Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula- permission was not forthcoming from the relevant authority

So the Balcombe meeting occurred as more of a sprint event given track limitations with two cars on the track at a time, and a series of eliminations on the day to determine the winners of the various classes.

Charlie Dean in Maybach 1- handsome and fast beast that it was, sold to Stan Jones a year or so later but maintained and developed by Charlie and his boys at Repco Research in Brunswick in the years which followed. Winner of the 1954 New Zealand GP in Jones’ hands. Recreated by John Sheppard in the eighties (G McKaige)

‘The Royal Australian Signals Corp Sprint’ for under 1500cc, ‘The Survey Corps Sports Sprint’ for over 1500cc and ‘Balcombe Apprentice School Trophy’ for outright cars were catchy names indeed!

Doug Whiteford won the outright final in his 1950 Australian Grand Prix Winning Ford V8 Spl, ‘Black Bess’, from Bill Patterson’s supercharged MG TC and Stan Jones HRG. All three were subsequently Australian champions and AGP winners.

Reg Hunt’s Hunt JAP ‘Flying Bedstead’ Spl, it’s engine installation pictured below. By 1955 he had raced 500’s for a year in the UK and was one of the fastest combinations back in Australia aboard a Maserati A6GCM- stiff not to win the AGP that year at Port Wakefield (G McKaige)

 

(G McKaige)

The historically significant bit is that when Bill Leech, lifelong competitor, car collector and LCCA President at the time discussed the meeting and its shortcomings as a circuit sans Nepean Highway with the Commander of Army Southern Command, he was asked ‘what can we use as an alternative’? Whereupon Leech replied ‘what about here?’. Here being Albert Park where Southern Command were based, and the rest as they say is history and covered a while ago in another post.

https://primotipo.com/2014/10/01/1956-argus-trophy-albert-park-reg-hunt-and-lex-davison-maserati-250f-and-a6gcm-ferrari-tipo-500/

Hobart Mercury 14 June 1950

In an amusing end to the weekend the Hobart ‘Mercury’ reported that the Melbourne Traffic Police Chief described many motorists returning from Balcombe as ‘reckless road-hogs’- harsh language indeed.

‘Many of them drove like whirlwinds’ in attempts to emulate the skilled drivers with several booked for speeding at 75 miles an hour. The racers themselves were spared the blame- perhaps the ‘need for speed’ stretch was the straight road from Mornington along past Sunnyside to Mount Eliza? I guess Pt Nepean Road is what we now know as the Nepean Highway.

Little Alfa aroca concourse

‘Little Alfa’ engine bay at AROCA Spettacolo, 2014. (M Bisset)

Balcombe will be well known to Melburnians of a certain age…

It was towards the top of the hill on the Nepean Highway as you leave Mornington and enter Mount Martha and these days is the site of a school, Balcombe Grammar and housing. The last army training units left the area in 1983.

For international readers Mount Martha, of which Balcombe is a part are on the shore of Port Phillip Bay, the vast expanse of water one can see in the distance on the AGP telecasts from Albert Park. The Mornington Peninsula, both it’s beaches and wineries are worthy additions to your tourist agenda when you visit!

The US Marines also played a part in construction of the circuit being credited with building both Uralla Road through the camp and Range Road locally to access a rifle range.

As World War 2 approached countries globally prepared for the inevitable, the 4th Division of the Australian Army were located at a camp in Balcombe on 209 acres of land compulsorily acquired from local landowners to defend Port Phillip and the Morninton Peninsula.

Tony Gaze, Alta Sports (G McKaige)

 

Derek Jolly, Austin 7 Spl over from Adelaide- road registered, I wonder if he drove his racer across? (G McKaige)

The army presence had a huge local impact, at the time their were 104 houses in Mt Martha- by mid 1940 over 3000 militia soldiers of the 4th division- trainees were located at four temporary campsites between the Nepean Highway and the coast just south of Bay Road.

Press reports at the time the camp was built said it was the most pleasant site for an army camp in the country, a point not lost on the ‘Army Brass’ one suspects, the Peninsula then as now is a popular summer playground.

The 1st US Marine Division, relieved from the strategically critical Coral Sea campaign at Guadalcanal, arrived in 1942 and used Balcombe Camp as a rehabilitation centre.

It became headquarters for the 1st Division of the USMC in 1942, the corp trained in the area including carrying out beach landing exercises using the ship ‘HMAS Manoora’.

Post war the Army Apprentices School was located there until 1983, and once, just once, it was used as a race track!

Davison ‘Little Alfa’…

duckett and davison rob roy 1946

Lyndon Duckett and Lex Davison, right, with their collections of cars at Rob Roy Hillclimb, Christmas Hills, Melbourne 1946. L>R. Ducketts’ 1908 Isotta Fraschini, Bug T35 powered by an R1 Anzani DOHC engine and Davisons’ ‘Little Alfa’ in 2 seater form as first modified by Barney Dentry, Mercedes SSK (Culture Victoria)

Lex Davison was one of Australia’s greatest drivers, the winner of four Australian Grands’ Prix and father and grandfather of two generations of racing drivers- grandsons Will and Alex are V8 Supercar Drivers and James an Indycar racer competing currently in Australia and the US respectively.

In 1950 Lex was still four years away from his first AGP win, he competed in everything everywhere and had just acquired an Alfa P3 in a progression which would take him to be a consistent front runner in the decade to come.

‘Little Alfa’ started life as a Tipo 6C 1500 ‘Normale’- chassis #0111522 was imported by Lex’ father in 1928 in chassis form as a road car. The original fabric body by Martin and King was replaced with a steel body built by Terdichs’ in 1945, both Melbourne firms.

Lex took over the car after the death of his father, Barney Dentry, a top driver of the day himself, stripped it and Kellow Falkiner built a two-seater body.

lex davo little alfa 11 th rob roy

Always an exciting driver, Davo contests the 11th Rob Roy 1946. This wonderful shot by George Thomas shows the lines of the car to good effect after its first evolution from Tourer to Racer (George Thomas)

 

lex cape schanck

Lex slightly! sideways at the second hairpin, Cape Schanck Hillclimb on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 1946. ‘Little Alfa’ here in ‘evolution 2’ not its final spec (Cars and Drivers #1)

 

Little Alfa, Balcombe 1950 (G McKaige)

John Blanden records that the car became well known over the following years and was set aside when Davison acquired a Mercedes SSK. Dentry again ministered to the car and before it was completed the P3 arrived from the UK…as a consequence the 6C1500  became henceforth the ‘Little Alfa’.

Dentry shortened the chassis, lightened the brakes, replaced the rear axle with one from a 1750 SS Alfa, fitted a Rootes cabin mounted blower and moved the engine back 6 inches.

The chassis was then taken to renowned race body-builder Bob Baker who constructed a derivative but distinctive aluminium single-seater body with a pointed tail.

The cars first outing was at Balcombe as recorded above, coming second in its semi-final. The Alfa didn’t race much, the P3 was the front line car until the AGP winning HWM Jag was acquired/built later.

The Little Alfa was retained by the Davison family and moved from property to property before finally being restored by Nick Langford’s restoration business in Castlemaine. It made its debut in December 1979.

little alfa amaroo

Lex’ son Chris driving in the car, with daughter Claire, post restoration, Amaroo Park Historics 1986. (Gordon Graham)

Little Alfa’ was run in historic events by Diana Davison, Lex’ widow and quite a driver in her own right, son Chris and WW2 Spitfire Ace and post war racer Tony Gaze, who married Diana in 1977. Chris, a very quick Formula Ford racer in period and historic competitor now, recalls with great fondness the car…

‘It was a massive honour for me to drive ‘Little Alfa’. The car was purchased by my grandfather in 1928 and used as the family car until his death in 1942. It was only then that Lex got hold of it and started racing it. Of course this is the same car that Lex and Di drove to Bathurst for their honeymoon and also became one of his first racing cars. But he only did a handful of races in it. I am not sure that it was going to be competitive and he got the opportunity to purchase the P3, or ‘Big Alfa’ as it was known in our house. This is why the cars were known as the ‘Little Alfa’ and the ‘Big Alfa’.

‘In terms of actually driving it, i am taller and broader than average so it was a real squeeze to fit in. We took out the seat and I sat on the floor on an old sheep skin. The first thing you notice is that it has an accelerator pedal in between the brake and the clutch, and this does take some time to get used to. With no actual fuel pump, you must ‘pump up’ the air pressure in the fuel tank with a dash mounted pump and if you get busy around the circuit its easy to forget to do this and next thing the engine starts to die from lack of fuel. The alcohol fuel used to cause problems with the supercharger freezing up, so it was very important to get the fuel mixture right’.

‘Being a tight fit in the car, I used to feel the chassis rails flex whenever I went around a corner or hit a bump.With no seat belts or roll bar, driving the car flat out up the back straight at Sandown was one of the most dangerous things I have done in motorsport, especially as I was virtually held in the car by a low piece of bodywork and hanging onto the steering wheel for grim life’.

‘The term ‘brakes’ could be described as an overstatement, ‘restrainers’ more accurate. The car weighed 1500kgs and with a blown 1500cc engine on alcohol, you picked up quite a bit of pace down the long straights. I did give the fence a whack at Sandown once when I arrived at the end of the old pit straight and had ZERO brakes. The mechanic had forgotten to adjust the length of the brake cable and the shoes were barely even touching the brake drums’.

‘The best the car ever drove was at the 1986 Amaroo Historic Meeting, i could actually get some attitude and drift going. Frank Gardner spoke to me after one of the races, he had been standing right on the start of the pit apron, where you would aim the car at the turn in point for the corner onto the straight. He commented that seeing the car in a full drift coming straight toward where he was standing sure got his attention!’

‘The biggest problem I had at that meeting was once I really got the car going well, the speed up the straight and through the kink was such that both front wheels vibrated very badly, which was a real concern when you were so close to the old quarry wall. In the wet the car was a nightmare with levels of understeer that could only be described MASSIVE. With very old tyres and little adjustment on the car, I used to use the handbrake on turn in to try and get the rear end to generate some changes of direction. But I walked a fine line and really had to get the timing right, requiring a flick into the corner, quick pull on the handbrake to get the rear to slide and power on to keep up some attitude. If you got it slightly wrong it was back to uncontrollable understeer and all I could see from the cockpit was a VERY long red bonnet and two front tyres wasting their time with massive levels of lock’.

‘It was fabulous to see Mum and Tony on the circuit in the ‘Little Alfa’ but Mum did find it difficult to drive. So we ‘retired’ the car after the 1986 Amaroo meeting satisfied that we had actually seen the car fire a shot in anger’.

davo amaroo 86 little alfa

Chris and Claire Davison in the ‘Little Alfa’ at the 1986 Amaroo Park meeting Chris speaks about in the text. These days Claire is a mum, she, husband Johnny and Chris race a team of 3 Reynard FF’s in Australian Historic Racing. Lex’ ‘Ecurie Australie’ races on…(Chris Davison)

http://www.theweeklyreview.com.au/geelong/well-read/cover-story/7082-motorsport-bloodline/?nav=Y2F0X2lkLzIyNg==

‘Little Alfa’ remained in the Davison family until sold some years ago but thankfully remains in Australia in the hands of a caring Alfista, the car has an entirely Australian history since it’s departure from Italy in 1928.

Chris Davison…’I know that all of our family are delighted to see Trevor Montgomery now driving the car at most of the historic race meetings in the south. I feel that he understands and respects our family’s connection to this unique car and unique piece of Australian motorsport history’.

gaze nd davisons rob roy

Paddock scene from gentler more relaxed times, Tony Gaze, Diana Davison and Lex, Rob Roy Hillclimb 1950. (Dacre Stubbs Collection)

 

little alfa sandown 2009

‘Little Alfa’ current custodian Trevor Montgomery and Chris Davison at Sandown Historics November 2009…looking as pristine as it did in 1950. (Chris Davison)

Etcetera- Balcombe…

(G McKaige)

Derek Jolly’s Austin 7 Spl, he later won the 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy- a decade hence aboard an ex-works Lotus 15 Climax. I wrote about he and his cars a while back.

 

(G McKaige)

 

(G McKaige)

Love these these two shots above of Lyndon Duckett and George McKaige preparing the Anzani Bugatti before the event on a frosty Melbourne day in ‘Duckett’s Lane’- Towers Lane behind Duckett’s Towers Road, Toorak home. Road car is a Rover P3.

(G McKaige)

 

(G McKaige)

MG K3 and Engine above- here unsupercharged.

Credits…

Chris Davison, many thanks for the recollections of driving the car and photos from the family collection

John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Barry Green ‘Glory Days’, ‘Cars and Drivers’ magazine, Dacre Stubbs Collection, Culture Victoria, George Thomas, Gordon Graham, Hobart Mercury 14 June 1950, George McKaige via his son Chester

(G McKaige)

Tailpiece: The New and the Old…

The Keith Martin (John Medley thinks) Cooper Mk IV JAP 1000- which must have looked ‘other worldly’ to the good citizens of the Peninsula in 1950.

The modern as tomorrow Cooper is nicely juxtaposed with Doug Whiteford’s self-built #4 pre-war ‘Black Bess’ Ford V8 Special which won that years AGP at Lobethal six months before- and on the day at Balcombe. There were no Coopers at Lobethal but two made the long trip to Narrogin, down south of Perth for the 1951 AGP, Martin’s car and a later MkV driven by John Crouch.

#1 is Tony Gaze’s Alta and to its right Maybach with the bonnet covered- there was plenty of life in the front-engined cars at that stage of course, but the mid-engined era was underway from that little factory in Surbiton.

Finito…

image

Reg Hunt, Kevin Neal and Lex Davison launch their ‘Italian Stallions’ off the line at the start of  Albert Parks’ 150 mile ‘Argus Trophy’…

Hunts’ #2 Maserati 250F won the race from Davisons’ #4 Tipo 500 Ferrari with Neal #3 third in Hunts’ old Maser A6GCM. Thats Tom Hawkes in the ex-Brabham ‘Redex Special’ #7 Cooper Holden Repco making its debut with that engine at this meeting. Arthur Griffiths in the ex-Davison 1954 AGP winning #5 HWM Jaguar is on row two. Further back is Bill Wilcox in the ex-Jeff Scorer, ex-works/Gaze #9 Alta and Bill Craigs’ ex-Whitehead, Holden engined and rebodied # 11 Alta.

There were two racing carnivals at Albert Park in 1956. This ‘Moomba’ Meeting (Moomba is still a marvellous annual Melbourne late Summer festival) in March and the Australian Grand Prix meetings after the Melbourne Olympic Games in the last weekend of November and the first in December. Similarly, the ‘Moomba’ meeting was held over two weekends, race days were Sunday 11 and 18 March 1956.

In  many ways the image symbolises an era of single seater racing just underway in Australia, the dominance of the current ‘Red Cars’ from Italy ending a period when the Australian Special, and older ex-works European cars held sway.

Racing at Albert Park…

Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Glory Days’, writes that their 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 with 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…

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

The three provided the combination of race organisation and 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 three groups the ability to raise funds in the aftermath of World War 2 was important. For the army funding for war widows and orphans, for Kennelly the ability to finance much needed improvements to the park to improve the local amenity for the working class community, and for the LCCA, the improvement of motor racing.

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

1953 was the commencement of Albert Parks ‘first phase’ as a race track lasting five short years until November 1958 when the naysayers again held sway…until 1996 when again the political pendulum swung in the sports and business’ favour, Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett ‘snatching’ the race from Adelaide…

image

Lex Davison #3 HWM Jag, Stan Jones #2 Maybach, and Doug Whiteford in the winning Lago-Talbot at the start of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, the venues first race meeting on November 21. Cec Warren #6 Maserati 4CLT, Frank Kleinig #7 Kleinig Hudson 8, W Hayes #10 Ford V8 Spl, and a badly smoking  Ted Gray #11 Alta Ford V8 (AGP website)

The Big Red Italian Cars…

I wrote about Reg Hunt a while back, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/19/reg-hunt-australian-ace-of-the-1950s/ .He was an Englishman with a family background in the motor-trade, who came to Australia in 1949. By 1953 his ealerships were doing well enough to return to the UK for a season of F3, in a 500cc  Cooper Norton Mk8 in 1954. He did well against the best and arrived back in Oz, razor sharp and with a big, red, modern, ex-works Italian car…

His ex-Gonzalez Maserati A6GCM started life as 1953 2 litre chassis # 2041 but was renumbered # 2503 after a 250F engine was fitted for the new 2.5 litre F1 which commenced in 1954. Sold to Harry Schell for that season it arrived in Australia late in the year and was first tested by Hunt at Fishermans Bend before being raced at Ardmore for the 1955 NZGP where he popped it on the front row along with Prince Biras’ 250F. Bira lead the race from start to finish, Hunt fifth in a field which included the Whitehead and Gaze Ferrari 500/625’s.

Hunt was stiff not to win the 1955 Australian Grand Prix in the A6GCM at Port Wakefield, a broken cam-follower slowing him and handing victory to Jack Brabhams Cooper Bobtail.

Not to be outdone, and needing to remain competitive, Lex Davison, the 1954 AGP winner acquired his good friend Tony Gazes’ Ferrari 500/625, the car fitted with a 625 engine enlarged to 3 litres. These Lampredi designed, big-bore 4 cylinder DOHC engines a mainstay of Ferrari single-seaters and sports cars throughout the 50’s.

In recent years, having passed into the ownership of the ‘Wheatcroft Collection’ in the early 60’s, the car has been identified as Tipo 500#5, Alberto Ascaris’ 1952 and 1953 World Championship winning chassis, the ‘winningest’ chassis of all time with at least ten Grands’ Prix victories…but at the time Davo had just acquired a competitive car which would be very kind to him in years to come.

It was Lexs’ first meeting in the car, a change in gearing a mistake in set-up which blunted the cars performance, but the promise of the combination was undeniable.

Having made such an impression with the A6GCM Hunt had no trouble convincing Maserati to part with a more recent mount, securing Jean Behra’s 1955 factory 250F, chassis #2516, the car winning non-championship Grands’ Prix in Pau and Bordeaux in that year.

Hunt won both the feature racing car events of the Moomba meeting. Davison second in both and Neal third in one, DNF in another, in the car the Melbourne transport business man was to buy from Hunt.

Before long Stan Jones also acquired a 250F, a more recent spec car than Hunts’.

The mid-engined F1 Coopers were not far away, but for the moment, a wonderful era of modern ‘Big Front Engined Red Racing Cars’ had arrived in Australia…ending with the 1959 Australian Grand Prix, but we will come to that !

al park

Reg Hunt leads Lex Davison , Maserati 250F and Ferrari Tipo 500, Albert Park ‘Moomba Races’ March 1956. Check out the trees, kerbs, and very thick chain wire fence on these everyday suburban roads within the park! Crowd of over 70,000 in attendance (museumvictoria.com.au)

 

park map

Albert Park Road Circuit 1950’s. Length 3.13 miles, direction of travel the opposite to the modern circuit which is true to, if not identical to the spirit of this fabulous, historic venue. Barry Green ‘Glory Days’

 

british gp

Alberto Ascari #5 in the Gaze/Davison Ferrari Tipo 500/5, alongside Froilan Gonzalez #24 in the Hunt/Neal Maserati A6GCM/2041/2503 at the start of the 1953 British GP at Silverstone which Ascari won. #8 is Mike Hawthorn, behind him #7 Luigi Villoresi both in Ferrari Tipo 500’s. The wheel on the far right is Fangio in a Maser A6GCM. The blue car beside Hawthorn is Onofre Marimon also in a Maser A6GCM. The green car behind Villoresi is Tony Rolts Connaught Lea Francis , and beside him the green car with white noseband is Ken Whartons’ Cooper Bristol. (Mirror Archive)

Credits…

‘Glory Days’ by Barry Green; oldracephotos.com, museumvictoria.com.au, AGP Website, Mirror Archive

Finito…