Posts Tagged ‘Maserati 250F’

spanish grand prix

Maurice Trintignant’s 1953 type Ferrari 625 from Harry Schell’s Maserati 250F and victor Mike Hawthorn’s 1954 type Ferrari 553 on the picturesque Pedralbes road circuit at Barcelona, 24 October 1954…

This event was famous for the race debut of the Lancia D50’s in the hands of Alberto Ascari and Gigi Villoresi, both were quick and Alberto led convincingly from Fangio’s Mercedes W196 until a clutch hydraulic failure caused his retirement.

The three drivers above had a great dice and all led at different points with Hawthorn taking the victory. Schell retired after a spin damaged his car and Trintignant with a fractured oil pipe. Hawthorn’s win was a good one made slightly easier by the problems Fangio was dealing with in his Benz, his W196 spraying oil into the cockpit.

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The Ascari #34 and Villoresi #36 Lancia D50’s, just unloaded at Pedralbes for an event which showcased Vittorio Jano’s design brilliance as well as the sublime skills of Alberto Ascari. Such a pity Lancia ran out of money! Still a world title as a Lancia Ferrari D50, and drivers title for Fangio in 1956 was a great reflection on the original design even if it had ‘evolved’ a bit by then (unattributed)

I’m leaving Australia’s winter for 3 weeks in France and Spain including Barcelona so look forward to retracing the street circuits of  Montjuic Park and Pedralbes whilst based in one of my favourite cities. My posts will be shorter over this period.

YouTube Race Footage…

Photo Credit…Yves Debraine

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Juan Manuel Fangio eases his Maserati 250F through Tatts Corner,  Aintree, Liverpool during the 1957 British Grand Prix on 20 July…

Fangio qualified 4th but retired on lap 49 with engine problems, its an amazing shot ‘the maestro’ looks so relaxed at the wheel. Its the cover shot of a book i have, much of my library is in storage, a real pain in the arse in terms of access to research material, maybe one of you have the same book and can recall the title?

The race itself was a Vanwall benefit; Moss lead then took over Brooks car when his own engine went off song, Stewart Lewis-Evans Vanwall also lead briefly before being passed by Moss, he and Brooks shared the win from the Lancia Ferrari 801’s (LF801) of Luigi Musso and Mike Hawthorn.

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Stirling Moss in Tony Brooks Vanwall VW57, Aintree 1957 (Michael Turner)

This article is pieced together around a swag of photos of Fangio aboard Maserati 250F’s in 1957, in many ways the combination defines the 1950’s for me. The greatest driver of the decade in its quintessential car, it may not have been the fastest of the era but for sure it provided a platform for so many drivers from journeymen (and women) to gods, to strut their stuff.

Monaco, 19 May 1957…

Between Moss who left Masers to join Vanwall and Fangio who left Ferrari to join Maserati the seven 1957 championship rounds, ignoring Indianapolis, were mopped up by those two drivers- Juan with 4 wins and Stirling 3.

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Fangio’s Maser 250F being unloaded from its transporter in Monaco

Fangio made the 250F sing, the car was towards the end of its long competitive life with the great Argentinian extracting all it had to offer. He was at the height of his powers, I don’t doubt he retired at the right time, he was 46 years of age by the end of the season after all.

Having said that it would have been fascinating to see if he could adapt to mid-engined cars, I don’t doubt he would have had he raced on for a few more years. But best to retire at the top, and alive. So many elite sportsmen and women do that one season too many, Michael Schumacher for one, Fangio did not.

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# Carlos Menditeguy DNF spin and #34 Giorgio Scarlatti DNF oil leak in the Officine Maserati garage, Monaco 1957. 250F x 2

Fangio popped his 250F on pole in the Principality but Moss led into the first corner with Fangio behind him. Sterling went off and crashed at the chicane on lap 4 with Collins, LF801, taking exasive action and hitting a stone wall as a result! Fangio managed to get through without a problem and Brooks Vanwall braked hard only to be rammed up the chuff by Hawthorn’s Fazz.

Only Brooks was able to keep going- but he was 5 seconds behind Fangio by the time he was up to speed again. Jack Brabham was up to 3rd late in the race in his little Cooper T43 Climax. It was a portent of the 1958 breakthrough win for a mid-engined car by Moss in Argentina, but had to push the car home as result of fuel pump failure, Jack was classified 6th, with Fangio ahead of Brooks, Masten Gregory in a Maserati, Lewis-Evans Vanwall and Trintignant LF801.

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Fangio during Monaco practice in Giulio Alfieri’s 250F V12. The 60 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, 24 plug, Weber fed 2.5 litre engine developed circa 300-320bhp at a dizzy 10500rpm, about 50bhp more than the venerable inline 6 but the power was all at the top of the band. The engine had conrod and valve spring troubles early in its development too. Behra raced one in the Italian GP, he chomped thru tyres, such was the engines power and then retired with a lubrication problem. The engines time would come, but not for a decade!

Whilst the 250F was in the Autumn of its life Maserati were still developing the thing, not least with a 2.5 litre, quad-cam, 2 valve, Weber carbed 300 odd bhp V12. Fangio is putting some development laps into the thing at Monaco above.

The engine raced only once at championship level at Monza 1957, but suitably evolved in 3 litre, fuel injected form won a race or two mounted in the back of Cooper’s T81 and T86 in 1966/7. (Wins for Surtees ’66 Mexican GP and Rodriguez ’67 South African GP, both in T81’s)

An interesting Australian sidebar to this Maser V12 is Frank Gardner and Kevin Bartlett testing a 2.5 litre variant in the butt of a ‘cut and shut’ Tasman Brabham BT11A in February 1966. Sydney Alfa/Maserati dealer and former Australian 1960 Gold Star Champion and AGP winner Alec Mildren used his impeccable Maserati connections to score the engine which the team sussed as an alternative to the venerable Coventry Climax 2.5 litre FPF  which was the Tasman staple moteur at the time. Simply put the engine was like an on/off switch in terms of its power delivery, then blew, which rather settled the matter of a ‘Warwick Farm 100’ start. A story for another time.

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Fangio, quayside at Monaco in 1957, enroute to victory. He won in Argentina, Monaco, France and Germany. The Vanwalls won in Britain, Pescara and again in Italy at Monza; Moss/Brooks, Moss and Moss

The thing that always amazes me when looking at photos of Fangio is just how relaxed at the wheel he is. It’s key to great lap times, if you are that tense that your butt-cheeks grab the seat cover as you alight your racer you are definitely not going to feel what your steed is doing to extract the best from it! I remember Frank Gardner talking to me about this very point several decades ago.

When the laconic Aussie all-rounder returned home in 1975, in that first year he drove Bob Jane’s Holden Torana Chev Sports Sedan and fronted the Jane/Gardner Racing Drivers School at Calder. He wasn’t there much. In fact ex-Aussie F3 driver/mechanic and later Hardman F2 designer/builder Jim Hardman did most of the driver instruction aided by Andrew Newton, who also raced with some success. Both of them looked after the fleet of Elfin 620B Formula Fords driven by the bright eyed hopefuls, of whom i was one.

Anyway, on this particular frigid July day ‘ole FG was in effusive mode telling me about both the car setup advice and driver coaching he was giving to a well known fellow who had not long before jumped up from Formula Ford to F5000-105bhp to 500bhp is a big step.

His central point in talking about ‘the big car challenge’ was all about relaxing in the car- having soft hands and gentle feet and just being able to, as a consequence of not being so tense, feel what the car was doing and therefore be able to push the thing to its limits by  better sensing said limits when reached…Easy to say of course, harder to do especially when you have 500bhp of fuel injected Repco-Holden V8 shoving you ferociously towards the horizon!

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FG would have approved of Fangio’s relaxed demeanour in a car. Don’t confuse my meaning with the ferocious competititiveness and delicacy of control that went with the outer calm one can see here!

Fangio never looks anxious whether he is being closely followed at Monaco in third gear or drifting through the very high speed swoops of rural France at over 140mph in fifth.

It was magic to observe Fangio’s car control at close quarters when he was 67 years old and booting his W196 Benz sideways lap after lap in third gear through Sandown Park’s Shell Corner, only 30 metres away, during ‘The Fangio Meeting’ in 1978. The sight of this grand man of racing flicking the bellowing, powerful straight-8, silver beastie around is forever etched in my memory.

Cool, calm, collected, composed and FAST! Exactly as he was in 1957…

French GP, 7 July 1957…

The classic was held at the super fast Rouen-Les-Essarts road circuit in Grand-Couronne and Orival, northern France.

There are so many wonderful 250F shots of Fangio in 1957 drifting the sublimely forgiving chassis at well over 140 mph on public roads through wooded hillsides. I’m not suggesting, in describing the car as forgiving, it was easy my friends!

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Crusin’ in having set pole i wonder? Rouen 1957. The lines of the 250F in 1957, here it’s Fangio’s ‘regular ‘Long nosed, lightweight’ chassis ‘2529’ spec are perfect, inch by sculpted inch. The cars epitomise everything great about Italian racing machines. Alfieri’s ’57 lightweight chassis was 40% stiffer than in ’56 with greater rear weight bias-48/52% front/rear. The 250F was maybe not quite the fastest tool in the 1950’s shed but it was close to it, enduring and capable of winning the 1954 and 1956 titles in addition to ’57 with more luck or the right bloke behind the wheel all season! No-one was going to beat Fangio in a W196 Merc in 1955 i don’t think

Fangio was fastest from Behra and Musso also on the front row. Behind them were Schell 250F and Collins then back a row Salvadori, Vanwall VW57 Hawthorn and Trintignant. At the jump Behra lead but Musso soon got ahead. Fangio was 3rd then Collins and Schell giving chase and then a fast-starting McKay-Fraser, BRM P25. Fangio worked his way past Behra on lap 2 and then took Musso for the lead on lap 4.

Collins got past Behra and the order remained unchanged at the front all the way to the flag with Fangio winning from Musso and Collins. Behra slipped behind Hawthorn, giving the Lancia-Ferrari 801 a 2-3-4 finish behind Fangio.

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Hang on…Fangio indulging in one of his signature, oh so fast, oh so subtle and oh so wonderful, delicate, four wheel drifts. Poetry in motion innit!? Wonder who or what he tapped?

Germany, Nurburgring, 4 August 1957: Greatest GP of all?…

Fangio’s heroic drive at this most demanding of circuits proved to be his greatest ever drive and one of the best in the history of Grand Prix racing.

Fangio took pole with Hawthorn, LF801 Behra, 250F and Collins LF801 completing the front row. Then came Brooks, Schell and Moss on Vanwall VW57, 250F and Vanwall VW57. At the start Hawthorn and Collins battled for the lead with Fangio and Behra giving chase. On lap 3 Fangio passed Collins and soon led. Collins then passed Hawthorn and chased after Fangio with the great man edging gradually away.

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Nurburgring 1957: Hawthorn and Collins, L Ferrari 801, Fangio and Behra 250F, then Moss and Brooks Vanwall VW57, Masten Gregory’s white Maser 250F, Lewis-Evans Vanwall VW57 and the rest…

A slow mid-race pit stop, scheduled for 30 seconds, lasted 1 minute and 18 seconds. One of the mechanics dropped the wheel hub nut under the car, it couldn’t easily be found! This left Fangio a minute behind the two Ferraris but then the chase was on! He drove absolutely at the limit, at the ragged edge of the cars capabilities, chasing down the two much younger men.

Fangio famously broke the lap record 10 times and passed both Collins, and then Hawthorn on the penultimate lap. Fangio won the race and in the process, his 5th and final World Title in a drive still spoken about in reverential terms and forever remembered whenever the great GP races are considered.

Pescara GP, 16 August, The Coppa Acerbo…

The FIA included the Coppa Acerbo, Pescara GP in the World Championship for the first time given the cancellation of the Dutch and Belgian GP’s early in the season due to squabbles about money. The daunting, dangerous 16-mile road circuit on the Adriatic Coast, still used then for non-championship events was the longest ever for an F1 race.

Ferrari didn’t bother to send 801’s for Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins as the World Championship had already been won by Fangio and partly as a protest against Italian government’s move to ban road racing following Alfonso de Portago’s, Ferrari 335S Mille Miglia accident earlier in the year. Local boy Luigi Musso convinced Ferrari to lend him a car however, which he entered as a privateer. Shades of NART entries in the 1960’s when Ferrari wanted to protest, but not too much!

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Shot at left shows Fangio’s Maser having a rear wheel replaced after spinning on Musso’s engine oil and danaging it

The Pescara battle was between Maserati and Vanwall and resulted in a Maserati pole for Juan-Manuel from Moss’s Vanwall VW57 and Musso’s ‘private’ Ferrari 801.

Musso took the lead but Maserati 250F privateer Horace Gould hit a mechanic who was slow to get off the grid. Brooks retired his Vanwall VW57 early with mechanical troubles. Moss took the lead from Musso on lap 2 from Fangio in 3rd but the field thinned as the heat took its toll; Lewis-Evans, Vanwall with tyre failures, Behra 250F engine failure. Then Musso disappeared on lap 10 when his engine blew, the oil caused Fangio to spin and damage a wheel. When Fangio rejoined, Moss had an unassailable lead, he won the race ahead of Fangio, Schell in 3rd ,Gregory 4th and Lewis-Evans 5th.

Fangio won the World Championship on 40 points from Moss and Musso on 25 and 16 points respectively. Maserati 250F, Vanwall VW57 and Lancia Ferrari 801.

Credits…

All photos by Louis Klemantaski/Getty Images, Michael Turner

Tailpiece: The Maestro, Karussell, Nurburgring, Maser 250F  chassis ‘2529’ German Grand Prix 1957, history being made. Majestic shot…

fang germany, karu

 

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(LAT)

Stirling Moss leads the 1956 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in his works Maser 250F…

The dark, gloomy, wet weather shot could be in Europe. Stirling won the 80 lap, 250 mile race held on 2 December 1956 by a lap from teammate Jean Behra, Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo, Reg Hunt’s Maser 250F and Stan Jones similar car.

The excitement of this post Melbourne Olympic Games race meeting run over two weekends I covered in an article about the Australian Tourist Trophy which Moss also won the week before, in another works Maser, this time a 300S, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/01/29/1956-australian-tourist-trophy-albert-park/

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Moss during the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix metting in Rob Walker’s Cooper T45 Climax. He raced sans the rear engine cover in the final, such was the heat, so this is a practice shot or heat (Fairfax)

This short article is pictorial in nature, I rather like the justaposition between his win in the conventional, state of the art 250F in 1956 and victory 2 years later in the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix. This time  Stirling was in a paradigm shifting, mid-engined Cooper, in this case a T45 Climax. He took the first modern era, mid-engined GP win on January 19 1958 in a Cooper T43 Climax at the Buenos Aires circuit in Argentina.

Stirling won that 32 lap, 100 mile Albert Park, Melbourne GP race run in super hot conditions on 30 November 1958 from Jack Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax 2.2 FPF.  Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maser 250F were 3rd and 4th. The race was an F Libre event attended by over 70000 spectators. Brabham led away at the start but Moss soon passed him and moved steadily away keeping a strong lead despite easing in the final laps given his cars water temperature, which was off the Smiths clock!

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The two Cooper T45’s were the class of the field, Moss and Jack took a heat apiece. Stirling’s car was fitted with an Alf Francis built Coventry Climax FPF, 4 cylinder DOHC, 2 valve, Weber carbed engine of 2051cc, it was a ‘screamer’ with trick cams and crank. Jack’s T45 toted a 2.2 litre FPF, revised ‘Ersa’ 5 speed ‘box and double wishbone rear suspension.

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Jack’s Cooper being fettled in the Albert Park paddock in 1958, probably a practice day shot, T45 Climax (G Rhodes via KBY191)

Brabham was still on the rise as a driver, he raced in F2 in 1958 (and in the F2 class of some GP’s) but took 4th in the Monaco classic, 6th in the French, 7th in the Portuguese and 8th in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort-all in works F1 Cooper T45’s. His time was shortly to come of course in 1959 and 1960.

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Moss takes the chequered flag in his Cooper T45, Melbourne GP, November 1958 (LAT)

Sadly, the 30 November 1958 Albert Park race was the last race meeting until the modern Albert Park era which commenced with the first of the F1 Grands Prix in 1996. Or more precisely some historic events in the years before which softened up the public to the concept. The use of the park for motor racing became enmeshed in Victorian State politics, the net result was the end of racing for nearly forty years.

Barry Green observed in his book, ‘Glory Days’; ‘In many ways that final meeting represented a changing of the guard. The two nimble, little, rear-engined cars had blitzed the field, underscoring the fact that the writing was on the wall for the big, front engined cars. So too, the days of the wealthy sporting amateur, of racing for a silver cup and the fun of it all. Professionalism had arrived-to see that, one had to look no further than the darkening sky over Albert Park; to a hovering helicopter , about to pluck Stirling Moss from the crowd and whisk him off to Essendon Airport and connections to the Bahamas for the Nassau Speed Week’.

Checkout this fantastic BP film, supporters of Moss’ attendance at the event, of the 1958 Melbourne GP meeting…

Bibliography…

‘Glory Days-Albert Park 1953-8’ Barry Green

Credits…

stirlingmoss.com, LAT, Fairfax Media, Graham Rhodes

Tailpiece: And a fine tail it is too. Moss, Maser 250F and mechanic in more recent times. ‘I won’t remember your number, text me’ is the gist of the conversation…

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(unattributed)

 

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The 1957 German Grand Prix is famous as one of the greatest ever; Fangio’s Maser 250F chase and defeat of Hawthorn and Collins in their Lancia Ferrari’s is the stuff of legend…

These two photos reminded me of that day and a car then in the Autumn of its long life as a front line tool. First raced in 1954, by the end of 1957 the 250F had finally won the world title it deserved albeit Fangio made it sing that year, not so sure the title would have been Maserati’s without the great Argentinian behind the wheel.

Behra’s 6th place at the Nurburgring is perhaps more indicative of the cars pace with a ‘mere mortal’ behind the wheel. Actually that’s not fair, the 250F was a top three or four car with a driver of Behra’s calibre in 1957, there was plenty of depth in the field though with the Vanwalls as well as the Lancia Ferrari 801’s.

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German GP ’57 first lap; Hawthorn and Collins, then Fangio and Behra, works Lancia Ferrari and Maser 250F’s. Then Moss and Brooks in Vanwall VW57’s, look closely and you can just see the top of Musso’s helmet in the other Lanc Ferrari between the two Vanwalls then Gregory’s white Maser 250F and the rest (Klemantaski)

Have a read of my 250F article; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/21/stirling-moss-monaco-gp-1956-maserati-250f/

The opening shot I love, partially because of the time of change it heralds. The front-engined Maser with its wire wheels, knock on spinner cap, finned drum brakes and forged suspension components will shortly be supplanted by Cooper alloys, discs and fabricated wishbones. Moss won the Argentine GP in a Cooper T43 Climax 6 months later, the day of the front-engined GP car wasn’t over but it was on the approach.

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The shot above is of Guerino Bertocchi, Maserati’s famous engineer/mechanic/tester trying to breathe some life into Behra’s 250F in the Nurburgring paddock also in ’57. Marvellous cars.

Checkout this Race Footage…

https://youtu.be/5PCYsRgUvpk

Credits…

Klemantaski Collection, Graham Gauld

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Tailpiece: Bertocchi about to test Masten Gregory’s Centro Sud prepared, Scuderia Buell owned 250F #2534 at Modena in September prior to the 1958 Italian GP at Monza of course…

Masten raced #2533 at Monza, this car wasn’t handling well so he switched chassis.

World Champion in 1957, the Masers were make-weights in 1958, the best placed of the beasties that season in championship events were fourths; Fangio’s in Argentina and Reims, his very last GP start, and Masten’s car at Monza. For the record the best of the non-championship results was Jo Bonniers 2nd in the GP de Caen.

Finito…

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Stirling Moss practices his works Maserati 250F at Monaco on 13 May 1956…

Photographer Louis Klemantaski took the shot from his hotel balcony, the long shadows are early morning light. He won the race. Checkout this article on the 250F and this race i wrote a while back; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/21/stirling-moss-monaco-gp-1956-maserati-250f/

Credit…

Louis Klemantaski

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(Pat Smith/oldracephotos.com)

Stan muscling his big Maserati 250F around Longford in 1959 en-route to his one and only Australian Grand Prix win…

The win was timely, he was monstered all the way by Len Lukey’s Cooper T43 2 litre, the way of the future of course. ‘Twas the last AGP win for a front engined car, mind you Lex Davison came within metres of winning in an Aston Martin DBR4 at Lowood, Queensland in 1960.

Stan’s was a well deserved victory, he and his team lead by Otto Stone had a car which was consistently and reliably fast. Perhaps his driving now had a more measured approach to match the fire and pace which was never in doubt.

The Stan Jones story is an interesting one, click here to read it;

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

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Jones at the wheel of his Maser, 1956 AGP Albert Park. Lovely portrait of the guy and looking quite the pro driver he was! (unattributed)

Jones gave his Gold Star defence a red hot go in 1959 having won the title in 1958, he raced four cars in his quest.

He didn’t race in the season opening event in Orange, NSW. Jack Brabham won in a Cooper T51, but he wheeled out his Maybach for Fishermans Bend’s ‘Victoria Trophy’ on 22 February. He finished second t0 Alec Mildren’s Cooper T43.

Stan hadn’t raced the Maybach for years but had retained it. His friend and fellow racer Ern Seeliger evolved the car by replacing the Maybach engines which had been at the core of Maybach’s 1-3 with a Chev Corvette 283cid V8. The car also had a De Dion rear end and other clever modifications.

He swapped back into the Maser, winning the AGP at Longford on 2 March.

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Stan in the big, now blue Maybach 4 Chev beside Alec Mildren’s Cooper T43 Climax at fairly desolate Port Wakefield, SA, March 1959. (Kevin Drage)

He switched back to the Maybach for the ‘SA Trophy’ at ‘Port Wakefield’ on March 28, winning the race. Crazily, the next round of the title was at Bathurst on 30 March, two days later. Very hard for contestants to make that trip from SA to Central NSW now, let alone with the road system of 1959!

Stan flew to Bathurst to drive the Maser. Whilst he won his heat he had engine dramas in the final and failed to finish, victory was taken by Kiwi Ross Jensen in another Maserati 250F.

He used the Maybach again at Lowood on June 14, he was third, then swapped back to the Maser for the next round, again at Lowood on 30 August, hitting a strawbale and failed to finish.

The reasons for the choice of car at each meeting would be interesting to know but are probably a function of vehicle availability and suitability. Which was the primary and which the secondary factor meeting to meeting no doubt varies…

‘Mid-engined inevitability’ was clear though despite none of the Australian Cooper exponents being able to secure a full 2.5 litre FPF Coventry Climax engine…yet. The ‘mechanical mice’ as Lex Davison christened the Coopers were only going to get quicker.

Whilst his fellow competitors were back at Port Wakefield for the 12 October meeting Stan was doing a deal with Bib Stillwell to buy his Cooper T51 2.2 FPF, chassis ‘F2-20-59’, the first of several T51’s Stan raced.

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Stan Jones, Cooper T51 Climax, Caversham, WA October 24 1959. (Dave Sullivan Album)

He soon got the hang of the car, after all he had been an ‘air-cooled’ Cooper exponent earlier in the decade, finishing second to Len Lukey’s Cooper at Caversham, WA.

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The Jones #3 Cooper T51 beside Len Lukey’s earlier model T43, Caversham August 1959. Lukey the Gold Star winner in 1959 driving both Cooper T43 and T23 Bristol. (Dave Sullivan Album)

The final rounds of Australia’s longest ever Gold Star series were Phillip Island’s ‘Westernport Cup’ and ‘Phillip Island Trophy’ races on 22 November and 13 December respectively.

Jones brought his ‘roster of cars’ to four for the year when he drove Ern Tadgell’s Sabakat (Lotus 12 Climax) after damaging his Cooper in a collision with Lukey. The Cooper was too badly damaged to start, as was Lukey’s but Stan, very sportingly was lent the Sabakat by Tadgell.

Lukey won the 1959 title from Alec Mildren by 2 points with Jones a distant third. Mildren’s time would come in 1960 with fabulous AGP and Gold Star wins in a new Cooper T51 Maserati he and his team built over the summer.

Sadly it was the ‘last full-blown’ Gold Star campaign for Jones, economic pressures from 1960 on meant he did a few title rounds but was not a serious title contender, although still a tough competitor in any individual race he entered.

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Stan settles into his Cooper T51 at Caversham. (Dave Sullivan Album)

Photo Credits…

Pat Smith/Oldracephotos;  http://www.oldracephotos.com/content/home/

Dave Sullivan Album, Kevin Drage

Tailpiece…

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Equipe Jones at Albert Park during the 1956 AGP won by Moss’ 250F. International truck and the ‘Rice Trailer’, was the ‘ducks guts’, still a few of these around and highly prized (unattributed)

Finito…

 

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de Filippis in the cockpit of her Maserati 250F. Monza, Italian Grand Prix 1958…

de Filippis started racing Fiat 500s aged 22 after her brothers bet her she couldn’t drive fast. In 1954 she finished second in the Italian sports car championship and was scooped up by Maserati as a works driver.

In 1958, driving Maserati 250F chassis #2523 a ‘T car’ used by Fangio in 1957, she became the first woman to take part in a World Championship Grands’ Prix at Spa, Belgium finishing 10th. She missed the French Grand Prix when an official with Gallic charm and chauvinism suggested to her that ‘The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s.’

Jean Behra offered her a drive in his Porsche team in 1959. Behra’s death led to her reconsidering her future and she quit. ‘Too many friends had died,’ she told the Observer in 2006. ‘There was a succession of deaths – Luigi Musso, Peter Collins, Alfonso de Portago, Mike Hawthorn. Then Behra was killed in Berlin. That, for me, was the most tragic because it was in a race that I should have been taking part in. I didn’t go to the circuits any more. The following year I got married, then my daughter was born and family life became more important.’

Her GP results are; 1958 Syracuse Q8, DNF Belgium Q19 DNF, Italian Q21 DNF all 250F. 1959 Monaco Porsche 718 DNQ and BRDC Intl Trophy Silverstone 250F Q23 DNF.

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de Filippis, Maser 250F, Spa 1958 (The Cahier Archive)

Credits…

The Cahier Archive, silhouet.com

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Bib Stillwell’s new fangled Cooper T43 Climax leads Stan Jones olde world Maserati 250F off Long Bridge towards Newry Corner, Longford 3 March 1958…

Ted Gray’s Lou Abraham’s owned Australian Special, ‘Tornado 2 Chev’ took the win in ‘The Longford Trophy’. There was life in front engined cars yet, Jones took the 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford in his fabulous Maserati, albeit assisted by the absence of 2.5 litre Climax engined Coopers, that would change soon enough.

Stillwell was still learning his craft, his time at the top came in the sixties with four Australian championships ‘on the trot’ from 1962 to 1965…

Introduction…

As usual photo’s have stimulated the article, this time a great series of shots Lindsay Ross of oldracephotos.com posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ of the Tasmanian event. The fact that Tornado won it made that great Australian Special; equal only to the Charlie Dean/Stan Jones Maybach perhaps?, the main thrust of the article.

I didn’t so much see the Tornado as hear it for the first time; i was at Sandown in the 1970’s. I heard what i thought was an F5000 on circuit, in fact ’twas Tornado, small block, injected Chev V8 powered. I made a bee-line for the car in the paddock and marvelled at the smarts behind its construction and the ‘balls of steel’ of the fella who raced it in period.

Other tangents are the Tornado’s pilot, Ted Gray about whom little has been written. Also the 1958 Gold Star series and AGP which he deserved to, should the planets have been better aligned, won!

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(Walkem Collection)

Otto Stone, leaning over the Maser’s engine and John Sawyer fettle Stan Jones’ 250F in the Longford paddock. Jones’ performances in the car improved once Stone started preparing it. By 1958 they understood the Italian stallion’s nuances and Stan’s driving was a little more of a ‘percentage game’ than a ‘win or bust’ approach. Dividends were Gold Star victory in 1958 and AGP win in 1959.

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Arnold Glass in his ex-works/Reg Parnell Ferrari 555 Super Squalo. He was 3rd ahead of Doug Whiteford and Len Lukey. The bucolic pleasures and ever-present dangers of Longford readily apparent (oldracephotos.com)

The entry for the third round of the Australian Drivers ‘Gold Star’ Championship race was one of great depth for the day and reflected competitor interest in Longford, allocated a round of the championship for the first time that year…

Arnold Glass had raced his Super Squalo since November 1957, having bought the car off John McMillan who raced it for a short time when sold to him by Reg Parnell. The car was an ex-works 1955 555 Super Squalo. I wrote about it a while back, click here to read the article; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

miller and patterson

Austin Millers Cooper T41Climax FWB 1.5 Climax ahead of Bill Patterson’s Cooper T39 Climax (oldracephotos.com)

Coopers were starting to arrive in Australia in numbers, the transition from front engined Grand Prix cars and Australian Specials to ‘reasonably priced’ mid-engined cars, the first of which were Coopers was underway.

Jack Brabham won the first mid-engined AGP victory with his Cooper T40 Bristol at Port Wakefield in 1955, but that was a lucky win and flattered to deceive, at the time anyway.

By March 1958 Stirling Moss had won Cooper’s first World Championship GP win in Argentina, by the end of the year the ‘paradigm shift’ was pretty clear, despite the lack of a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine.

doug and arnold

Whiteford, Maserati 300S #4 and Glass, Ferrari 555 Super Squalo in the Longford form-up area (Walkem Collection)

Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S was an outright contender in Formula Libre championship events in Australia when he first bought it after the 1956 Olympic GP meeting, won by Stirling Moss in a 250F, at Albert Park. Despite Doug’s artistry behind the wheel, he was still one of the countries best drivers, the Maser was finding the going tough with so many fast single-seaters around by 1958.

Arnold Glass was not of the same calibre or experience as Whiteford but drove the Ferrari well and shone in 1959 when he acquired the ex-Hunt/Stillwell 250F, which was a more forgiving and faster car.

Lou Abraham’s Melbourne built Tornado Chev was one of the greatest of Australian Specials of the 1950’s. The big V8 engined, ladder frame chassis car, capably driven by Ted Gray was easily capable of taking the Gold Star and the AGP at Bathurst in 1958 with more luck and reliability. It was to be a mixed but successful Tasmanian weekend for the team.

The 1958 Longford Trophy…

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Ted Gray in the victorious, big, blue, booming Tornado 2 Chev, bellowing its way thru the beautiful Tasmanian countryside. Longford 1958 (oldracephotos)

The thrill of seeing some fast cars from the mainland attracted circa 40000 raceday spectators despite the possibility of rain.

Ted Gray was in bed with ‘flu, so Geelong’s Tom Hawkes did a few laps in the Tornado. Things got worse for the team in early practice on raceday when the cars gearbox failed. With the aid of  Hawkes and a Ford truck gearbox from a wreckers yard, Lou Abrahams and his crew replaced the unit in time to record a nominal practice time at the rear of a sports car race. Alec Mildren damaged his Cooper in a preliminary race so only 6 cars faced the starter for the 54 mile Longford Trophy race, if the race lacked quantity of starters it certainly had quality.

Bib Stillwell’s new Cooper Climax got the jump from Stan Jones’ Maser 250F, Gray’s Tornado, Arnold Glass’ Ferrari, Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol and Doug Whiteford’s Maserati.

jones 2

Stan Jones, Maserati 250F, Longford 1958. Shot taken in practice, car bearing the scars of an attack on the local real estate or another car by Stanley (oldracephotos.com)

With 3 laps completed Stillwell held a small lead from fellow Melbourne motor trader Jones, the rest within 250 metres of each other. Stillwell retired with pinion trouble, Jones simultaneously lost the 250F’s 3rd gear. The Tornado took the lead on lap 4 from Jones, Glass, Whiteford then Lukey.

Gray extended his lead over Jones but was being progressively splattered with oil from the errant ‘box. He pressed on when the taste! of the oil made him aware the problem was the gearbox not the engine. Gray had also lost 1st and 2nd gears but the torque of the big Chev V8 was still an effective combination relative to Jones who was short 3rd, the Maser DOHC 6 cylinder engine less able to ‘plug the torque gaps’ than the Chevy.

Jones tried to chase Gray down but the Tornado took the win several seconds from Stan, the big, wonderful Chev engined Special clocked 147.5 mph over the measured mile. Glass was 3rd, 8 seconds behind Jones then Whiteford and Lukey, less than 30 seconds separated the 5 cars after 54 miles.

Stan Jones won the Gold Star in 1958 with wins at Fishermans Bend and Phillip Island in Victoria and seconds at Orange, NSW, Longford and Lowood, the Queensland airfield circuit.

tornado AMS PW

Ted Gray in Tornado 2 Ford ahead of Stan Jones Maser 250F, Port Wakefield, South Australia  (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Lou Abraham’s Melbourne built Tornado’s were two of the great Australian Specials of the 1950’s...

The Tornado was no ‘flash in the pan’ it was built by a couple of wily racers and their team who knew their way around racing cars and V8’s. There were two cars, three really, the short life of Tornado 1 led to Tornado 2 but before both was a highly modified Alta V8.

Wangaratta, Victorian driver Ted Gray first came to prominence well before the war, when as a young motor apprentice he contested the events won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B at Aspendale Speedway in Melbourne on 1 October 1938. Whilst Whitehead won the day and took the lap record, Gray nearly matched him in his motor cycle engined midget.

He almost did it again 2 months later coming close to Whiteheads ERA times at Rob Roy hillclimb in outer Melbourne, again driving the Alan Male owned midget. Alan Male’s career started as a salesman for the Fisher Norton agency in Melbourne, shortly thereafter starting a used car business which provided both the cashflow to pursue his racing passion and the means to promote his business.

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Ted Gray on the left and Colin Best on the last lap of a Speedcar event at Aspendale Speedway, Melbourne in 1939. Details of chassis’ and engines unknown  (vintagespeedway.com)

Gray also contested the January 30 1939 Rob Roy meeting when Frank Kleinig became the first driver to break 30 seconds in the famed Kleinig Hudson, perhaps the most famous of all Australian Specials, if not the most famous then certainly the longest lived.

As War loomed Gray raced one of the last pre-war Australian motor races at Wirlinga, Albury, on 17 June 1940. ‘The Male Special’ was the ex Alan Sinclair Alta 1100 fitted with a Ford V8, Alf Barrett was the scratch man but Gray was not giving the exotic GP Alfa Romeo Monza too much. Barrett won the 6 lap preliminary with Gray in 2nd, both failed in the 25 and 75 Mile Events.

There was the occasional event during the war years. In his book Jim Gullan recalls a three heat match race to raise money for charity between Gray in the Male Spl/Alta V8 and Jim’s Ballot Ford V8 at Aspendale Speedway; Ted won the first heat, Gullan the second and Ted by half a wheel the third ‘…we were lapping the dirt track at 80mph in one long sideways drift, it was exciting!’ Gullan recalled.

Gray set FTD at an early postwar Greensborough Hillclimb.

He contested the 100 Mile NSW Grand Prix at Bathurst in 1946 in the ex-Mrs Jones (Alfa 6C 1750SS) Alfa Ford V8, Gray 2nd to Kleinig in the over 1500cc handicap and 4th in the 100 Miler, Alf Najar’s MG TB Spl the victor.

Gray received a lot of publicity when he recorded a 73mph average in the Alfa V8 from Wangaratta to Melbourne to win a bet in 1946! These days there is a dual lane freeway from Albury to Melbourne but that was not the case post war, Ted would have been flying to do that time! No doubt he was well familiar with the Hume Highway, his home and motor dealership business were in Wang but at least one account records him having an engineering shop in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, now vibrant as the city’s ‘Chinatown’.

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Ted Gray in the Alta Ford V8, Fishermans Bend March 1954. 4th in the Victorian Trophy . This car still exists, restored by Graham Lowe to its original form in the mid ’80’s (SLV)

Around 1948 Gray re-acquired the Male Spl/Alta V8 he raced pre-war and fitted a Ford Mercury side-valve V8 which was fitted with a locally made OHV conversion by Lou Abrahams.

The car first ran in this form at Fishermans Bend in October 1952 and was competitive enough to place 4th in the 1954 Victoria Trophy at FB. The capacity of the chassis to handle the engines power had been reached so Gray and Abrahams decided to build a new car ‘The Tornado’ the name the same as those Lou applied to his boats.

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Another shot of the Abrahams/Gray #8 Alta V8 at the ‘Victoria Trophy’ meeting at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne on 22 March 1954. #3 is Lex Davison’s HWM Jag, winner of that years AGP at Southport, Queensland, and Jack Brabham in a Cooper Bristol (SLV)

Gray was obviously a talented, fast driver with mechanical sympathy, he often drove cars owned by others throughout his career.

The engine out of the Alta 1100 referred to above was built into a special by speedway racer Bill Reynolds in Melbourne. He built a neat ladder frame chassis and transverse spring suspension front and rear car. Passed into Bill Dutton’s hands, Gray raced it for him from late 1949, more often than not the Alta engine problematic.

ted gray bathurst

Gray in the Alta 1100 Spl at Bathurst in 1950, LF tyre off the deck (Historic Racing Cars in Aust)

Lou Abrahams, a wealthy but unassuming man started racing dinghy yachts in his teens but transferred his sporting inclinations to cars and speed boats, before later returning to yachts, his first Sydney/Hobart victory came in 1983 but that was all in the future.

In the fifties his ‘Louisco’ plastics and packaging business provided the cashflow for mechanical pursuits. Ian Mayberry whose father and uncle worked on Tornado recalls that Lou’s father owned the George Hotel in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Lou also had a screenprinting, fabrics and plastics business named Colortex Fabrics in Murrumbeena which he later sold to Nylex Ltd, becoming a board member of that large public company in the process.

lou abrahams

Lou Abrahams towards the end of his life, he died in February 2014 at 88. Cruising Yacht Club, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney. He won Sydney-Hobart twice in 1983 and 1989, sailed it 44 (times, 43 consecutively, a record. He also sailed 7 ‘Fastnets, the biennial classic off Britain and Ireland  (unattributed)

fishos start

Flavour of the era. Love this Fishermans Bend shot; ‘Victoria Trophy’ meeting February 1958 with the front engined cars of Gray, Tornado 2 Chev and Jones Maserati 250F up the front. Policeman and his horse oblivious to the cacophony, note the ‘safety’ fence. Industrial heartland of western Melbourne in the background (Geoff Green)

Gray built the Tornado 1 chassis from formed box sections of sheet steel, the structure had boxed side and cross members and specially made cross-members front and rear to which the suspension was attached.

Ian Mayberry doesn’t recall how Lou, Ted and his uncle, Bill Mayberry met but the three of them were the teams core. Lou basically did the engines and between Ted and Bill they built the chassis and body and maintained the car.

Some of the bodywork was built at the panel business owned by Ians father Jack, who painted the cars and Bill, located at 248 East Boundary Road, East Bentleigh, a southern Melbourne suburb. Ted Grays workshop Ian believes at that stage, was in Coburg or Carlton, both inner Northern Melbourne suburbs. This workshop looked after retail customers but was also where the car was built and maintained.

Independent suspension was used front and rear; the front comprised a transverse leaf spring low down with upper control arms and shockers from a Peugeot. At the rear a transverse leaf spring was again used on top of Holden lower control arms.

tornado front end

Tornado 1 front suspension detail; Peugeot upper control arms and shocks, transverse leaf spring at the bottom. Brakes Chev drums with Mustang aircraft internals ‘They worked very well at Orange’ said AMS, but perhaps not so well at Bathurst later in the year! (AMS)

Lancia stub axles were grafted onto the Peugeot steering knuckles to take advantage of the centre lock wire wheels, steering was Peugeot rack and pinion.

Fabricated hubs were used at the back using Lancia splined hubs and wheels with Monroe Wylie telescopic shocks. The bridge type structure at the back housed a Halibrand quick change final drive, brought back from the States by Lou with various engine goodies. Dodge universals were used on the rear drive shafts.

tornado rear sus 2

Tornado 1 rear end; suspension by top transverse leaf spring and Holden wishbone below, diff a quick change Halibrand with Ford V8 crownwheel, brake drums Chev with P51 Mustang fighter mechanisms, note rear and 2 side fuel tanks, also crossply road tyres upon which the car is being raced, the car chewed its tyres, races lost as a consequence! (AMS)

Brake drums were Chev 11.5 diameter and 2 inches wide, the operating mechanism from a Mustang fighter aircraft and had ‘one cylinder operating a one piece self energising single shoe to each wheel. Ted figures they stopped 5 tons or so of P51 Mustang, so they should stop the Tornado…’

tornado engine

Tornado Ford Mercury based engine. Block cast iron, heads bespoke aluminium designed by Lou Abrahams. Shot of OHV gear and central ‘plugs, pump for Hilborn-Travers fuel injection at the engines front (AMS)

The engine was Abrahams responsibility and was unique as the first in Australia to use fuel-injection.

The Ford Mercury V8 was bored and stroked to over 5 litres, the most innovative element it’s locally cast aluminium, OHV heads designed by Abrahams to replace the side-valve originals. They featured hemispherical combustion chambers with valves; 1 7/8 inches inlet and 1 5/8 inches exhaust in size, inclined at an included angle of around 90 degrees operated by rockers from standard cam followers. ‘Plugs were centrally placed, the whole lot topped by attractive aluminium rocker covers which could be seen, seductively, through the bonnet sides.

Each exhaust port had its own pipe, the inlet ports had a cast light alloy stub incorporating an air butterfly and spray nozzle from the Hilborn Travers fuel injection system. A Scintilla magneto provided the spark with the water pump and clutch standard. Drive was via a standard Mercury gearbox with a close ratio gearset imported from the US.

tornado engine

Engine of Tornado 1 Ford on its Gnoo Blas debut at Orange, NSW in January 1955. Ford Mercury side-valve block with bespoke aluminium heads designed by Lou Abrahams in Melbourne . ‘Louab’ fuel injection Hilborn-Travers based. Nice lookin’ thing innit?  (oldracephotos.com/Devine)

The frames to take the body were of round steel and ‘are part of the chassis’ ; one in front supported the radiator, there was another at the firewall and ‘another which carries the kitchen type Laminex instrument panel’ (!) and one behind the seat.

Pedals are pendant the brake master cylinders mounted into a beefy ‘top hat section arch’ under the scuttle. Instruments comprised tach, oil and fuel pressure, oil and water temperature and a push-pull switch for the magneto.

Fuel was carried in three tanks; one in the tail and one either side of the driver.

tornado orange debut

Tornado 1 Ford on its debut at Gnoo Blas, Orange, January 1955 ‘…first outing last month showed that it will be a very impressive car in the very near future’ Note engine exposed thru bonnet (AMS)

When completed Tornado 1 Ford made its debut, painted white at Gnoo Blas, Orange in January 1955 where its potential was clear despite various teething problems.

Back in Victoria in February the car retired from the 50 Mile Victoria Trophy held at Fishermans Bend with grabbing brakes, prophetic as things turned out, Lex Davison took the win in his HWM Jaguar.

At Albert Park for the Argus Trophy in March, the big V8 placed 3rd in a heat and 5th in the final, Doug Whiteford the winner in his Lago Talbot T26.

Off to Bathurst in October for the NSW Road racing Championship and disaster.

Gray, running 4th in the ‘Group A’ race ‘was running neck and neck with Robinson’s Jaguar Spl…Down the straight for the last time and the white Tornado either locked a brake or touched Robinson’s rear wheel, sliding horribly out of control for over 150 yards before hitting a bank and a tree on the left, bits spraying down the road…Miraculously, a very lucky Ted Gray survived, receiving multiple fractures and severe shock. The Tornado was a write-off. Rebuilt, its great days were yet to come’ said John Medley in his ‘Bathurst Bible’.

tornado bathurst

John Medley; ‘ Until seeing Garrie Cooper’s 1978 AGP accident (in an Elfin MR8 Chev F5000 at Sandown) i hadn’t seen one worse. In the overcast from up on Griffin’s Mount, all one could see was white bits flung down the road, rolling and bounding. Ted Gray wore white overalls and helmet. That he actually stepped out before collapsing is incredible’ (Bernard Coward photo in ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ by John Medley)

The two partners decided not to rebuild the rooted car but rather use what they could in Tornado 2, Abrahams incorporating all they had learned from the previous cars completed the reconstruction of the car with Bill Mayberry and other artisans whilst Gray was in hospital, recovery took 6 months.

Tornado 2 had a ladder frame steel chassis with 3 inch wide side members and incorpated most of the suspension and steering parts from Tornado 1 including the Peugeot steering, Lancia stub axle and Holden suspension components. The Halibrand diff, Ford engine and ‘box were also transferred from the old to the new. The P51 Mustang braking system was removed and replaced by a conventional drums all round setup built by Patons Brakes in Melbourne, eventually a Repco subsidiary.

Gray’s involuntary racing vacation was around 6 months, Abrahams and his team did an amazing job building the replacement so fast; the blue painted fibre glass bodied car made its debut in the hands of multiple Australian Hillclimb Champion, Bruce Walton at Albert Park in March 1956.

Walton performed well despite teething problems, an appearance at the Geelong Sprints resulted in a standing quarter mile of 15.1 seconds. The car was continuously modified throughout 1956 to get it running fast and reliably, the ‘high maintenance’ constantly cracking fibreglass body replaced by an aluminium one late in the year of the same shape.

Gray contested the 1956 AGP meeting at Albert Park won by Moss’s works Maserati 250F but the beast only lasted 15 laps before retirement. Its future competitiveness was underlined at the opening Phillip Island meeting in December 1956 with 2 wins on the very fast open circuit suited to the cars power and strong handling.

Tornado 2’s 1957 season commenced at Fishermans Bend in February, a tyre failed whilst holding 2nd place.

At Albert Park for The Victoria Trophy’ meeting on 24 March, 3rd behind Davison and Jones in Ferrari 500/625 and Maserati 250F a good result but retirement followed in the championship race, a Gold Star round that year, the first year for the prestigious annual award for Australia’s Champion driver.

gray albert park

On the Albert Park grid alongside Bob Jane’s Maserati 300S. Here Tornado 2 with low cut body sides and Ford engined (autopics.com/Peter D’Abbs)

The car failed to score any Gold Star points and later in the year a Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 engine replaced the faithful Ford/Abrahams V8.

Despite the ongoing development of the Ford Mercury based engine with its trick Abrahams head the lighter, over-square, OHV in standard form, small block Chev was the way to go with plenty of parts to improve the engines performance readily available in the US. The engine was sourced using contacts of Abrahams and Jack Mayberry at Holden.

tornado chev engine

Tornado 2 with Chev engine, bespoke rocker covers as with the Ford engine. Hilborn-Travers injection incorporated in specification, Vertex magneto clear. Circa 380 bhp claimed (Merv Bunyan Collection)

With Commonwealth Oil Refineries (soon to be BP) sponsored Australian Speed Records scheduled at Coonabarabran in central NSW on 28 September the small team had only a week to adapt the Chev to the Ford ‘box, fit the fuel injection system and fettle the thing into running order. The car was unloaded from its trailer on the long 620 mile tow from Melbourne to Coonabararan, over 200 miles was covered to run the engine in and refine its tune on public roads!

BP had chosen cars and drivers to attempt the various records which were held on a 4 mile stretch of road linking Coonabarabran with Coonamble via Baradine. The sealed aggregate surface was good and allowed high speeds but it was only 18 feet wide and had a pronounced crown.

Run off to the sides was limited by white posts, to the east by trees, to the west a railway line and a string of telegraph poles. Additional hazards were small dirt tracks to give farm access and a dirt road near the railway line both of which provided plenty of dust…a bend at each end of the 4 miles limited run-in and braking and slowing down.

Such attempts were best held in the cool of the morning for optimum engine performance but media needs meant they were held later in the day when the wind was gusting so no motorcycle attempts were made.

The Tornado was fitted with a 3:1 final drive ratio and 19 inch wheels with 5.25 inch wide tyres, Ted was aiming for over 160mph but magneto dramas limited revs to 5300rpm. The team lowered the ratio to 2.8:1 to reduce revs, achieving 157.53mph on the Sunday to take the outright record from Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, the very same chassis ‘005’ with which Alberto Ascari won his 1952/3 world championships, which was quicker the day before.

Tornado 2 created a sensation at 157.5 mph, the big, spectacular blue car thundering and bellowing across the plains on the long, flat public roads.

Straight to Bathurst from Coonabarabran for the NSW Road Racing Championships on 6 October, two years after the demise of Tornado 1. The cars aluminium fuel tank split, thefuel leak the cause of its retirement. The metal fatigue was overcome by sheathing the ‘ally tank in 1/2 inch thick fibreglass.

A week later at Fishermans Bend was more successful, Gray taking a strong win

1958 Gold Star Season…

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Tornado Chev in the Bathurst paddock, AGP meeting 1958. Its derivative of the best GP cars of its day but has a beauty all of its own. Bill Mayberry built the Tornado bodies (Kevin Drage)

Whilst of ‘plebian origin’ in comparison to its main competitors for the 1958 Australian Drivers Championship; Davison’s and Arnold Glass Ferrari 500/625 and 555 Super Squalo, Stan Jones and Doug Whiteford’s 250F and 300S Maserati’s and the Mildren, Lukey, Miller, Hawkes Coopers of front and mid-engined inclination. Tornado 2 was much more than the sum of its parts and had consistently shown championship winning speed if not reliability.

Perhaps one of the great injustices of ‘motor racing’s world of mighta beens’ is Tornado 2’s failure to win the Gold Star in 1958 just when it neeeded to as the mid engined tide came in.

It was not until 1971 that an Australian built car won the AGP and Gold Star, that honor going to Frank Matich in his Matich A50 Repco at Warwick Farm in late 1971.

The 1958 Gold Star comprised 9 meetings in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland; a big program of travel in the days when the continent was the same size as now without todays road  network!

1958 Season/Gold Star Series…

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Tornado 2 at rest, Gnoo Blas, 1958 (Ian McKay Collection)

South Pacific Trophy, Gnoo Blas, Orange NSW 27 January.

Gray chased Brabham’s Cooper in 2nd, set the first 100mph lap of the circuit and retired with a misfire, Brabham won the race from Jones Maser and then set-off for his European season.

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Handsome beastie that it is! Tornado 2 Chev in the Fisherman’s Bend paddock February 1958. Spectators cars Jag Mk7 ? and Holden FB (Geoff Green)

Victoria Trophy, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, Victoria 23 February.

‘The Carnival of Motor Racing’ was a combined car and motorcycle meeting.  Jones won a close race from pole. Gray qualified 2nd and ran 2nd until he had throttle linkage problems, he returned to the race but later retired. Jones won from Glass’ Ferrari and Whiteford’s Lago.

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First lap at Fishermans Bend, the flat industrial landscape clear in this shot. The big front engined cars of Glass and Jones with Gray obscured on the outside lead the pack (Geoff Green)

Longford Trophy, Tasmania 3 March.

Covered at this articles’ outset. A win for Gray’s Tornado after practice dramas.

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Tornado 2 Chev, Fishermans Bend, February 1958. Good front suspension shot showing the Peugeot top wishbone/shock and transverse lower leaf spring (Geoff Green)

South Australian Trophy Race, Port Wakefield, South Australia 5 April.

Jones led the race until his radiator was blocked by straw from a haybale he attacked, Lukey’s Cooper Bristol won from Austin Miller’s Cooper. Gray didn’t enter.

tornado lowood

Gray kept the lead at Lowwod on 15 June for most of the race but slowed towards the end when the ‘breaker strips’ on his rear tyres started to show, allowing Mildren to take the lead (AMS)

Queensland Road Racing Championship, Lowood, Queensland 15 June.

Jones led until problems with the Masers rear end caused its retirement. Gray led Mildren’s Cooper until Tornado’s tyres started to shred towards the races end, Gray’s easing gave Mildren the win from the Tornado and Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

The Tornado turned the tables on Mildrens Cooper the following day at Gnoo Blas, Orange when Gray won the ‘Canoblas Trophy’ a 55 mile race with the Cooper 2nd, the event contested by 17 cars. Tornado was timed at 153mph and Mildrens 2 litre Cooper T43 Climax at 145mph.

The dedication of competitors at the time is absolute; it was an 825 mile all night drive from Lowood to Orange. ‘The Canberra Times’ reported ‘The Queensland Grand Prix finished at 4.30pm…each in private cars towing the racing cars, they left Lowwod at 5.30pm and travelling in company most of the way arrived at Orange at about 8am.

‘They then prepared their cars, practiced…started a 4 lap scratch race at noon and the Canoblas Trophy at 2.30pm…’

It wasn’t too far for Alec to then drive back to Canberra, where his business was then but Ted had a 325mile drive from Orange to Wangaratta to be at work on Tuesday, before towing Tornado back to Lowood again in late August, 875 miles, or a bit like driving from London to Rome without the autoroutes.

Lowood Trophy Race, Queensland 31 August.

Jones led from Gray and eventually took him on the oil soaked track but this time the Tornado had diff problems . Mildren’s Cooper passed Jones, taking the win from Victorians Jones and Lukey.

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Finish of the VRRC Race at Fishermans Bend, October 1958. Gray won in the ‘red nosed’ Tornado, yellow car Austin Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax and Ern Seeliger’s blue Maybach 4 Chev (David Van Dal)

Victorian Road Racing Championships, Fishermans Bend 18 October.

The championship was not part of the Gold Star in 1958 and a week before the AGP at Bathurst so was perhaps a risky event to contest but it was an excellent one for the team, Gray won the race from Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol with Austin Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax third

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41 year old Ted Gray getting the trophy and plaudits of the crowd. VRRC champ, Fishermans Bend 1958. Bill Mayberry in moustache and stocky Lou Abrahams in red  (Kevin Drage)

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Bathurst, 23 October 1958 grid; A preliminary race i suspect as the grid is not as for the AGP itself #12 Davison Ferrari 500/625, white nosed Ferrari Super Squalo of Kiwi Tom Clark with Tornado on the outside of row 1. Row 2 L>R Mildren’s Cooper T43 Climax, Merv Neil Cooper T45 Climax and Curley Brydon’s Ferrari Chev, the Jones Maser is obscured by Neil’s Cooper against the fence on row 3. Red clad Tornado crew looking on (David Van Dal)

Gray was on pole from Jones, Davison returning to racing in his unsold Ferrari 500/625, Neil’s Cooper T45 and Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

Jones led Davison from the start, Ted’s strategy was to start with a light fuel load build a lead and stop later in the race for fuel. He soon passed Jones and Davo, the three cars ran spectacularly nose to tail for the next 12 laps.

bathurst nose to tail

Jones 250F leads Tornado across the top of Mount Panorama during their great dice (Alan Stewart Collection)

On lap 19 he made his stop but only had a lead of 10-12 seconds, then his stop was cocked up, taking another 25 seconds before setting off in chase.

On the first lap out he achieved the fastest standing lap of Mount Panorama ever, he was too fast though, boofing the fence at Skyline, damaging Tornado’s steering and suspension, the car retired 2 laps later.

He had led for 20 of 24 laps and set the fastest ever speed of 155.17mph recorded on ConRod Straight.

Jones led Davo for another 2 laps, until breasting the first hump on Conrod the 250F dropped a valve after 7 laps of clutchless gear changes.

Davison eased his pace, over 2 minutes ahead of Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev and Tom Hawke’s Cooper T23 Repco Holden.

It was one of the greatest AGP’s ever.

tornado melbourne

The new and old; Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre leads Ted’s Tornado and Jones Maser 250F on lap lap 2 of the ’58 Melbourne GP at Albert Park. Moss’ winning Cooper T45 is further up the road  (AMS)

Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, Victoria 23 November.

Moss and Brabham disappeared into the distance in their 2 litre Cooper Climaxes, Gray retired whilst fastest local, Jones also withdrew with falling oil pressure, Whiteford, Stillwell Maser 250F and Len Lukey took the remaining Gold Star points.

Philip Island Trophy Race, Victoria 26 December.

Jones won the race and Gold Star in his GP Maser from pole, Mildren and Roxburgh were 2nd and 3rd in Cooper Climaxes. Gray didn’t enter and Stan Jones won the Gold Star he deserved.

1959 and Beyond…

Tornado was barely raced in 1959 which was a pity as Jones Maser 250F won the AGP at Longford early in the year and Gray finished 2nd to Stillwell’s Cooper at Bathurst in pouring rain for the NSW Road Racing Championship in October, Mildren’s Cooper was 3rd; there was life in the front engined cars still.

Perhaps with more reliability in 1959 after all the learnings of the hard year in 1958 the wonderful, big blue V8 could have prevailed but as the great Frank Gardner said ‘IF Yer Auntie Had Balls She’d be Yer Uncle’… Ifs, buts and maybe’s mean nothing in sport. But the speculation is fun!

Lou and Ted raced the car in the 1960 New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore on January 9. An interesting idea but they were on a hiding to nothing with the plethora of Cooper’s racing in Australasia by then. Brabham won from McLaren and Bib Stillwell all in Coopers. Tornado retired after 5 laps with magneto dramas.

bz gp

First lap of the 1960 NZGP, Ardmore, College Corner; #47 Bruce McLarens Cooper T45, #7 Moss Cooper T51 #4 Brabham Cooper T51 #18 David Piper Lotus 16 Climax, Gray in Tornado is at the rear of this shot on the outside of a Cooper, light colored band on the nose. 14 of the cars which started were front-engined so Ted was far from alone and with an engine not the largest in this F Libre race (sergent.com)

Upon its return to Australia Tornado was sold to South Aussie, Mel McEwin who contested both the 1960 and 1961 Australian Grands’ Prix in it but the car was by now, like all other front-engined cars being blown off by 2.5 Litre FPF engined Coopers. The 2495cc variant of the FPF engine was now fairly common in ‘The Colonies’; scarcity in this part of the world gave the front engined cars a slightly longer front line racing life than would otherwise have been the case.

In the 1965/6 the car passed to ex-Cooper racer John McDonald as a ‘fun car’ after his frontline career finished but he had a massive accident in it at Calder ‘breaking the car in half’.

In the early 70’s the car was restored by McDonald in Canberra making its Historic Racing debut at Hume Weir, Albury on Boxing Day 1976.

The big, bellowing, blue Tornado has been an occasional starlet at historic events for decades, sold to Frank Moore, it has been a part of his collection of Australian Specials/Cars since 1999.

tornado cover

After this articles publication David Rapley, Australian Racer, Historian, Author and Restorer got in touch with his insights on Tornado, a car he fettles in Melbourne for its Queensland owner Frank Moore…

‘I was delighted to read your work on ‘The Tornado’ as Teddy Tornado is a great friend of mine having spent a lot of time with me in recent years. My comments/contribution is only of a very minor technical nature but I felt your work so good that I wanted to add it.

When Frank gave the me the car with a broken con-rod from an outing at the Melbourne GP it was in a very bad state. After inspection we concluded that the whole car had to be dismantled, crack tested and properly reassembled. Frank insisted that nothing should be repainted or anything done to modernise it-a welcome attitude after the over restored cars we mainly see these days at Historic meetings’.

‘The front suspension was a mess with badly cracked stub axles and pivot/king pins and steering arms. (I use these parts still for show and tell to ‘try’ and educate old car people in the danger of not crack testing-sadly largely a waste of time!) These were originals covered in weld, the stubs themselves being I believe Itala not Lancia.

The brakes on the car-front are single leading shoe with two wheel cylinders per side of Aero origin I believe War Hawk but could well be Mustang and clearly date back to Tornado 1. The drums are locally made and may be Patons only contribution as the rear brakes are A90 Austin or Healey. I have not found any period photo’s to date when they were fitted but looking at how they were mounted I would guess from the first building of Tornado 2′.

‘It is obvious that the rear transmission support box and lower wishbones were used straight from the earlier car but with a top wishbone added, the transverse spring only providing now suspension’.

‘We went to great lengths to find a 1958 correct block and Corvette heads but sadly this engine was sabotaged at a subsequent Melbourne GP by someone pouring steel shot down the inlet trumpets of the Hilborn injection in the supposedly secure display tent. The current engine has a correct block but they are getting very difficult to find’.

‘An interesting aside-after the car was wrecked at Calder the front suspension was sold off to a Hot Rodder; Richard Bendell was horrified, bought it back and gave it to McDonald to repair the car.

Pleased to report Teddy still has all his original aluminum body now much battered and cracked and as much as possibly all of its bitz and bobbs’.

tornado agp

Ellis French’s wonderful atmospheric shot of Ted Gray gridding Tornado 2 up for the 1959 AGP at Longford. DNF on lap 4 with a run main bearing, #5 is Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre 2nd . Lukey took the Gold Star title that year, at 12 rounds the longest ever (Ellis French)

Where Does Ted Gray and Tornado Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Motor Racing?…

There is not a lot published about Ted Gray. He was born in Wangaratta 140 miles from Melbourne its rich grazing country. Well known to Aussie racers, Wang is close to Winton Raceway.

Born in 1917 he was apprenticed as a motor mechanic and commencing racing career on Speedway’s the most popular and common branch of the sport in the 1930’s. He finished 2nd in the 1938/9 Victorian Speedcar Championship to George Beavis in a match race at Olympic Park, Melbourne.

He continued race on speedway’s into the late 1940’s whilst also road racing and had a massive accident at Maribyrnong Speedway in Melbourne’s west in December 1947. In a classic ‘interlocked wheels speedway prang’ Gray was thrown from his somersaulting car sustaining spinal injuries and extensive lacerations, recovering in the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

So his 1955 Tornado 1 Bathurst crash was not his first ‘Big One’. Clearly he was one tough nut as his speed after the Bathurst prang, he had a six month ‘holiday’ after it remember, was if anything faster after the prang than before it. These country boys are hard men.

In terms of his business, he was a partner in the local Ford Dealership in Wang. He also had workshops in Melbourne’s CBD and later Carlton or Coburg. It was in the latter that Ian recalls another bad accident in the early sixties when Gray’s legs were broken in a workshop accident in which he was pinned to a wall by an errant car.

The Australian Motor Sports Review Annual in 1958/9 rated a quartet of drivers ‘representing the ultimate performances in the 14 years since the war; Doug Whiteford, Lex Davison both triple AGP winners at the time (Davo later won a fourth) Len Lukey 1959 Gold star winner and Ted Gray.

Of Gray the review had this to say;

‘Ted Gray has been driving Lou Abraham’s Tornado since the car first raced. Winner of the Longford Trophy in 1958 and numerous other races his main claim to distinction is as Australia’s fastest recorded driver. In the Tornado at Coonabarabran, NSW in 1957, Gray recorded a new ‘Class C’ Australian record of 157.53mph, the fastest yet achieved in Australia.’

Quite how Stan Jones was overlooked in the quartet is beyond me. I wasn’t there at the time but Stan had won a lot of races including the NZ GP in 1954 by 1958, personally I would have popped him in front of Gray and Lukey.

None of which is to take anything from Ted Gray who was a vastly experienced and very fast driver. Further, he was one of that engineer/driver breed who had the skill to design, build, race, interpret the beasts needs and modify their steed further to make it competitive. Maybe Larry Perkins was the last Australian of Gray’s ilk?

I’m not sure when Ted Gray died and am interested to hear from anyone who can add more to his story.

That the small, clever, experienced and adequately funded team from Melbourne took on the best of European Grand Prix cars at the time was a great achievement. Its just a shame they don’t have the ’58 AGP and Gold Star to reflect Tornado’s speed…

tornado crew

The Tornado 2 Chev crew in 1958, circuit unknown. L>R Ted Gray, Lou Abrahams and Bill Mayberry in red (AMS Annual 1958/9)

Bibliography…

Special thanks to Ian Mayberry for his recollections and David Rapley for his comments on the car in modern times.

John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Stephen Dalton Collection, Australian Motor Sports July 1956, The Canberra Times 18 June 1958, John Medley ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’, Australian Motor Sports 1958 and 1959 annuals, Graham Howard Ed ‘The History of The AGP’, Stephen Dalton Collection, James Gullan ‘As Long as It Has Wheels’

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com stunning archive, thanks to Lindsay Ross, Walkem Collection, vintagespeedway.com, Ian McKay Collection, Kevin Drage, Geoff Green, David Van Dal, Alan Stewart Collection, sergent.com

Tailpiece: One of the greatest ever AGP’s, Bathurst October 1958, Jones 250F, Gray Tornado and Davison Fazz 500/625 at it ‘hammer and tongs’ on a circuit to test the skillful and the brave…

stan bathurst

(AMS Annual)

merc staub

(Max Staub)

Mercedes Benz returned to Grand Prix racing with a vengeance at Reims in 1954, here Fangio leads Karl Kling in the W196 Streamliners…

Mercedes had a habit of re-entering racing in the French Grand Prix every 20 odd years, when doing so bringing new standards of engineering excellence with them.

In 1914 the 4 cylinder SOHC 4483cc engined Mercedes 18/100 of Sailer, Lautenschlager, Salzer, Pilette, and Wagner crushed the opposition at Lyon just before The Great War. The course was 37.6 Km long, 20 laps of it took the winner Christian Lautenschlager 7 hours 8 minutes!

1914

Three of the 1914 French GP winning Mercedes team cars at Unterturkheim post event. L>R #28 Lautenschlager 1st, #39 Salzer 3rd, #40 Wagner 2nd. (unattributed)

In 1934 Auto Union and Mercedes came to Monthlery with cars which would largely sweep the board until War again intervened.

Although on that day an Alfa Romeo triumphed. Louis Chiron won in a Scuderia Ferrari Alfa P3 from Achille Varzi similarly mounted, the three 2.9 litre supercharged straight-8 Mercedes W25 of Rudi Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Luigi Fagioli retiring with a variety of maladies.

1934

1934 French GP, Montlhery. Rudy Caracciola Mercedes W25 DNF, from Avhille Varzi Alfa P3/Tipo B, 2nd. (unattributed)

And so it was that Mercedes returned to racing after a break of 15 years at Reims on the weekend of July 4th 1954, 40 years after Lyon and 20 after Monthlery…

fangio reims

JM Fangio, Mercedes Benz W196, Reims victor 1954. (Jesse Alexander Archive)

cutaway 1

The W196 was a triumph of complex engineering, the 2.5 litre straight eight cylinder car had the following new features; Direct injection of fuel into the cylinders for more precise ignition of the incoming fuel charge, the engine lying on its side only 20 degrees from the horizontal to allow a lower bonnet line and the driveshaft to pass beside the driver rather than him sitting on it.

Desmodromic or mechanical operation of the valves allowed higher rpm than the valve springs of the day could handle, 4 wheel independent suspension using a new type of swing axle at the rear, inboard brakes front and rear to lower unsprung weight and a streamlined all enveloping body helped the car to quicker thru ze air.

The very experienced pre-war engineering team of Dr Fritz Nallinger and Rudy Uhlenhaut were in control of the conception, design, development and testing of the new car.

french paddock

Reims 1954 paddock shot. #18 Fangio and #22 Hans Hermann Mercedes W196 Streamliners being prepared for the race. Open bodies used from Nurburgring 1954 onwards, Streamliner body about 60 pounds heavier than the ‘Nurburg’ slipper/open wheeler bodies. (unattributed)

The purpose of this article is not to write in detail about a car which has had everything written about it, rather the words are a support to the wonderful painting and cutaways originally published in that splendid annual, Automobile Year, in this case the 1955 edition.

cutway 2

(Automobile Year)

In his Automobile Year technical review of the 1954 season noted journalist/Le Mans Winner/GP driver Paul Frere explains in great detail the technical advances of the car but also makes clear all of the Benz victories in ’54 were scored by Fangio, saying that the cars speed was partially a factor of Fangio’s dominance as a driver rather than it being a function of the cars speed itself. He and Alberto Ascari were the standout drivers at the time.

The W196 won four of five 1954 races entered, impressive with a new car; Frere also makes clear that the development potential of the car was obvious and subsequently reinforced in their 1955 season!

french start

French GP Start; #18 Fangio, #20 Kling Benz W196, #10 Alberto Ascari Maser 250F #2 Gonzalez Ferrari 553, #12 Marimon Maser 250F, #46 Prince Bira Maser 250F, #22 Hans Hermann Benz W196, #6 Hawthorn Ferrari 553, #4 Maurice Trintignant Ferrari 625, #34 Robert Manzon Ferrari 625, #14 Luigi Villoresi Maser 250F. (unattributed)

At Reims Fangio was on pole with his young German teammate Karl Kling alongside and Alberto Ascari in a factory Maserati 250F. Alberto and Onofre Marimon were ‘loaned’ to Maserati by Gianni Lancia given his new D50 GP car was still not raceworthy and the drivers otherwise unemployed for the weekend.

Ascari’s race was over on lap 1 due to either gearbox or engine failure depending upon the report you read, this left Fangio and Kling to run away with the race.

Hawthorn and Marimon scrapped for 3rd before the Argentinian stopped for a plug change and dropped to the back of the field.

start 2

Fangio left, and Kling Mercedes W196 well clear of Ascari’s Maser 250F shortly after the start. (unattributed)

Pre-war Thai driver Prince Bira drove a great race in a customer 250F dropping to 4th having run out of fuel and losing time switching to his auxiliary tank, and his 3rd place, so Robert Manzon was 3rd in a Ferrari 625.

Hans Herrman in the other W196 took fastest lap early in the race before over-revving the engine leaving its telltale at 9100rpm!

So, a dominant Mercedes start to a run which sadly only lasted until the end of the 1955 season before their modern era return and the dominance of 2014/5…

fangio thillois

Fangio, Thillois Hairpin, Reims 1954. MB W196. (unattributed)

Etcetera…

grid shot

Front row pre start. Fangio, Kling and Ascari. Hawthorn fiddling with his goggles on row 3. (unattributed)

cutaway 3

(Automobile Year)

merc w 196

Nice section of the W196 cylinder head and operation of its desmodromic valve gear. (Automobile Year)

Race Footage…

Credits…

Max Staub, Automobile Year, Jesse Alexander Archive

duck

(Jesse Alexander)

Alfonso de Portago practices his Ferrari 625 prior to the 1955 Pau Grand Prix, a race won by Jean Behra’s factory Maser 250F…

These superb images are from the Jesse Alexander Archive. The factory Maserati’s of #14 Behra, #16 Roberto Mieres and #18 Luigi Musso are in line astern in the Pau paddock, Saturday 10 April 1955.

pau

(Jesse Alexander)

Jean won the race from Eugenio Castellotti in a Lancia D50 and teammate Roberto Mieres in third. de Portago was 8th and the best placed Ferrari, no factory cars were entered by the Scuderia after a poor showing at Turin a fortnight before.

Ascari had the race in hand after a great dice with Behra early but with 20 laps to go had braking problems, the Lancia mechanics did a work around which gave him brakes on the front and allowed him to finish, Jean taking a lucky win.

castellotti

Eugenio’s Lancia being warmed up by the team, you can feel the staccato-blast of that lovely basso-profundo 2.5 litre V8!? (Jesse Alexander)

de 50 front

The nose of Lancia Team Leader Alberto Ascari’s Lancia D50. Pau 1955, he was 5th. Alberto died only 6weeks later at Monza in a tragic testing accident. (Jesse Alexander)

pau_1

(Jesse Alexander)

No sign of the admiring duck this time but again its de Portago in his Ferrari, not sure who it is behind, factory Ferrari GP drives would come his way in time.

Sensational shots of a great track, and thankfully still in use.

Photo Credits…

Jesse Alexander Archive, http://www.jessealexander.com