Posts Tagged ‘Maserati 250F’

(unattributed)

Man, what a shot!

A steam loco probably doing the Hobart to Launceston milk-run – from the south of Tasmania to its north – blasts its way over the Longford Viaduct circa 1930. Points for the train and car make/model/year folks?

The challenge of course was then to come up with a monochrome photograph of a racing car from exactly the same angle.

(R Edgerton Collection)

This one of Stan Jones’ Maserati 250F is the best I can do. It’s during a good meeting for Stan, he won the Australian Grand Prix that March 1959 Labour Day long-weekend. See here; Stan Jones, AGP, Longford: Gold Star Series 1959… | primotipo…

Credits…

Ron Edgerton Collection. As to the first shot, the fella who posted it on Facebook disappeared with his shot as quickly as he arrived. Happy to attribute whoever you are/were.

(unattributed)

Tailpiece…

Longford’s Viaduct and Railway Bridge close by to it are popular places for train-spotters.

The lattice-truss, wrought iron and steel bridge which spans the South Esk River was the equal longest bridge in Australia for a decade or so after the Welsh built structure was commissioned in 1870.

Those lovely pillars were removed during the 1960s – where were the Builders Labourers Federation when you needed them – there is a gofundme.com program to raise the $A80k required to replace the four pillars, two at each end of the bridge, an important bit of our industrial heritage.

More trains, planes and automobiles; Context and progress: Trains, planes and racing cars… | primotipo…

Finito…

(G Wiseman Collection)

Stan Jones’ Maserati 250F chasing Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 Climax 2-litre FPF through Tannery Corner during the March 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford.

Geoff Wiseman uploaded onto social-media this wonderful colour shot from a spot not often used by the pro-snappers. It is a decent walk from Longford village to Tannery. Isn’t it a beauty?

That’s the race for the lead folks – a battle of old vs new technology, thankfully for we Stan-Fans, the tough-nugget from Warrandyte prevailed- Jones it was from Lukey.

Check it out in this piece here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

The short straight leads to the quick left-hander onto Long Bridge.

(G Wiseman Collection)

This time I’ve cropped the shot a bit. I love the way the photographer has framed the action between the spectators, makes you feel kinda-like you were there.

Etcetera…

If I had known the Lukey/Jones shot was going to be posted when I was at Longford in January and March I would have taken a one from exactly the same locale, but I didn’t!

What I can offer are three shots of a planned, but not yet written, modern ‘drivers eye lap of Longford’.

The first above is about halfway along Tannery Straight – towards the corner above, our feature shots. That’s the old Tannery building on the left, these days a lovely home or accommodation.

Jones would have whistled through this flat-biccie right-kink – yes, there is a kink none of the published maps show – at about 160mph.

By this point he has been in top-gear for a long while, Pub Corner is way, way back behind us. Amongst its many tests, Longford had two, long, top-revs throttle openings. The Flying Mile on Pateena Road is the other.

The next one is very deep into the Tannery braking area.

The corner (right) would have been taken in second gear (of five), I’m guessing a corner speed of 50-60mph. He isn’t quite turning in yet, but would be finishing his final shift and having a glance in the mirror, perhaps, before initiating the turn.

The final one is immediately after exiting Tannery – the straight leads to the now non-existent Long Bridge .

The location of the farmers gate is about where Len Lukey is in our first shot. There is a stile to the right so you can easily enter the property and walk up 400-500 metres to the River Esk waters edge.

I don’t think Jones would approach the following left hander before Long Bridge in top, but mighty quick in fourth.

Credits…

Geoff Wiseman, Mark Bisset

Finito…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Etcetera…

(R Reid)

Credits…

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

Tailpiece…

(R Reid)

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

Finito…

Stan Jones and his mechanic, Charlie Dean, pose for a Mobil photograph out front of one of Stan’s ‘Superior Motors’ dealerships in inner-Melbourne during 1956. Note the babes in the slips-cordon. Look at that aluminium work, love the neat fillets or scoops to allow some air into the rear tail section, surface cooling of the oil-tank.

Jones acquired his Maserati 250F, chassis ‘2520’ that year. The machine succeeded the Dean designed and built Maybach’s 1, 2 and 3. To be more precise, Maybachs 2 and 3 were built by Charlie and his merry band of artisans at Repco Research (RR), Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Charlie was appointed Repco’s chief automotive experimental engineer in 1954, general manager of Repco Research in 1957 and joined the board as a director of Repco Ltd in 1960, a position he held until his retirement.

I’ve done these two blokes to death, here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

Jones in Maybach 1 from Ken Wharton’s BRM P15 Mk1 V16, Ardmore 1954. Interesting to see the way Repco used Maybach to plug its other products

The Repco/Maybach/Dean/Jones partnership ended when Maybach 3 went kaboomba at Gnoo Blas in the summer of ’56- the last of Repco’s stock of the German straight-sixes was carved in half after a major internal haemorrhage.

Of course they could have acquired another motor, but Stan said ‘Fuggit! I’m gunna buy a 250F’. So he did. And a 3-litre 300S engine as a spare, as you do.

The Maserati was initially prepared at RR. When Reg Hunt retired in 1956 Bib Stillwell bought his 250F and Stanley bagged Otto Stone, who had prepared Hunt’s A6GCM and 250F.

Stone was both a very capable racer and engineer. Stan’s most successful years followed. Notable wins included the 1958 Gold Star and 1959 Longford AGP. Jones’ mechanical sympathy was not rated ‘in period’. Stone prepared a robust car well. In addition, my theory is that Otto gave Stan a few ‘chill-pills’. That is, calmed him down a bit. ‘You have to finish races Cocko, just learn to read the play better. Play the percentages rather than win or bust’. I suspect he also called a few of those plays.

Jones and Stone shake after Stan’s 1959 Longford win. He finally bagged the win he deserved. John Sawyer in cap, Alan Jones sez ‘cheese’ (unattributed)

I am hopelessly biased in relation to Kevin Bartlett, Alec Mildren and anything and anyone related thereto (Rennmax, Merv Waggott etc, etc), Frank Matich, Elfin and Garrie Cooper, Repco, Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. So you should read what follows with due caution.

It’s hard to think of a more significant, resident, figure in Australian motor-racing from 1950 to 1976 than Charlie Dean.

His fingerprints were on Maybachs One to Four. Lex Davison’s 1953 Monte Carlo Rally Holden 48-215 was prepped by Chuck. He aided, abetted and developed Jones. Jones and Maybach 1’s 1954 AGP win was the first international GP won by an Oz car. Stan’s job behind the wheel was matched by Dean’s with the tools the night and day before.

Dean hired Phil Irving at RR, together, the Holden-Grey Repco Hi-Power head was theirs. Think of how many race and sportscars they powered. Many of the Holden (48-215, FC, FE etc) race developments were made by RR and then sold to all and sundry. In that sense Repco was in on the ground floor and assisted the explosion of touring-car racing from the mid-fifties.

The Maybach and Repco Hi-Power programs were critical incremental steps which led to Repco’s F1 world championships in 1966-1967. Frank Hallam’s early-sixties Coventry Climax FPF maintenance program was another.

Charlie Dean was not the Director in charge of Repco-Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. Managing Director, Dave McGrath appointed Bob Brown. Charlie did provide Board level support throughout though. Critically, he was asked by McGrath who should design the first V8 engine which became known as ‘RBE620′- he recommended Phil Irving, the 1966 title was the result. Dean was made responsible for RBE Pty. Ltd. after Frank Hallam was shunted sideways in late 1968 as the F1 program was wound down.

Charlie saw F5000 as a cost-effective ANF1 and the means for Repco to remain in racing. When CAMS dithered about 2-litre/F5000 as Oz’ next F1 Dean invited CAMS President, Donald Thomson, to Repco’s St Kilda Road HQ for a long-lunch in the wood-panelled boardroom during which CAMS’ finest was re-programmed. I’m not suggesting the Repco heavies were the only lobbyists to ping CAMS around that particular pin-ball machine.

The Repco-Holden F5000 program followed. Dean and Malcolm Preston brought Phil Irving back from the Gulag to knock that engine together with the assistance of Brian Heard. Several AGP’s, an NZ GP or two, Gold Stars and plenty of individual race wins resulted.

Most of the Repco-Holden’s internals formed the basis of the Holden Torana L34 and A9X donks. There were several Bathurst taxi-race wins there I guess. And an Australian Touring Car Championship or three.

Dean was a man of many parts. Trained as an electrician, he started and sold his business to Repco, raced at elite level including the 1948 AGP, was VERY adept as a hands on engineer and rose through the corporate ranks to become a long-time director of one of Australia’s biggest public companies. And the rest.

Sure, he had Repco’s cheque book in a ‘golden era’ for the industry. The point is that he used it parlaying his influence to the benefit of Repco- and the sport.

Happy to hear other views to my biased one. It will have to be a good argument to knock him over in the period defined however!

David McKay, yeah-yeah, but nup.

Jones and Dean with Maybach 2 in 1954 (unattributed)

Credits…

Many thanks to David Zeunert for another great shot from his archive.

Tailpiece…

(unattributed)

Jones and 250F at Albert Park circa 1956.

Finito…

(P Jones)

Alec Mildren’s new, fifth-placed Cooper T43 Climax FPF 1.5 during the February 23, 1958 Gold Star weekend.

Stan Jones won the 28 lap, 50 mile ‘Victorian Trophy’ race in his Maserati 250F from Arnold Glass’ Ferrari 555 Super Squalo and Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S sportscar.

Many thanks to Melbourne enthusiast Peter Jones for sharing his photographs taken during a number of Fishos’ race meetings in the mid-fifties when he was in his mid to late teens. Thanks to Stephen Dalton for painstaking research post-publication to nail all the meeting dates.

Don’t Peter’s marvellous colour shots bring a drab airfield circuit to life? Many of the photographs were taken at this Victorian Trophy weekend, the second of nine Gold Star rounds, the title won by Stan Jones that year.

‘Patons Brake Replacements’ were omni-present at the time, a major trade supporter of our sport, they were ultimately absorbed within the Repco Ltd automotive manufacturing conglomerate. See this piece about the inner-suburban Melbourne airfield track; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/15/fishermans-bend-melbourne/

October 1957 (P Jones)

Tornado 2 Chev, the most successful form of the Lou Abrahams/Ted Gray/Jack and Bill Mayberry two racers. Bill and Lou are at far left.

Ted led the race early and was running in the top 4 when he pitted to address throttle linkage problems on lap 10. He rejoined and was third by lap 20 but the engine lost its edge, finally retiring after 26 laps.

Tornado won the Longford Trophy the following weekend. It was without doubt one of the fastest-if not the fastest car of 1958 together with Jones 250F, Ern Seeliger’s  Maybach 4 Chev and Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 when it raced. It was not the most reliable though.

October 1957 (P Jones)

As regular readers will know I am a huge fan of everything and everyone to do with the Tornados. See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/ . Oh yep, a shorter one here too; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/20/teds-tornado-and-lens-cooper/

October 1956 (P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Sabina Motors entered, Reg Nutt driven Cisitalia D46 Fiat 1,100, October 1957 meeting. Bailey’s Talbot-Lago T26C alongside.

This car was imported by Melbourne’s Dale Brothers in the early fifties but seems never to have been raced ‘really intensively’ in period. I recall it appearing at Sandown in the mid-seventies in one of the historic events which supported the annual taxi-enduro. At that stage it was part of the Leech Brothers Collection in Brighton, Melbourne. Long since departed our shores.

Such significant cars. Doug Nye credits Dante Giacosa’s 1946 design for Piero Dusio as the first modern customer spaceframe. ‘The production racing car trendsetter for an entire generation of designers’. Little bit about it here at the start of this Cooper Bristol piece; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/24/the-cooper-t23-its-bristolbmw-engine-and-spaceframe-chassis/

Reg Nutt is a story himself, he was a riding mechanic in the Phillip Island twenties GP years and then a racer of note.

(P Jones)

David McKay, Aston Martin DB3S during the February 1958 meeting.

David chose not to race in the Formula Libre Gold Star round, how did he do in the sportscar races folks?

This ex-works car, chassis ‘DB3S-9’ is the second of his two Aston Martin DB3S. Perhaps its biggest Oz win, in a field of some depth was the Australian Tourist Trophy at Mount Panorama that October. The customer ‘Kangaroo Stable’ machine was ‘DB3S-102’. See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2017/10/31/yes-frank-i-love-it-magnificent-in-fact/

(P Jones)

Owen Bailey’s ex-works-Whiteford Talbot-Lago T26C from ace racer-engineer Otto Stone, MG K3.

The French machine won AGPs for ‘Dicer-Doug’ in 1952 and 1953 at Mount Panorama and Albert Park before it was replaced by an older and supposedly quicker machine.

Owen Bailey lined up for the start but transmission failure meant his race ended before it started. He did not have a great deal of luck racing this car.

See articles about T-Ls here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/16/1953-australian-grand-prix-albert-park/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/06/09/fill-her-up-matey-lago-talbot-t26c-melbourne-1957/

(P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar D Type.

The car first raced at the 1956 March Moomba meetings at Albert Park. Meeting date 13/14 October 1956, Jack Davey was the next owner in early 1957. See this feature for a full history of ‘XKD520’; https://primotipo.com/2020/04/17/stillwells-d-type/

(P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Terry McGrath advises the XK120 #45 above is Murray Carter’s car.

(P Jones)

Poor Arnold Glass is stuck in the intake of his glorious ex-works-Reg Parnell Ferrari 555 Super Squalo ‘555-2’ during the ’58 Gold Star weekend. ‘It’s arrived not long ago from New Zealand, still has the NZ rego #495795 on the nose’ said Dalton.

Glass was second behind Jones’ 250F and in front of Whiteford’s 300S.

Australia’s ‘Big Red Car’ era ran from the arrival of Reg Hunt’s 2.5-litre Maserati A6GCM in 1954 and ended, say, after Stan Jones AGP win at Longford in March 1959. The little marauding Coopers were well on the march by then but not yet dominant.

The fans were excited by Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, the 250Fs of Hunt, Jones, Bib Stillwell and Glass, the 300S of Doug Whiteford and Bob Jane and this car raced by Glass. It wasn’t the quickest thing around, he got on better with his ex-Hunt-Stillwell 250F but it was still a fast, spectacular car the very successful motor dealer drove capably.

See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2020/10/10/squalo-squadron/

October 1957 (P Jones)

Bib Stillwell discusses progress with a mechanic, ex-Hunt Maserati 250F chassis ‘2516’.

He ran well in the first couple of laps with Stan Jones but then pulled over at Matchless Corner with bent valves. Bib raced with his usual race number 6, these shots of the car the October 1957 Fishermans Bend meeting.

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

Stillwell’s preparation and presentation was five-star, it is intriguing why he has not re-painted Reg Hunts luvverly Rice Trailer in his own colours. Make and model of the American car folks?

Reg Hunt tested and acquired the machine at Modena in December 1955, first racing it in Australia at Gnoo Blas. He won the South Pacific Championship in it and ‘was the class of 1956’ behind it’s wood-rimmed wheel. Who can fault his choice of early retirement to focus on his growing dealership empire but our grids were robbed of a great competitor. See here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/19/reg-hunt-australian-ace-of-the-1950s/

October 1957 (P Jones)

By this stage of his career Stillwell’s Kew Holden dealership and related enterprises were spitting off serious wads of cash, the quality of his racing cars reflected this.

An arch enthusiast, as well as an elite level racer- no driver other than Bob Jane had so many sensational racing cars ‘in period’ and later in his life when he returned to racing ‘historics’ globally.

(P Jones)

With a keen eye on the growing speed of Coopers, Bib bought the T43 Climax (above) Jack Brabham raced in the 1958 New Zealand Internationals and South Pacific Championship race at Gnoo Blas in January. Jack won the Levin International and the Soupac Championship in the 2.2-litre Climax FPF engined machine.

Bib practiced both the Cooper and Maserati at Fishos, he elected to race the 250F.

He entered the Cooper in the Bathurst Easter meeting where the 1.7-litre FPF engined car (presumably Jack took the 2.2 back to England) was very fast. In a 3 lap preliminary Bib started from pole but his new Cooper jumped out of gear. He quickly plucked it and set off amongst the mid-field bunch but touched wheels with Alec Mildren’s similar car (our opening shot machine) in the first turn- Hell Corner. The car somersaulted several times before landing back on its wheels. Bib was ok with facial cuts and abrasions but the Cooper was a tad worse for wear. After repair it was sold to Bill Patterson who raced it for the first time at Lowood in August.

Stillwell raced the 250F throughout the rest of 1958 and sold it to Arnold Glass in early 1959 after a good run to sixth in the Ardmore NZ GP. Carroll Shelby’s 250F was the best placed front-engined car that afternoon, two laps adrift of Stirling Moss winning 2-litre Cooper T45. It was very much time to sell, Arnold did very well with it in 1959-1960 all the same!

October 1956 (P Jones)

Paul England and Bill Hickey’s Ausca Holden-Repco is one of the sexiest and quickest of Australian sportscars of the period.

Ya can’t go wrong with styling nicked from the Maserati A6GCS! The ladder-frame chassis machine was built after-hours by Paul and Bill at Repco Research in Sydney Road Brunswick. It used a Holden front-end, rear axle and engine. It was the rolling test bed for the Repco Hi-Power Holden Grey-Six engine developments.

England’s skill at twiddling a wheel did the rest. Happy to have this little baby in my garage. Not sure of the meeting date.

October 1956 (P Jones)

 

October 1956 (P Jones)

Hedley Thompson’s Edelbrock Special.

Thompson, a highly skilled welder/fabricator employed by Trans-Australian Airlines operated from a workshop behind his home in Melbourne’s inner-eastern Deepdene. The car used a ladder frame chassis and Ford V8 with lots of Vic Edelbrock bits within- hence the name. The gearbox was also Ford, the rear end incorporated a quick-change Halibrand diff. A Delage donated the brake-drums which used Holden cylinders and Holden worm and roller steering.

The car made its debut sans-bodywork at Hepburn Springs in 1956 and later passed to Barry Stilo who made it sing. It exists today, a quite stunning car.

(P Jones)

Ern Seeliger’s Maybach 4 Chev in the ’58 Fishermans Bend paddock.

This thing was still quick in 1959, Stan Jones won the Port Wakefield Gold Star round in it.

Seeliger did a mighty fine job replacing the Maybach SOHC-six with a Chev Corvette V8. Additionally, considerable changes were made to the rear suspension and other refinements- Maybach 3 became Maybach 4.

Ern was like a rocket at the Bend! He hassled Stan early then passed he and Glass for the lead. The look on the face of the cars owner- Stan Jones would have been priceless! But it was not to be. Ern started the race with worn tyres, he was black-flagged when the stewards caught sight of white breaker-strips on the hard worn tyres!

See here; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/09/stan-ernie-and-maybach-4-chev/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2020/07/14/john-comber-collection/

October 1957 (P Jones)

Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S was one of the best prepared and presented racing cars- all of the work done by the three-times Australian Grand Prix winner himself.

Here is the ex-works Jean Behra 1956 Australian Tourist Trophy meeting car during the February 1958 meeting. Doug finished third in a typically speedy, reliable run. See 300S feature here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

February 1958 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

Bill Patterson’s Cooper T39 Climax, wouldn’t it have made an ideal road-car.

Patterson’s outer-east Melbourne Ringwood Holden dealership was not too far from Templestowe and Rob Roy hillclimbs, close enough for a bit of lunchtime practice or failing that a romp through the Dandenongs.

The plucky racer was one of the very fastest of his day, a Cooper man throughput after his formative MG stage. See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/ Stephen reckons the side view of the car alongside the T39 above is Brian Sampson’s Morris Special- ‘Sambo’, was very close to the start of a long, diverse and successful career which was only finished by a road accident not so long ago.

He won the Gold Star in 1961 aboard a Cooper T51 Climax, the machine below is the T43 Climax FPF ex-Brabham-Stillwell #5 referred to above, perhaps in 1959.

(P Jones)

Note John Roxburgh standing at right and what looks a bit like Bib Stillwell in the cream jumper? Holden Ute and wonderful colour gives us a perspective on male fashion of the coolish day- October 1958 or February 1959 meeting.

(P Jones)

Len Lukey’s Cooper T23 Bristol, probably, ace Cooper historian Stephen Dalton thinks, during the October 1957 Fishos meeting where the car carried #33.

He surmises, based on AMS magazine reports, that Len’s team fitted the longer nose in an attempt to make the car more slippery before the Commonwealth Oil Refinery (C.O.R. later BP) sponsored speed-trials held at Coonabarabran, New South Wales in September 1957.

Two years hence Len would be aboard an ex-Brabham Cooper T45 Climax at the start of the longest Gold Star season. A successful one too, he won the Gold Star; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/26/len-lukey-australian-gold-star-champion/

Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F below, it is chassis #2516 featured above, bodied as it was when Reg first imported it in early 1956, this probably the October 1956 meeting.

(P Jones)

 

Peter with a modern Yamaha, above leading Eric Debenham and Eric Hindle at Oran Park on the TR500 in 1970. With ‘mo’ after a win on the TR500 in 1970 (Old Bike Australasia)

After completing the piece to this point via to-and-fro emails I gave photographer Peter Jones a call to thank him and find out a bit about him. To my pleasant surprise I learned he was an Australian champion motor-cyclist in the sixties and seventies, so lets have a look at his career! What a fascinating journey Peter’s has been.

Born in 1942, he was raised in Melbourne’s Kew and then Beaumaris. Qualified as a fitter and turner he commenced his racing career aboard a a Yamaha YDS2 jumping in right at the deep end- his first meeting was at Bathurst in Easter 1964, third in the 250cc Production race was a good start on this most daunting of circuits!

He progressed through an Aermacchi Ala d’Oro 250 pushrod single as below. ‘Built 1963 or 1964, I bought it second hand from the distributor. It was a toss-up between this and a Yamaha TD1-A and I went with this. Great handling and brakes but in my ownership it was lacking in reliability, which in hindsight was a combination of me and the bike.’

‘The battery has a Yamaha logo on it, I knew the Yamahah importers well and had owned two Yamaha 250cc road bikes so when I needed batteries I went there. Back of the photo says Calder February 1965. That’s my Holden FC Ute behind.’

(P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Peter then bought a Yamaha TD1-B which allowed him to demonstrate his talent and progress to B-Grade, the bike is shown exiting Griffins Bend at Mount Panorama in 1966 above.

‘I enjoyed this bike a lot, had some success with it while still learning my way. I had a very experienced racing mechanic, Les Gates of Murrumbeena, looking after me so reliability was not a problem. A great weekend was 4 or 5 riders working on our bikes in his backyard with us doing the simple things and Les the more complex. The machine was painted in standard Yamaha colours of white with a red stripe. My Cromwell jet-helmet was white, I painted it blue on each side. The emblem on the front of the helmet is the Sandringham Motorcycle Club- spoked wheel with wings, the club still exists today.’

Graham Laing at Melbourne Motorcycles invited him to assemble a batch of Suzukis which had arrived in December 1965. This led to a full-time gig and the offer to race a Suzuki TR250 production-racer in 1966, I looked after this bike. After a lot of work to improve the performance of the bike Peter hit the big time at the Bathurst  Easter meeting. He finished second to Bryan Hindle’s Yamaha TDC-1 in the B-Grade Junior and then second to Eric Debenham’s big Vincent in the B-Grade Unlimited. He was second behind Ron Toombs’ Yamaha in the Junior GP. Better still, a slow-starting Toombs gave Jones the break he needed to win the Lightweight GP in 1969.

The Auto Cycle Union of Victoria provided a grant for Peter to represent the state in the Australian Championships at Surfers Paradise- he was nominated in the 250, 350, and 500 races, all aboard the TR250. The young rider won the 250 and 350, and then the 500 as well. Ron Toombs led on the latter aboard his Matchless but then DNF’d.

(P Jones)

‘The shot above is my first meeting aboard the Suzuki TR250 at Mallala in January 1966. It must be during practice as the engine mounts cracked so I didn’t start. It’s the left-hander after the hairpin, the bike in front is a Kawasaki 250 production racer.’

Peter built up a 500 from a road-going T500 on which he won the Jack Ahearn Trophy at Amaroo Park. A promised TR500 which was due for early in 1970 finally arrived late in the year but without the rear wheel assembly including Ceriani rear brake. Suzuki sent it anyway! and Peter completed it with road parts.

Determined to race in Europe in 1971, Graham Laing agreed that Jones could take the TR500 with him. En-route to the UK Jones ordered and bought a TR250 from Ron Grant (which turned out to be a very poor replica which brings a twitch to my left eye when i think about it!) who was racing at Daytona. He also took his T20 roadie on which he learned the Isle of Man course in the week before the race!

Jones was awarded a Bronze Replica for his performance on the 250 and a Silver on the 500 but admitted, ‘for me, the races were sort of fast touring’. He also rode a Suzuki GB entered T350 in the Production Race.

Later in the season Peter and very-good British rider Keith Martin, aided by Australian mechanic Dave Hall rode the same machine to seventh in the 24 Hour classic at Montjuich Park, Barcelona. ‘Dave Hall was touring the UK and Europe on his BMW. We first met up at the IOM but he assisted in the meetings I raced including manning our Barcelona pit for the full 24-hours, an amazing effort. He later worked for the Suzuki GP team and sponsored riders on a 250cc production bike when he returned to Australia.’ Other non-championship internationals were at Hengalo, Holland and the Southern 100 at Brands Hatch.

In 500s ‘The only works team at the time was Ago and the MV’s, but even that was just a van and some mechanics. The biggest team was the Dutch Van Kreidler team in the 50cc class.’

‘On the 500’s the guys chasing Ago were Keith Turner, Robert Brom and Jack Findlay on his TR500 engined bike. I did the TT, the Swedish GP in torrential rain and the Spanish GP at Jarama where i got seventh in the 500 GP for four world-championship points. The shot below is at the Isle of Man in 1971 aboard my 1970 Suzuki TR500, it was a great bike, easy to ride, I enjoyed it a lot.’

(P Jones)

Back at home with new wife Lyn early in 1972 with the overseas racing bug out of the system, the TR250 and 500 were converted to run on methanol in an attempt to keep them competitive. Later a water-cooled TR500 was little better.

Peter contested the Amaroo Park Castrol 6-Hours in 1970 and 1972 but lap scoring which left a lot to be desired was no incentive to maintain his interest. Peter won the 1973 ‘King of The Weir’ at, you guessed it, Hume Weir.

Peter’s waning interest was piqued with the purchase of a fabulous Suzuki RG500 square-four in time for the infamous Laverton RAAF base February 1976 Australian Tourist Trophy meeting. This was headlined by Giacomo Agostini’s works MV Agusta 500-four.

Jones qualified second behind Ken Blake’s RG500, ahead of Ago on the 5.3km circuit. In the race he muffed the start and finished fourth behind the victorious Blake, then Agostini with Greg Johnson on another RG500 in third.

‘Below is the RG500, now that was a racing bike! Square-four, great power delivery and handling, everything you could ask for. Here braking for Laverton’s far-hairpin, we did a U-turn around the hay-bales and then back up the other side. My last racing motorcycle as I retired during 1976.’

(P Jones)

It was time to hang up the helmet for the Service Manager role at Melbourne Motorcycles. Senior executive roles followed at Suzuki Australia, Yamaha’s Milledge Brothers and Yamaha Motor Australia where Jones had a support role in the early 2000’s with the companies’ Australian Superbike and Moto GP rounds.

Retired in Sidmouth, Tasmania, Peter has his TR250 and air-cooled TR500 to restore and in more recent times has been carefully sorting rather a nice collection of his photographs…

Photo and other Credits…

Peter Jones- many thanks for sharing your story and photographs with us

Peter Jones Old Bike Australasia article by Jim Scaysbrook, Stephen Dalton, Terry McGrath

Tailpiece…

(P Jones)

‘I obviously like the colour of it’ Peter quipped, there were quite a few shots of the same car. N Ronalds, MGA, during the October 1956 meeting.

Finito…

(CAN)

Chris Amon carefully pushes his Maserati 250F ‘2506’ (or ‘2504’ or ‘2509’) out of the ‘escape driveway’ during the February 3 1962 Dunedin Road Race…

Its practice and wet, the Kiwi great overshot the corner at the junction of King Edward Street, Wilkie Road and Bridgeman Street. The angle suggests the photo was taken from the building opposite, the dark industrial buildings contrasted by the colourful advertising hoardings, red Maserati and dead, gold grass all create a very atmospheric panorama.

Chris retired his car after a collision with Bill Thomasen, Cooper T51 Climax. It was a sad event, champion racer John Mansel died in his Cooper T51 Maserati, the race was won by Pat Hoare’s Ferrari 256 V12 from Jim Palmer, Lotus 20B Ford and Barry Cottle’s Lola Mk1 Climax.

(E Sarginson)

Allan Dick, a ‘famous photograph above of the first lap at Dunedin in 1962. Against all expectations it was Chris Amon who led the first lap, not Pat Hoare who eventually had an easy win’. Chris retired after the collision with Thomasen, see photos below.

Hoare’s Ferrari 256 was a 246 Dino to fit a Testa Rossa 3 litre V12 at the factory. Click here for an article about that awesome car here; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/09/pat-hoares-ferrari-256-v12-at-the-dunedin-road-race-1961/

(CAN)

 

(B Wilson)

 

(B Wilson)

Allan Dick picks up the story, ‘Chris is almost out of the car as his 250F hits the power-pole dead centre. Amon led the first lap but reality struck and the faster, better, newer  cars passed him one by one. He was in fourth place when Bill Thomasen (Cooper T51 Climax) tried to take him on the outside of the left-hander out of Andersons Bay Road into Princes Street South, the two cars tangled and ran off the road.’

Chris’ Maser was repaired by Bruce Wilson in Huntsville (I must buy his book ‘The Master Mechanic) returning with a longer nose.

John Mansel, Cooper T51 Maserati rounds the Glen Hairpin on what was to be his last lap (CAN)

Unfortunately John Mansel also fell foul of one of the lamp-posts. The champion driver started the race after many laps, he had completed about 10 when he lost control of his ex-Centro Sud Cooper T51 ‘F2-13-59’ Maserati 2.9 and slid into the immovable object side on. He was thrown from the car and died of head injuries sustained a week or so after the accident, a very sad day in Kiwi motor sport indeed.

He was eighth at Wigram and Teretonga in the fortnight prior to Dunedin and had been very successful in the ex-Moss 250F, Stirling won the 1956 NZ GP in chassis ‘2508’ and sold the car at the end of his trip, for some years.

John Mansel at Teretonga the week before, here ahead of Ross Greenville, Lotus 18 Ford and John Histed, Lola FJ Ford (CAN)

 

(E Sarginson)

The couple of photographs are of Pat Hoare on his way to victory in the Ferrari.

In the monochrome shot he is traversing ‘Cemetery Corner’, the lower photograph shows just how wet the track was and therefore how treacherous given the normal road hazards, which were, in the traditions of the day, ‘modestly protected’ if things went wrong at higher speeds. A statement of the obvious. The bruised nose of the sleek Italian V12 racer is a consequence of kissing the back of Brian Blackburn’s Maserati 250F whilst lapping him.

(CAN)

They are crackers of shots aren’t they, the docks area of the city was used for this event and then the Oval Circuit from 1962. Click here for an article in part about the development of the Dunedin and other circuits post-war; https://primotipo.com/2019/09/05/the-gp-aston-martin-dp155/

Credits…

Allan Dick- ‘Classic Auto News’, Bruce Wilson, Euan Sarginson, Derek Woods

Etcetera…

(D Woods)

 

(CAN)

This is Chris in practice, clearly it was a very soggy weekend throughout, Amon wore goggles in practice and went with a visor in the race.

Pat Hoare’s Ferrari 256 lines up on the grid, the black car is the Bob Eade ex-Moss/Jensen/Mansel Maserati 250F with Bill Thomasen’s Cooper T51 Climax alongside. There is another red car almost obscured as well beside the M Garr Ltd garage- I wonder if the premises are still there?

(B Woodford)

Beautiful crisp colour shot of Jim Palmer’s Lotus 20 Ford 1.5, he is in his fourth season of motor racing and still a teenager’ noted Allan Dick.

Went all the way to the top of racing too, winning the NZ Gold Star drivers championship on four occasions in the sixties, click here for a brief article on Jim; https://primotipo.com/2018/01/02/renwick-50-and-jim-palmer-new-zealand-1965/

(B Wilson)

Who are they, Chris and his Leica excepted and where was the photograph taken? Ardmore perhaps?

Credits…

Allan Dick- ‘Classic Auto News’, Bruce Wilson, Euan Sarginson, Bob Woodford

Tailpiece: Pukekohe 1963…

(B Wilson)

Derek Woods was there that weekend and recalls, ‘Chris sits on the pit counter in blue T-shirt, goggles and racing boots whilst the Cooper T53 Climax is warmed up after qualifying sixth. He stormed through to third on the opening lap but fell back and pitted with ignition problems when running in fourth or fifth. He then made a late charge to finish seventh. Had things gone to plan he would have finished in the top three, possibly second. Typical Amon luck right from those early days.’

By the end of that summer Chris was off to Europe with Tim Parnell, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thats David McKay, the car owner at far right chopped in half by the crop- a key person in Chris’ rise and in his later 1968/69 Dino 246T Tasman campaigns.

Finito…

(S5000)

Stan Jones in typical press-on style aboard his Maserati 250F #2520 during the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix at Albert Park on 30 November- Stan The Man often wore these super short shirts when he raced, his tensed muscles were always a good indication that the cars of this era had a physicality about them the nimble mid-engined cars which followed did not quite so much.
A couple of those nimble machines were up front of this race- the Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham 2 litre Cooper T45 Climaxes finished first and second, Stan was a DNF after loss of oil pressure having completed 19 of the 32 laps- 100 miles in total.
The ‘John Comber Collection’ piece aroused plenty of interest- in particular from enthusiasts who remembered it racing at Sandown that November 1963 sans bonnet.
A volley of emails followed including this one from David Zeunert, a Melbourne Maserati enthusiast and historian- here ’tis for all to enjoy- shortly thereafter Stephen Dalton, Rob Bailey and Bob King chipped in with comments/and/or photographs- it was all great stuff which should be shared as there is some gold amongst the silver and bronze- where ‘the bronze’ is defined as stuff which is pretty well known amongst older Australian enthusiasts at least.
‘I was very fortunate to buy the Stan Jones Maserati cylinder head in a Jeff Dutton auction many many years ago, from memory he had owned it for a long time, he held an auction in a large factory in Cremorne Street, Richmond- not his famous car store in Chapel Street, South Yarra, at the time he was closing this and moving to a new outlet in Cromwell Street, South Yarra, and was raising capital for that venture.’
‘There was spirited bidding and it got close to $1,000 but hey the money is forgotten later and it is a Very Special Maserati Memory of “Stan The Man”- I have seen other original 250F pieces around, once again I think when Stan sold out there were spares that Colin Crabbe, who bought the car, did not get hold of. When Bill Leech sold his Cisitalia and Maserati 300S to Steve Forristall (Texas Wheeler racing car dealer) in the late 1980s I am pretty sure he got a spare Maserati 3 litre engine as part of the deal. Forristall only had the Maserati 300S – chassis #3055/Behra’s car back in the USA a short time before he flogged it.

Stan Jones, 250F at Sandown, St Vincents Hospital charity historic meeting during practice- look carefully and you can see the bonnet does not appear to be seated properly on its leading edge- on Sunday raceday he ran sans bonnet as shown below where Melbourne’s cooler weather kicked in- note the natty v-neck jumper (J Comber)

(R Bell Collection)

‘The Maserati Team brought a heap of spares with them for the 1956 Australian Grand Prix and Tourist Trophy races “Down Under”. Being short of money, Team Manager Nello Ugolini sold the two 300S Maserati’s soon after the race. Chassis #3059 went to Reg Smith- the father of Gary and Warren Smith – Melbourne car traders and much later a Maserati Bi-Turbo agent’s in Oakleigh (I am still to confirm this). Chassis #3055 was sold to Doug Whiteford and then in the late 1950’s early 1960’s to Bill Leech.’
‘I still have fond memories of Bill Leech driving the road registered 300S- with Victorian Rego WL333 down at Pearcedale, Bill at this stage lived in Humphreys Road, Mt Eliza, I had the pleasure of visiting Bill and viewing his Bugatti, Cisitalia and Maserati 300S all together in his garage.’
‘Another piece of Maserati trivia- for years I believed the visiting Maserati Team (two mechanics – team manager – head mechanic plus Stirling Moss and Jean Behra) has stayed at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda but around three months ago I found out this in incorrect. I speak regularly with Adolfo Orsi in Modena, Adolfo is the grandson of the owner of Maserati from 1939 – 1968, I exchanged some rare photographs with Adolfo of the team when they were in Melbourne and surprise-surprise, he told me he has receipts of their stay in Melbourne- at The Brighton Club Hotel, then owned by the Sierakowski family, now Dan Murphys in Brighton just 300 metres down from Reg Hunt’s garage where all the team’s racing cars- plus Hunt’s and Ken Wharton’s were fettled prior to be raced at Albert Park.’
Bob King, ‘Maserati Chief Mechanic and Test Driver, was, needless to say, Guerino Bertocchi, i think another was Ermanno Lotti, who later returned to Australia to look after Reg’s 300S and then worked for my mate Ron McCallum as a machinist- very good he was too. Ron, 96 today, re-metalled one big-end bearing on the Moss 250F, which involved pulling the engine down overnight.’
Zeunert, ‘As is well known Bertocchi and the mechanics drove the cars along Brighton Road and the Nepean Highway from Reg’s workshop to Albert Park, exactly as they often did in Europe. I believe BP UK stumped up the money to enable the Maserati team- six people, five cars and a whole heap of spares, to come to Australia, BP’s local subsidiary was the Commonwealth Oil Refinery.’
‘Ken Wharton was a close friend of Reg Hunt and was the driver who suggested to Reg that he approach Maserati to buy a racing car- he ended up buying two from the Orsis in the 1950s (2.5 litre A6GCM and 250F) and the rest is history…Ken was killed in early 1957 in New Zealand’ racing a Ferrari Monza in a support sportscar event immediately prior to the NZ GP at Ardmore.

Albert Hunt admires his son’s new 250F, chassis #2516  prior to rolling it off the trailer in Elsternwick (B King Collection)

Leech 300S at Pearcedale on a Maserati Owners Club run circa 1988/9 (D Zeunert/B King Collection)

Maseratis as far as the eye can see! Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick garage- from left, a box of spares, Moss’ 300S #3059, Behra’s 300S #3055, team spare short nose 250F, Behra 250F long-nose #2521, Moss long nose 250F #?, Hunt’s short nose 250F #2516 with Hunt’s Cooper T23 Bristol at far right. DZ ‘Probably a BP PR shot, there was a cocktail party @ Hunts to welcome the team to Melbourne and one @ ‘Killara’ the Davison family farm near Lilydale- a traditional Aussie BBQ’ (R Hunt via D Zeunert Collection)

Adolfo also has the 1956 Australian Grand Prix cup awarded to Stirling Moss for his win in the 250F, I have asked Adolfo to email me pics, the Maserati 250F head is as light as a feather, the Italians were masters of the dark art of light weight foundry production, this goes right back to 1926 when Isotta Fraschini did all the special casting for the Maserati brothers for their emerging racing cars.’

‘Reg Hunt and his wife and son Graeme arrived in Australia circa 1948, Reg’s grandparents had been involved in the motor industry around Manchester in the 1890’s- I believe his grandmother raced motor bikes even back then, Reg was introduced to the family business, a motorcycle shop in Salford Road, Manchester, almost from birth running errands for pocket money before the 1930s, his parents taught him very early the good habits of thrift and saving for a rainy day.’

‘Reg was also involved in racing motor bikes however the second world war put an end to that, Reg told me he worked on tanks in England during this time of war, afterwards Reg was married with a son and was looking for a better place than the danky cold Manchester where he grew up. He  considered going to Canada but saw some motoring magazines from Australia and decided to bring the three of them ‘Down Under, no he was not a “Ten Pound Pom” to the best of my knowledge.’

‘He brought with him the bare bones of a special in suitcases to form the Hunt Special or “Flying Bedstead”, he then honed his skills and basically went on from there, I believe his parents came out after Reg settled here in Melbourne- Bert and Edna, his brother also made the journey and became an employee of Reg Hunt Motors.’
‘Reg  then bought some better race cars and eventually the two Maserati racing cars in 1954 and 1955 to race the following seasons here and in NZ, there are a million stories with Reg and I am gradually working thru his photographs and digitising them for all to see.’

‘In terms of his business, Reg started selling used cars from his first home in Noble Park, then a friend advised him to move closer to the city so he bought in Elsternwick and again did very well, he then thought he needed more exposure to the moving traffic so he rented the car park of the Church of England on the corner of the Nepean Highway and Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick- it’s now a Zagame used car outlet.’
‘Reg being Reg, he decided, as time moved on to move further down the road and gradually bought up space to create the “Golden Mile of New and Used Cars” in the 1950s, Reg once told me he knocked down over 300 houses to create his various dealerships there.’

‘He is an amazing man and still with us, my wife and i have dinner with he and his long term partner, Julia Hunt as often as we can- 97 years old this May just gone’ David concluded.

Who is the pretty boy then!? Reg Hunt looking very cool and dapper with sports jacket, flat-hat and Raybans, near the old army drill hall where the swim/basketball stadium is today, Albert Park. DZ suspects this is a pre-event AGP PR shot by ‘The Argus’ newspaper (D Zeunert Collection)

Moss’ works Maserati 250F, 1956 AGP weekend at Albert Park with Guerino Bertocchi tending. Bob King thinks it may be Sil Massola by the car’s tail (B King)

 

Whiteford trailer after restoration by Kerry Manolas (R Bailey)

Stephen Dalton chips in, ‘Reg Smith was indeed Garry and Warren’s father. He originally had Smith’s Radios in Smith Street Fitzroy, but branched into the car trade as ‘Reno Auto Sales’, his race entries can be found with either of those business names as the entrant.’
‘Before the 300S he had a pair of air cooled Coopers and Jack Brabham’s 1955 AGP-winning Cooper Bristol T40 – the rear engine ‘Bobtail’ type car. He only had the 300S for about six months before trying to move it on. I’m (currently) aware of adverts in the July 1957 AMS and the June 1957 Rob Roy programme.  There was obviously no takers, until Bob Jane came along in late September/early October 1958. The sale is recorded in the 15 October 1958 Australian Motor News – a fortnightly late 1950s Auto Action type publication.’
‘Bob got the 300S after Reg had purchased a new Ford Thunderbird, then at the following weekend Jane ran the 300S at Fishermen’s Bend. Reg Smith was one of many to lose his life on Conrod Straight at Bathurst, driving a Porsche 356 during the October 1960 meeting. Graham Hoinville once stated to me that at Reg’s funeral there was talk of his generosity to the needy around his business area.’
‘My understanding is that the Leech brothers took over ownership of the Doug Whiteford 300S in or around August 1961- the car was run at the 27/8/61 Geelong Speed Trials by old and new owners. It’s recorded in the Nov 1961 AMS within the 10/9/61 Rob Roy report that Doug was having his second run in the 300S after the change of ownership.’
Now Rob Bailey, note that we all terribly biased Stan Jones fans here…
‘A long term family friend Don McDonald (Black Mac) who raced in the 1953 AGP at Albert Park always told me that Jones was the best racer of the period and would have made it overseas, Peter Brock even mentioned that Jones was one of the period drivers that “Straight lined” or “line drove”.
Regarding Rice trailers, Glenn Coad had in storage, up to a few years ago the Whiteford one all restored  sitting in a factory behind Izy Hertzog’s business in Port Melbourne, whilst the sister trailer was owned till his passing by that very fine gent John Best who would park it  around the corner from Barkers road Hawthorn East- his son Roy had it for sale several years ago.’
Derek Rice owned Rice trailers (no relation to the UK Rice trailers ) was a man of taste who acquired  from Bernard Down the Rolls Royce Phantom #lll 3AZ158 the Gurney Nutting 3 position sedanca. For many the most magnificent  Rolls-Royce or Bentley to have ever reached these shores. Rice hit hard times in the 1960s, as a child I can remember being with my father going to his home in the Murrumbeena area when he purchased the Phantom…’
‘Its interesting how Walter Baumer’s Maserati 300S book notes that the Moss/Jane car #3059 was raced in the 1956 Mille Miglia by Taruffi for second place and the same years Targa Florio (Taruffi) and also won the 1956 1,000 km Nurburgring- such a wonderful reference book…’

Bob Jane 300S- where/when folks? (unattributed)

Etcetera…

(S Dalton Collection)

Australian Motor Sports piece on the occasion of the arrival of Stan Jones’ 250F in Australia and spare 3 litre 300S engine.
Moss exits Jaguar Corner on the way to a most impressive demonstration of high speed car control during the AGP.
Credits…
Many thanks to David Zeunert, Stephen Dalton, Rob Bailey and Bob King
S5000 Facebook page, Rob Bailey, David Zeunert Collection, Reg Hunt, Bob King Collection, Ray Bell Collection, John Comber, Bill Leech Collection
Tailpiece…

(B Leech/COR via D Zeunert Collection)

Stunning shot of the visting Officine Maserati team to Australia for the Melbourne Olympic Albert Park race meetings, again at Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick garage.
From the left-Nello Ugolini, Team Manager, Emmore Manni, Mechanic usually associated with JM Fangio, Guerino Bertocchi, Chief Mechanic and Test Driver, Jean Behra, Beppe Console, Mechanic and Stirling Moss. Then Dennis Druitt, BP UK head, funds from BP allowed the Maserati entourage to Australia in full force, Ken Wharton and Reg Hunt on the far right. The 250F is Jean’s #2521.
Finito…

 

(J Comber)

Ern Seeliger jumps aboard the magnificent Maybach 4 Chev at Fishermans Bend in March 1958…

One of the Covid 19 phenomena, the only good one I might add, is the incredible number of enthusiasts who have been using time released from normal outdoor activities to doing stuff inside including finding and sorting old racing images, Melbourne enthusiast, John Comber is one such fella.

In addition to the shots he also wrote a piece about his work experience as a fifteen year old in Seeliger’s workshop at 52 Baker Street, Richmond, Melbourne way back in 1958- Seeliger didn’t frighten him off either, he commenced his career as a panel beater shortly thereafter.

Of course i have written about the Maybachs before, here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

A big blow up of the one remaining Maybach six cylinder engine at Gnoo Blas littered the bitumen with expensive metallic debris in early 1956 and resulted in Stan Jones decision to acquire a Maserati 250F, the Maybach was handed over to Seeliger, long time friend and preparer of some of his cars to further develop and race, although Stan did have the occasional drive too.

Maybach 3 was styled along the lines of the Mercedes Benz W196, its chassis was built up from two 4 inch diameter steel tubes, the cars front suspension was by upper wishbones and a lower transverse leaf spring and radius rods, drum brakes were by PBR and the gearbox a four-speed manual.

Seeliger’s evolution of Maybach 3 to 4 essentially involved the insertion of a Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 into the space once occupied by the German 3.8 litre SOHC injected six, changes to accomodate it and better put its power to the road.

Maybach 3 in the Gnoo Blas, Orange paddock on the fateful early 1956 when its beautiful, fuel injected SOHC six lunched itself bigtime for the last time-who is at the wheel? (B Caldersmith)

John Comber’s time in the Seeliger shop coincided with some of these modifications, lets look at his work experience now.

‘…My second job was also with a neighbour, Mr Seeliger, who had a small automotive engineering business in Richmond…The arrangements were for me and my friend Trevor to be at the Seeliger’s house at 7.30 am Monday morning, do a days work and see how we liked it.’

‘On the Monday, with a  packed lunch and wearing our best “old clothes” we arrived at 7.30 just as Mr Seeliger was starting the engine of his utility. “Jump in boys” he said and we took off straight away, heading for Richmond (from Blackburn).’

‘I still remember quite clearly his opening comments, “Well i have the right job for you two bastards today, you can clean some car parts with kero, “That’ll keep you busy”.

‘The thought of cleaning the car parts with kerosene didn’t faze me but the language had caused me something of a jolt. To me this was school-yard  language and i wasn’t used to adults swearing, certainly not from my parents or relatives, or family friends.’

‘Well the rest of the day turned out fine, Trevor and i set-to with a can of kerosene cleaning mechanical parts and some body parts as well. This was quite an easy job and allowed us to look around and take in the surroundings. Mr Seeliger’s workshop  was converted from some old run-down stables with cobblestones between the sheds and an overhead loft used for storage. The yard was quite large with grass growing between some old cars and car trailers adding to the overall run-down appearance of the place.’

‘This must have been too much for Trevor as he didn’t come any more but i was there each day for the next fortnight, working amongst the cars was perfect for me…’

The core of Mr Seeliger’s business was tuning and maintaining racing cars, he was a qualified aircraft engineer and understood high performance engines and was also a racing driver himself. One of the racing cars he worked on had a V8 engine and was a potential race-winner. I learned later that this car was known as the “Maybach” and had a long history of success. He had spent several days working on the rear of the car making some modifications. Finally with it all finished i can still visualise him standing on the back of the car, making it bounce up and down and saying “That’ll keep me ahead of those bloody Ferraris.”

‘There were only three on staff, Mr Seeliger, a mechanic and Roy, the apprentice. Although Roy was only a year or two older than me he was quite friendly and helpful. To quote an old mechanic’s saying “he knew his way around a toolbox”, sometimes i helped with jobs on customer cars- simple jobs…’

‘Working conditions can best be described as matching the already mentioned surroundings: primitive might sum it up. There was no lunch-room, morning tea break was around the car being worked on and discussing the progress of the job while sipping tea or coffee. Lunch break was a little better though with a couple of old car seats to sit on…There was no heating of any sort, the area between the main sheds being open to the elements. The toilet was basic and the only tap available for hand washing was also used for filling radiators and washing cars etc.’

‘Despite these poor working conditions, which by twenty-first century standards would be deemed illegal, i thoroughly enjoyed myself working with cars and receiving five pounds each week. Now i was even more eager to finish school and begin an apprenticeship as a panel beater’, John Comber concluded in a wonderful personal account of what it was like ‘in the day’.

Tom Hawkes’ Cooper T23 Holden-Repco and Ron Phillips’ Cooper T38 Jaguar (J Comber)

 

Seeliger, above, with his mount at Bathurst during the 1958 Australian Grand Prix weekend- and a successful meeting too, second behind Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 3 litre.

 

(J Comber)

In fact the modifications to the car John alluded to included the design and construction of a de Dion rear axle to better put the greater power and torque of the bigger, heavier cast-iron V8 to the road. The previous quarter-elliptic springs were replaced with a transverse leaf, the rear track widened by an inch, the chassis lengthened a bit and at the front an anti-roll bar was fitted which incorporated brake torque rods. A larger 30 gallon tank was made to feed the thirsty Chevy.

American hot-up parts were quickly produced for this engine (in large numbers continuously for about seventy years so far!) the first of the ‘small-blocks’- the modifications to the motor used in Maybach involved fitment of two 4-barrel Carter carbs, porting and polishing the heads, bigger valves, stronger springs, lightened flywheel, oilways modified for greater flow and dry-sumping- 274bhp @ 3500rpm and 300lb/ft at 3500rpm was the result. Seeliger designed and made the clutch and a bell-housing to adapt the American engine to German Maybach ‘box whilst the diff was the same unit used in ‘3’ but with shorter axles and stronger cv’s bolted and mated to the new de Dion.

Ern made the cars debut in this form at Fishermans Bend in March 1958, John Comber’s first shot at this articles outset and some others below were taken on that very weekend.

His bid for victory came to an end with stripped tyres, John recalls ‘We watched the races from a large furniture van…after a few laps of the main race the rear tyres showed white strips around their perimeter and those on the van became quite worried the tyres might blow- fortunately Seeliger saw the problem and retired from the race….Back in the van there were many commiserations and i distinctly remember asking him “Would he be suing Dunlop because the tyres let him down”? He laughingly said “Oh no, they were just some old tyres anyway”- and indeed if you look closely at the first photograph the rears are well worn.

Importantly, the car was quick right out of the box though, Seeliger was a mighty fine design and development engineer.

Stan Jones was stiff not to win the 1958 AGP at Bathurst aboard his 250F- as was Ted Gray unlucky to dip out in Tornado 2 Chev, but Seeliger finished second in Maybach 4 with Lex Davison, always a lucky AGP competitor, the winner.

Be in no doubt my friends Maybach 4 Chev in Jone’s hands was a front row car had he felt so inclined in 1958 but he was busy winning the Gold Star aboard the 250F in any event. John believes he took the second #69 shot about two years later at a Fishermans Bend Sprint Meeting- it would be great to hear from anyone who can date it.

Into 1959 Maybach 4 was still competitive in Ern’s hands, and Stan took a win in the ‘South Australian Trophy’ Gold Star event at Port Wakefield in late March and third place in the Lowood Trophy race in Queensland but his performances that year were not enough to win him the Gold Star again despite his Longford 250F AGP win at the season’s outset.

The reign of the ‘Red Cars’ was quickly coming to an end In Australia but lets never forget the dark blue Tornado 2 shown in the Albert Park paddock below in late 1958, and the silver/blue Maybach 4- both Chev V8 powered locally designed and engineered devices very much as quick as the more sophisticated, twin-cam, exotic, expensive factory cars from Italy’s north.

Click here for a feature on the Tornados; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Tornado with the Derek Jolly Lotus 15 Climax in profile behind, Albert Park 1958 (J Comber)

 

(J Comber)

In fact that is a beautiful segue to Comber’s second 1958 Albert Park, Melbourne Grand Prix shot above of Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker entered Cooper T45 Climax being pushed through the paddock by Tim Wall.

Just look at the relative size and packaging of Tornado 2 Chev, together with Maybach 4, Stan Jones Maserati 250F and Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 the fastest cars in Australia in 1958 and the tiny, light, nimble 2 litre Cooper.

At the season’s outset, before the Fishermans Bend meeting in March when Seeliger debuted Maybach 4, Stirling Moss won the first World Championship Formula 1 race taken by a mid-engined car by receiving the chequered flag in the Argentinian Grand Prix in a Walker T45- i am not sure if he used the same chassis to defeat Jack Brabham in another T45 that Melbourne summer afternoon- sadly the last use of Albert Park as a race venue until the modern era.

That day in Argentina reset the paradigm for Grand Prix and Sports-Racer design, the last World Championships for front engined cars were won in 1958- Vanwall took the constructors title and Mike Hawthorn the drivers award in a Ferrari Dino 246.

It was the same, in a fashion in Australia, the last front-engined Gold Star win was Jones 1958 award aboard his Maserati 250F, the first mid-engined one went to Len Lukey who raced the same Cooper T45 Brabham ran at Albert Park in late 1958 to Gold Star victory in 1959.

No wonder Comber’s camera was drawn to the little Cooper at Albert Park.

See here for Moss at ‘The Park’; https://primotipo.com/2016/12/27/moss-at-albert-park/

 

(J Comber)

Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax has been well covered, here the car is at rest with Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder alongside- Ern Tadgell raced the car that weekend.

Before the end of a weekend the Lotus’ good health was ruined comprehensively- a rear suspension failure pitched the car into the trees late in the Melbourne GP race and resulted in some acrimonious discussions between Colin Chapman and Jolly about the quality of its build- a Le Mans drive and new chassis was the net result- see here for a feature article on the Derek’s Deccas and Lotuses; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

 

(J Comber)

David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 is another car which has been well covered in these pages, here at Albert Park it has not been in the country long at all. See here; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

The Sydneysider had a great carnival winning the Touring Car Scratch Race on both weekends with the eternal Bob Holden, and Clem Smith Holdens second and third on both occasions- Holden raced an FE and Smith a ‘Humpy’.

(J Comber)

Doug Whiteford was as close to a professional driver Australia had at the time, albeit his St Kilda and Hawthorn garages and dealerships were an inextricable part of his business mix- above is his Dodge Custom Royal and Rice Trailer contained within is his famous, long raced and much lusted over Maserati 300S- Fisherman’s Bend February or March 1958.

This piece is about the Maserati 300S; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

(J Comber)

Len Lukey made his name in Ford Customlines before adding single seaters to the mix and winning a Gold Star aboard a Cooper T45 Climax in 1959.

He famously towed his Cooper Bristol to a Caversham Gold Star round with a Customline and then contested the Touring Car races with said tow-car, note the tow-bar in this ‘Fishos shot.

All about Len here; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/26/len-lukey-australian-gold-star-champion/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/20/teds-tornado-and-lens-cooper/

(J Comber)

Another two Fishermans Bend tourer contestants are this #69 Hillman raced by Harry Firth and Esquire Motors entered Wolseley driven by 1936 Australian Grand Prix winner, Les Murphy, towards the end of a very long racing career- 22/23 February 1958 weekend. The shot below is Bob Holden’s FE Holden.

(J Comber)

Otto Stone and crewman push the great engineer, and very handy steerers MG K3 through the paddock- I think it is fair to say that Stan Jones Maserati 250F fortunes changed for the better when Otto took over the preparation of chassis ‘2520’.

(J Comber)

Other Photographs…

(J Comber)

Two of the cars featured above in period in more recent times- the late eighties during an Eastern Beach, Ritchie Boulevard, Geelong Sprint meeting.

These days Maybach 4 I think is owned by Peter Briggs’ York Motor Museum in West Australia and Tornado 2 Chev by Frank Moore in Queensland- both are such significant cars it would be great to see them out and about more often.

(J Comber)

 

(J Comber)

A series of three photographs at Sandown to finish off- the first is again Tornado 2 Chev, this time during the 1978 ‘Fangio Meeting’ with, if memory serves, one of its ‘in period’ drivers John McDonald at the wheel, perhaps someone with a  program to hand can check that.

John has framed his shot brilliantly by avoiding modern advertising hoardings, this is the run along Pit Straight, close to Peters/Torana Corner.

Stan Jones is one of my all-time faves so i’ve saved the best till last!

And what a cracker of a shot it is, a beautiful pan of Jones’ Maserati 250F on the run away from Dandy Road towards The Causeway with the tree and blurred background giving the place a feel of a time five or so years before it actually opened.

(J Comber)

John believes this is probably the ‘St Vincents’ Historic Meeting’ in November 1963. By this stage Stan’s financial fortunes are not what they were, the Maser is for sale so my guess is that this is probably his last drive of a car which was perhaps kinder to him than any other- Maybach 1 made his reputation but the Maserati ‘brought home the bacon’.

It would have been with a heavy heart he backed off the throttle alongside the grandstand to lose speed and pulled into pit lane and the dusty paddock to switch off the peachy, punchy straight-six for one last time.

The crop of the same shot below reveals Stan’s usual race attire inclusive of five year old helmet and T-Shirt- just magic, I can hear the bellowing six and snickety-snick changes executed with expert familiarity…

(J Comber)

Photos/References…

John Comber’s words and pictures, as he quipped ‘Not bad for a 15 year old equipped with a Box-Brownie!’- who can argue with that, a mighty fine, evocative job indeed.

David Zeunert Collection, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation Archives, Brian Caldersmith Collection

Stephen Dalton for vehicle identification and additional research

Tailpiece: Ern Seeliger, Stan Jones and Superior Motors salesman Doug Roberts aboard Jones’ HRG, Baker Street, Richmond, 1950…

(D Zeunert Collection)

David Zeunert observes ‘Stan’s second hand car emporium “Superior Motors” in Victoria Street was only five minutes away from Ern’s garage, very handy for both guys who used one another’s wits on many race projects.’

Stephen Dalton chips in, ‘The photo would have been taken in the first week of October 1950,  just before or after the October 1950 Bathurst meeting that Stan Jones ran as car number 34. Mr Medley has Stan spinning in his Bathurst tome for that chapter- by the following weekend the car was carrying #7 at Woodside, South Australia.’

(D Zeunert Collection)

Finito…

 

(Nat Lib NZ)

Who is a pretty boy then? youthful too…

Bib Stillwell poses for the camera during the 1961 New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at the Ardmore Aerodrome, South Auckland. Bewdy’, nice cockpit shot of Stillwell’s Aston Martin DBR4/250 i thought- but upon closer inspection the negative is wrongly marked, it is not 1961 but  actually two years before- 1959 or three, 1958 or perhaps even four, 1957 and Bib is aboard his Maserati 250F. Evidence includes the different screen, see the Aston’s below, fuel filler located in different spots and the Maserati cloth badge on Stillwell’s polo-shirt, you can just see a glimpse of that under Bib’s left wrist/glove.

In 1959 Bib finished sixth behind the three Cooper T45s of Moss, Brabham and McLaren and the 250Fs of Carroll Shelby/Harry Schell and Ross Jensen.

Stillwell Maserati 250F, chassis ‘2516’ circuit unknown (Stillwell)

 

(TRS)

This time it is the Ardmore paddock in 1961 with Bib’s Aston Martin DBR4/250 ‘3’ taking centre stage.

To the left is the nose of the Glass Cooper Maserati, the #12 Maserati 250F is Stan Jones’ Maserati 250F raced by David McKay that weekend- DNF exhaust after completing 45 laps. The Cooper T51 in the right-rear corner of the shot is Jo Bonnier’s, the gearbox of which, repaired after practice, soiled itself again in the race after completing only half of the first lap. As to the Cooper T43(?) to the right, i shall take your advice. See this piece on the Aston Martin DBR4/250; https://primotipo.com/2020/05/08/aston-martin-dbr4-250/

Bib, sharing, almost alternating the mid and front engined collection of cars in his Kew, Melbourne workshop raced one of his Coopers the year before- 1960.

Check him out below running in fourth place just after the start behind the McLaren Cooper T45, Moss and Brabham Cooper T51s- Bib in #6 is similarly mounted as is the partially obscured car of Ian Burgess behind the Victorian.

#18 out left is David Piper’s Lotus 16 Climax, #17 is Johnny Mansel’s Maserati 250F, followed by the similar cars of Arnold Glass and obscured Ross Jensen #88 the Ron Roycroft Ferrari 375 V12- Stan Jones Cooper T51 is nipping inside the unmistakable nose of the Ted Gray driven wonderful Tornado 2 Chev. What a shame Lou Abrahams and Ted Gray didn’t take Tornado to New Zealand in 1958 and 1959, by 1960 it was well and truly all over red-rover for the big, front-engined beasties.

Brabham won from McLaren, Stillwell and Stan Jones aboard another T51.

A bit about Bib Stillwell here; https://primotipo.com/2015/03/10/bib-stillwell-cooper-t49-monaco-warwick-farm-sydney-december-1961/

(E Sarginson)

 

(TRS)

Love this shot above, this time 1961 of one of the Rob Walker mechanics- is it Mal Simpson?, giving the lovely Rob Walker Lotus 18 Climax a bit of a whirl on one of Ardmore’s access roads.

I never bought the ‘biscuit box’ descriptor of the 18’s appearance, i’ve always thought they were sexy little things, far nicer than the Cooper T53, the only thing between Lotus world dominance in 1960 was the pox ridden Lotus sequential gearbox…without doubt they were the fastest tool of the year but far from the most reliable, an attribute Messrs Cooper, Maddocks and Brabham worked very hard to build into their new ‘Lowline’.

The NZ GP was won by Brabham from McLaren both aboard Cooper T53s from Graham Hill’s BRM P48.

Credits…

National Library of New Zealand, ‘TRS’- The Roaring Season, Euan Sarginson, Stillwell Motor Company, sergent.com

Tailpiece…

(E Sarginson)

First corner Ardmore Airfield 1961 shot by Euan Sarginson.

Ron Flockhart, Cooper T51 from #7 Moss, Lotus 18, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T53 with Brabham right behind Bruce in another T53, then Innes Ireland #1 and John Surtees #2 aboard works Lotus 18s- all of these cars Coventry Climax FPF powered.

#20 is the Denny Hulme Cooper T51 Climax from Graham Hill, BRM P48, then finally the two Australians, Bib Stillwell’s Aston Martin DBR4 and Arnold Glass’ Cooper T45 Maserati.

Sixty-five thousand Kiwis basked in marvellous summer sun and saw Brabham win from McLaren Hill, Flockhart, Hulme and Clark- it was Jack’s third win at Ardmore.

Finito…

Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 being pushed through the Gnoo Blas paddock- that’s lanky, slim Jack Brabham with helmet on behind (F Pearse)

The natural or established order of Australian motor racing was shaken up and greatly changed by events over the summer of 1955…

The Ardmore, New Zealand Grand Prix in January was won by Prince Bira’s Maserati 250F from Peter Whitehead and Tony Gaze in their matching Ferrari 500/625 3 litre, four cylinder hybrids, Jack Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol and Reg Hunt’s new Maserati 250F engined A6GCM, fifth.

Other Australians who made the trip but failed to finish were Stan Coffey, Cooper T20 Bristol, Lex Davison, HWM Jaguar and Dick Cobden in the Ferrari 125 V12 s/c he acquired from Peter Whitehead after the NZ GP the year before.

Lex Davison being chased by Bira and Tony Gaze at Ardmore, 1955 NZ GP. HWM Jaguar, Maserati 250F and Ferrari 500/625 (thechicaneblog.com)

 

(CAN)

A group of the front running cars at Ardmore in ‘Phil Neill’s showroom a day or two before the race.’

Bira’s 250F and Gaze Ferrari 500 in front with Whitehead’s #2 similar 500, #3 is Reg Hunt’s Maserati A6GCM, #77 Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, #9 George Palmer’s Mercury powered Palmer Spl, #6 Cobden’s Ferrari 125 and hidden, unfortunately, in the corner Bira’s ‘second-string’ Maserati 4CLT Osca V12 with a Ford Consul providing marvellous context!

 

Tony Gaze warms up his 3 litre Ferrari four with plenty of admiring Kiwis by the Dunedin wharves, Ferrari 500/625, January 1955. Reg Parnell’s Aston Martin DP155 is behind and then an Aston Martin DB3S (unattributed)

 

By the end of the Ardmore weekend, Brabham, buoyed by his speed and his mind filled with ambition, ideas of opportunity and success paid bonuses from trade suppliers in the UK by the visiting RAC’s Dean Delamont- had determined to sell his Cooper and chance his luck in the UK.

Dick Cobden, another of the fast-men in Australia- his dices with Brabham during 1954 had drawn fans to meetings from far and wide, also planned a racing holiday in England in between continuing his stockbroking career in a London brokers office.

‘He was accompanied by mechanic Fred Pearse and the fascinating, frustrating Ferrari (125), and enjoyed some mobile spectating…Cobden hoped to collect the D Type he had ordered, but long delays led to him cancelling the order, and the overseas trip was effectively his farewell to motor racing’ Graham Howard wrote.

Fred Pearse attending to Cobden’s Ferrari 125 (F Pearse)

 

Pat Ratliff and Tony Gaze with Gaze’s Ferrari 500/625- the oh-so-famous ex-Alberto Ascari 1952 and 1953 World Championship winning chassis- one of the ‘winningest’ if not the most, GP cars ever (F Pearse)

But first the travelling circus headed by sea to Sydney and then by road west to the Gnoo Blas road circuit at Orange for the ‘South Pacific Championship’ international held on 31 January. Bira, Whitehead and Gaze then planned to race their cars in South Africa.

Whilst Brabham and Cobden contested Gnoo Blas, Hunt and Davison, Lex the winner of the 1954 Southport AGP did not- Hunt was short of some critical parts for his A6GCM whilst Lex did not make the trip.

Hunt’s pace had always been apparent in Australia and in the year he raced a Cooper 500 in the UK and Europe- with the purchase of  the A6GCM he vaulted over the top of everyone in Australia- the speed of car and driver was THE combination of 1955.

Whilst Lex’ HWM Jag was fast, it wasn’t fast enough nor, despite ongoing development was it sufficiently reliable, it did of course hold together at Southport some months before, the 1954 AGP win was the first of Lex’ four victories in Australia’s premier event.

Davison no doubt showed more than passing interest in his good mate Gaze’s Ferrari 500 in the early months of 1955- a purchase he would consummate later in the summer of 1955-1956 and as a consequence set the standard- along with the local 250F’s of Hunt and Jones and Ted Gray’s bellowing V8 Tornado 2 Ford/Chev in the coming years.

Gaze #4 and Whitehead Ferrari’s getting a tickle- car behind is Bira’s Maserati 250F and at the rear the Broadbent/Haig Hurst Bentley (F Pearse)

In Orange the ‘star cars’ were garaged in a workshop where several of these photographs were taken. The images by Fred Pearse, kindly circulated on social media by Peter Reynell who cared for Fred in his final years, take ones breath away.

Bob Pritchett makes mention in his AMS report of the race, of the OSCA being looked after at Lapham’s Garage in Orange, Mr Lapham was the Chairman of the Orange ‘Cherry Blossom Car Racing Committee’ which staged the event along with the Australian Sporting Car Club. Laphams is most likely the venue of the garage shots.

Tony Gaze Ferrari 500 (F Pearse)

 

Ratliff and Gaze (F Pearse)

Thirty-nine cars entered the 100 mile South Pacific Championship, there were also events for sport and touring cars, a purse of two-thousand five hundred pounds was offered for the feature race, very good money at the time.

The entry included Kiwis Fred Zambucka in the Maserati 8CM he raced in the ’54 AGP and John McMillan’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B- both pre-war machines which were at that stage a little too long in the tooth to be a threat, the race was a scratch event, even if, in a nod to the past, handicap placings would also be awarded.

Jack Murray, Allard Cadillac, Ted Gray aboard Tornado 1 Ford was fitted with the Lou Abrahams developed fuel injection setup for the first time. Tom Sulman had rebuilt his Maserati 4CM after a blow up at Gnoo Blas’ last meeting with parts flown specially from Italy to Sydney. Curly Brydon’s supercharged MG T single-seater special was one of the fastest in the country. Albury’s Jack Seaton entered a Maserati, Jack Robinson his Jaguar Special and Stan Jones had Maybach, a Cooper JAP and his Lancia GT entered- in the end Stan raced only the Lancia .

A special practice session was laid on before breakfast on the Sunday for the benefit of Bira, Gaze and Whitehead but it wasn’t of much benefit to the member of the Thai Royal Family when his Maserati 250F threw a rod after only 3 laps of practice, the car had done some miles in New Zealand, was rather tatty and overdue for a rebuild- this was the precursor to the tragedy which followed involving Iain Mountain and his very clever Mountain Peugeot Special the following day.

Practice itself started after breakfast and continued with breaks through until 5.30pm. No appearances were made by Hunt, Zambucka, Davison, the Jones Cooper 1100, James Barclay Special, the Moy MG Magnette Holden or the Peek MG Q Type.

Both Gordon Greig and Sydney’s Bill Reynolds appeared at the wheel of the Alfa Tipo B Alvis which Greig had only just acquired from Ash Marshall. Cobden’s Ferrari was spewing oil out of its breathers, Gaze’s had clutch and magneto problems and Bira’s crew had work to do on the exotic V12 OSCA’s oil scavenge pumps, so there would be no shortage of midnight oil poured in Lapham’s workshops.

Alf Harvey, ex-Bira Maserati 4CLT Osca V12 aka Osca V12 from Dick Cobden’s Ferrari 125 at Gnoo Blas during the 1956 South Pacific Trophy – Can’t find a shot of Bira in the car the year before (Gnoo Blas)

 

The ill fated Ian Mountain aboard his neat Peugeot Special, Sulman’s Maserati behind (K Devine)

 

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol

 

Raceday started at 10.20 am with the ‘KLG Handicap’ for closed cars under 1100cc won by R Long’s Fiat 1100. The 5 lapper for Sports and Closed cars was taken by Jack Myers Holden, was he the ‘King of The Holdens’ at that stage?

Bira’s spare car was his OSCA V12- a marriage of a 4.5 litre, circa 300 bhp OSCA V12 with his old Maserati 4CLT/48 chassis, as noted earlier his crew had been trying to adequately prepare the car the evening before the race.

In the preliminary 5 lap ‘Gnoo-Blas Handicap for Racing Cars’ event it too suffered a major mechanical failure- a scavenge pump, the motor dumped its oil all over the road with Iain Mountain, who was following closely, lost control on the oil, left the road and crashed through a barbed wire fence at Connaghans Corner killing himself and 26 year old Ballan, Victoria, spectator James Young. Several spectators were injured, two of them were admitted to hospital- all were standing in restricted areas.

The MotorSport account is the one above, the Australian Motor Sports report of the race attributes the accident to driver error ‘Ian had been cautious about the corner on which he came to grief and it could be that he was off line to avoid stones thrown up by Curly Brydon’s car, which he was chasing; Curly actually saw him behind, and slowed down, having discussed the corner with Ian and knowing how he felt about it…’

Whatever the case it was a tragic motor racing incident, the ‘lotsa-money superb preparation of car’ Bira days were long gone. Poor Mountain, 26, had only married four months prior to the 1954 AGP weekend at Southport and had only been racing the beautifully built car from its first appearance at Fishermans Bend in early 1954.

Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Special won the race in which Mountain died, the South Pacific Championship for Closed Cars and another similarly titled 14 lap 50 mile race were won by Les Cosh’ Aston Martin DB2 and Bill Kelly’s Jaguar XK120 respectively.

South Pacific Championship…

The main event was delayed by 50 minutes for obvious reasons, with some indecision about the grid- it was to be 4-3-4, then decided to be 3-2-3 given the narrow road and ended up being 3-2-4. What follows is a summary of the AMS race report.

As the flag quivered before dropping, Jack Murray shot his Allard Cadillac between Gaze and Whitehead and led the field out of sight of the hill crest; Gaze somehow managed to get his clutch operational enough for the getaway and almost as soon as the last sound of the last cars had died, Jack Brabham flashed past the pits, his Cooper Bristol a good fifty yards ahead of Whitehead’s Ferrari, then Murray, Gaze, Cobden, and MacMillan in close quarters.

Gaze was past Murray in the next lap, but Cobden’s Ferrari was smoking and retired after 2 laps at Muttons Corner with a cylinder full of water and a bent rod which was shades of the last Orange meeting.

Brabham (K Devine)

 

Murray, Allard Cadillac (K Devine)

 

Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM

Brabham’s lead was shortlived, it was not many laps before Whitehead was past the Cooper Bristol- but he drew away slowly indeed and, on the fast sweep and slow right angle corner, Brabham was very visibly fastest of any car in the race, drifting the sweep beautifully with all four wheels leaning outwards, braking late and going through Muttons Corner as clean as a knife…

Gaze, hampered by not having a fully operational clutch and only one effective magneto, was not as happy as he could have been.

For some laps there was a good duel between MacMillan in the Alfa Tipo B and Greig in the Alfa Tipo B Alvis, the two red cars looking very impressive as they came around in close company. Jack Robinson and Joe Murray went at it for most of the race, the Jaguar just ahead until towards the finish when he stopped briefly at the pits and lost two laps.

Curly Brydon, always quick and neat, kept hard on Tom Sulman’s hammer, and Bill Wilcox went very well in his green Ford Special until it went bad over a space of 3 laps or so and he retired. Noel Barnes had the ex-Ron Ward MG Special sounding very sweet and healthy even though he was lapped several times by the faster cars.

Finally, the sun well down on the Western horizon, Peter came around grinning and without his crash hat and we knew the race was finished. As Brabham was less than a minute behind at the end he naturally won the handicap, Peter had fastest lap in 2:21.

Peter Whitehead Ferrari 500/625, won from Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, Gaze, Ferrari 500/625, Jack Murray Allard Cadillac, Tom Sulman Maserati, Curly Brydon MG Spl, G Greig Alfa Tipo B Alvis

Whitehead’s top speed was 149 mph, Gaze 147, Brabham 136, Sulman 110 and Brydon’s 115mph.

Cobden about to go out, Sulman readies his Maserati (K Devine)

 

One of the Ferrari 500s at Laphams (F Pearse)

Snippets by AMS’ Bob Pritchett…

‘The 3 litre motors of Gaze and Whitehead have a bore and stroke of 104 x 90 mm and the inlet valve is open for, wait for it, 330 degrees of the revolution…I saw Gaze’s motor stripped later; the valves are simply tremendous, and the pistons are like outsized salmon tins with bumps on them, rods like a short length of RSJ and the five bearing crankshaft a beautiful piece of work’.

Big Muvvas: Weber sand cast 58 DCO’s (F Pearse)

Hunt didn’t race but was present in person ‘…With no Maserati, marooned in Melbourne with a broken back plate. He tried to borrow one of Bira’s spares but received the rather discouraging reply, that he could have them all and the car for 4000 sterling. Slightly different to the Australian approach- Tony Gaze did the race with a magneto coil out of Cobden’s Ferrari for instance.’

Bira’s Maserati 250F (F Pearse)

‘I reaped some sort of macabre delight out of watching the Clerk of Course Daimler steaming around festooned with advertising matter during the wrangle about slogans on cars which resulted in Coffey’s dramatic retirement on the (start)line, masking tape all over Murray’s Allard Cadillac, funny little blobs of green paint on Brabham’s Cooper Bristol and such.’

Stan Coffey’s Cooper Bristol, after a stoush with CAMS about advertising he did not take the start, I see Clive Adams prepared the car. Cobden Ferrari 125 at rear (K Devine)

Etcetera…

(K Devine)

Jack Robinson being push-started in his Jag Special whilst alongside Tom Sulman fettles his Maserati, photo below of Robinson’s Jag XK engine.

(K Devine)

 

#2 Whitehead, Ferrari 500 #4 Gaze’s similar car and #1 Bira’s 250F (F Pearse)

 

Tom Sulman, Maserati 4CM

Bibliography…

MotorSport May 2006 article by Jim Scaysbrook, Australian Motor Sports February 1955 race report by Bob Pritchett

Photo Credits…

Fred Pearse Collection, Ken Devine Collection, Stephen Dalton Collection, Allan Dick’s ‘Classic Auto News’, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation, Russell Hawthorn, Doug Chivas Collection

(D Chivas)

Postscript…

Brabham left for the UK in mid-March 1955 after a function held at Jack’s parents home in Hurstville attended by over 100 guests including the Mayor and Mayoress- at that stage he was expected to be away for six months.

It turned out to be rather longer than that of course, the great Australian finally retired from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1970 having been a front runner that season inclusive of one GP win which but for poor luck should have been three- competive to the very end of his long career.

He couldn’t stay away from racing for too long though, by August 1971 he was back in the seat of the Jack Brabham Ford sponsored Bowin P4X Formula Ford and won the ‘Race of Champions’ at Calder from Frank Matich, Kevin Bartlett, Bib Stillwell, Alan Hamilton, Allan Moffat and others.

I think it was his last ever real ‘race win’, 1978 Sandown demo with JM Fangio duly noted?…

(R Hawthorn)

Tailpiece: Smorgasbord of ‘Big Red Cars’…

Whitehead, Cobden, Gaze and Bira, not that his 250F was red (F Pearse)

Finito…