Posts Tagged ‘MG TC’

The #26 Ron Ward sixth placed MG TB, #32 Alby Johnson DNF MG TC and a distant Gordon Stewart DNF, MG Magna L-Type, during the 16 June 1947, Championship of New South Wales meeting at RAAF Nowra airbase…

This event was to have been the ‘New South Wales Grand Prix’ until the intervention of the Australian Automobile Association, the governing body of motorsport in Australia at the time, a week before. They deemed the ‘Grand Prix’ title as one reserved exclusively for the Australian Grand Prix. Contemporary newspaper reports of the day indicate the confusion about the name of the race, variously describing it as ‘The Grand Prix’, ‘Grand Prix Speedcar Championship of New South Wales’- the official title seems to be the ‘1947 Championship of New South Wales’.

The race was a 110 mile handicap conducted over 25 laps of a 4.35 mile course laid out on runways and connecting taxiways of what, over the years, was variously named RAAF Nowra, HMS Nabbington and in more recent times HMAS Albatross. The airfield also hosted a race in 1952, on that occasion using taxiways, hard-stands and aprons for a shorter lap distance of 1.6 miles.

Luvvit! Alf Barrett’s road registered Alfa Monza at Rob Roy circa 1949. The fastest combo in Australia in the immediate pre and post war years (J Montasell)

The event organisers, the Australian Sporting Car Club secured all of the aces of the day- Alf Barrett in his Alfa Monza, Frank Kleinig’s Hudson Spl, John Crouch in the Delahaye 135CS imported by John Snow pre-war and the latter in his Dixon Riley.

Some past, present and future racers entered a variety of MG’s including Curley Brydon,  Alf Najar, Bib Stillwell, Bill Patterson, Hope Bartlett, John Barraclough and Ron Edgerton. Other notables were Lex Davison, Mercedes 38/250 s/c, Tom Sulman in the immortal Sulman Singer, Ted Gray in the ex-Mrs JAS Jones Alfa 6C1750 SS by then fitted with a flat-head Ford V8, ‘Wild’ Bill Murray, Hudson, Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Spl and others.

(J Hunter)

The Nowra grid ready for the off. From left to right- #5 Jack Murray MacKellar Ford V8 s/c,  #3 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS, #14 Alec Mildren, AGM Ford V8 Special, #4 Frank Kleinig, Hudson Spl and #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Romeo Monza.

Frank Kleinig didn’t take the start with piston failure so perhaps this an earlier event. I am intrigued to know.

John Crouch on the way to Australian Grand Prix victory in the John Snow imported Delahaye 135CS at the Leyburn Airfield circuit in 1949 (unattributed)

There were thirty-eight entries in all from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria which reflected the pent up demand for racing in the early post-war years.

Crowd estimates vary from between 15,000 to 25,000 people- they saw Manly, Sydney driver Tom Lancey’s MG TC win the race from a field of 30 who took the starters flag.

Lancey had raced for three years before the conflict in an MG NE Magnette and spent six years with the RAAF during the war so it was a nice bit of symmetry for an RAAF bloke to take the win at an RAAF base- he was off a handicap of 21 minutes and 30 seconds. The Barrett Alfa raced off scratch.

Second and third places were also taken by MG’s- Bill MacLachlan in an MG TA monoposto off 14:30 and Curley Brydon aboard an MG TC, 21:30 with Dick Bland’s Ford V8 Spl off 11:00 in fourth place.

John Medley wrote, ‘Tom Lancey packed his wife and young daughter into his fully equipped, road registered MG TC at his Manly home- drove to Nowra, unpacked, removed the screen and hood, started in the NSW GP as an early marker- and won it…’ Then he did the whole process in reverse. The simplicity of it all is wonderful.

Was thrilled to find this shot which is captioned as the ’47 Nowra NSW GP/Championships but is according to John Medley Hell Corner Bathurst during the October 1939 meeting. #5 is the ‘Salmon Special’ McIntyre Hudson of Kevin Salmon, #6 is the Edison Waters Jaguar SS100, #1 Alf Barrett’s Alfa Monza, #4 John Crouch Delahaye 135CS and #9 John Barraclough, Alvis Terraplane (Fairfax)

The race favourite was Australia’s immediate pre and post war ace, Alf Barrett in his beautifully prepared and presented Alfa Romeo Monza which ‘is considered the fastest car in Australia’.

Alf and John Snow in the Dixon Riley ‘were fighting a fierce duel from the back mark’ (Snow raced off a 2 minute handicap) but Alf lost time with a tyre change earlier in the race and engine problems later on- he was ninth and set the fastest race lap. Snow retired with magneto or spark plug problems on lap 18.

The newspaper reports of the day focused on Barrett’s top speed of 120 miles per hour which provides perspective on the average performance levels of commuter bolides of the time.

Barrett’s day was not altogether lost with a win in the Open or Over 1500cc Championship scratch race in which the thoroughbred straight-eight Grand Prix Alfa prevailed from Frank Kleinig’s self built and developed Kleinig Hudson Spl and John Snow’s Dixon Riley.

There are plenty of photos of ‘Dirt Track Charlie’ Frank Kleinig aboard his self built Kleinig Hudson Spl because he raced the ever developing steed for so long but this is my favourite. He is re-taking the Rob Roy Hill record he first set in the car in 1939, in November 1948 setting a mark of 28.72 secs- his last trip to the Christmas Hills. You can see and feel the energy and effort going into the big, powerful car- as was always the case with this very fast, if somewhat, its said, inconsistent driver (G Thomas)

Kleinig’s amazing machine, competitive over a couple of decades, was an amalgam of many parts but particularly an MG L-Type chassis and very highly developed Hudson 4186cc straight-eight engine. He finished the race 14 seconds adrift of Barrett. It was subsequently found that a piston broke, fouling the oil system, running a rear big end bearing and ruining the crankshaft in the process.

One of the great pre and post war ‘what ifs’ is Kleinig in a thoroughbred car- not that his commitment, brio, engineering nouse and application was in any way lacking in his endeavours with his Special! Kleinig in Snow’s Delahaye or Barrett’s Alfa for example would have been a sight to see. End of digression!

Amongst the long list of Nowra DNF’s was 1960 AGP and Gold Star winner Alec Mildren’s attractive and fast, self-built AGM Ford V8 Spl. The big beast, off a handicap of 12 minutes, overheated, with Alec retiring on lap 14, a common affliction of these engines in modified form (Mildren)

Pre-war Maroubra Speedway ace, Hope Bartlett won the Under 1500cc championship in his MG TA s/c after a race long battle with Alf Najar’s MG TB s/c. Gordon Stewart in an MG Magna L Type was well in the lead of the Under 1100cc title- and then, having to coast to the finishing line after a last lap fuel blockage was passed by Tom Sulman in his self-built Sulman Singer and Bruce Myers Riley Imp in the final stages.

Some excitement was added to the meeting ‘when a privately owned plane landed on the strip which was being used for the car racing. Service and local police ordered the pilot to remain until after the meeting’!

WW2 shot of RAAF Nowra (RAAF)

Postscript: The state of Australian circuits in 1947…

A sign of the times and the use of a venue such as Nowra was the September 1947 meeting of the Australian Automobile Association in Perth during which the allocations of the AGP was announced for the next few years- NSW 1947, Victoria 1948, Queensland 1949, South Australia 1950 and Western Australia 1951. It was noted that ‘Victoria had not a suitable circuit for the Grand Prix at present but it was hoped that such property could be secured on Phillip Island’.

Of course Phillip Island was reinstated as the racing venue we know and love but not until December 1956- the Albert Park Lake facility ended up being the ‘in period’ AGP Victorian venue in 1953 and 1956.

In fact the race allocations went ahead as planned- in NSW, 1947 at Bathurst, 1948 at Point Cook just outside Melbourne, 1949 at Leyburn, 200 km from Brisbane, 1950 at Nuriootpa in SA’s Barossa Valley and 1951 at Narrogin south of Perth in WA’s wheatbelt.

Nowra, Point Cook, Mount Druitt and Leyburn were all current or past RAAF bases with Narrogin a ‘Round the Houses’ venue used on numerous occasions whilst the Nuriootpa road circuit was not used for motor racing after its time in the sun as a one off AGP venue. The search and challenge of finding permanent road-racing venues was on throughout Australia in earnest.

At the time of the Australian Automobile Association meeting Mr J Austin Patterson said that ‘the greatest desire (of the AAA) was to help the sporting bodies and the sport generally. At present motor sports were up against police opposition. This could not be overcome unless it could be shown that meetings could be held without danger and undue inconvenience to the public.’

In a similar vein the NSW Light Car Club put a proposal to the Blue Mountains Chamber of Commerce for the establishment of a race track at Katoomba in October 1947, it took a while but Catalina Park opened in February 1961.

Of course the ‘floodagtes’ of circuits opened in the mid to late fifties and early sixties with Port Wakefield, Warwick Farm, Lakeside, Sandown, Calder, Mallala and others opening but such numbers of permanent facilities were a long time coming.

Car rally from Canberra to Nowra in recent times- one flat airfield looks pretty much the same as another really! (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

The Sydney Morning Herald 17 June 1947, Fairfax Media, John Hunter, The Telegraph Brisbane 22 July 1947, J Montasell, George Thomas, Alec Mildren Collection, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Finito…