Posts Tagged ‘Pete Geoghegan’

No less than the South Australian Premier, Sir Thomas Playford opens the Mallala circuit on 19 August 1961…

The marvellous venue is still with us thankfully, most Australian competitors over the years have raced there and experienced the wonderful Mallala hospitality. The track is an easy 55 km from Adelaide in flat, mainly wheat farming countryside between the Adelaide Hills and the sea.

(B Smith)

Bob Jane Jag Mk2 4.1 on pole from the Ern Abbott and Clem Smith Valiant R Types.

This race is the start of the 50 mile 1963 Australian Touring Car Championship held on 15 April and won by Jane from Abbott, Smith and Harry Firth in a factory Ford Cortina.

The South Australian motorsport community had to rustle up a circuit post-haste when CAMS ‘black-balled’ the windswept, scrubby Port Wakefield as unsuitable to hold the 1961 AGP- the South Aussies had been allocated the race that year in the one state at a time rotational system for our premier event which prevailed for decades.

(B Smith)

The photo is the start of the 9 October 1961 Grand Prix- the races ‘bolter’ David McKay is already away and out of shot.

He was pinged for the alleged jumped start which cost him the race won by Lex Davison #4 aboard one of Bib Stillwell’s Cooper T51’s. #9 is Bill Patterson, #19 Doug Whiteford and #6 Bib Stillwell all driving Cooper Climax T51 FPF’s ubiquitous as they were at the time!

Keith Rilstone is in the stunning #8 Zephyr Spl s/c and Murray Trenberth, Alta Holden alongside Keith and behind Patto. The #5 Cooper T51’between the two starters on the stand’ is John Youl, the front engined car a bit further back is, I think, Mel McEwin in the ex-Ted Gray Tornado 2 Chev. Across the road on the track’s outside is John Ampt in the Cooper T39 Jaguar and down the back is Alan Jack’s Cooper T39 Bobtail- still further in the distance are the unmistakable lines of an Elfin Streamliner sporty, entered by Peter Wilkinson.

Lets go back a step and have a look at the background of Mallala.

As with other Australian circuits Lowood and Caversham, the core infrastructure of the facility was created by the Australian Government in the form of a Royal Australian Air Force base, in this case established on land to the north of the town in 1939, and opened in 1941.

The facility operated as the ‘No 6 Service Flying Training School’ providing the next level of training- ‘medium proficiency’, to those who had gained the basics of flying at places like Parafield, to increased their experience before moving on doing more advanced training at a specialist school such as those at Port Pirie or Mount Gambier. (limiting to ourselves to South Australian bases)

Mallala was the biggest base in South Australia, at its peak it had 19 Bellman Hangars with 1900 personnel by 1942 including 285 trainees who learned to fly Ansons, Oxfords, Moth Minors and Tiger Moths. A total of 2257 trainees passed out of the school before the unit ceased to work as No 6 SFTS on 31 December 1945.

From around 1947 RAF Transport Command provided a weekly service from England to Mallala to supply the Woomera Rocket Range using Hastings aircraft- with Bristol Freighters operating a shuttle service between Mallala and Woomera.

In 1951 a Citizens Air Force squadron was formed which trained pilots on Tiger Moths, Wirraways and Mustangs. After 9 years of duty the CMF Air Squadrons were given non-flying roles and simultaneously Mallala was wound down. At about the same time the new RAAF Edinburgh opened at Salisbury in South Australia.

September 1955 Mallala Airshow, Vickers Valiant B1 flyover (Mallala Museum)

Post war migration to Australia was enormous as we took vast numbers of people from the UK and Europe, the culture shock of Australia was enhanced by ‘New Australians’ being located in camps where they were given the basics of English to equip them for work.

A portion of the existing Mallala base was converted for this purpose but ‘There were concerns about the lack of fencing around active runways and landing fields given small children were housed at the camp- the threat of bushfire was also alarming to residents…’. Accordingly the poor souls were relocated.

Mallala was used as an RAAF facility until 1960, it was put up for public auction in 1961 and acquired by a group of racing enthusiasts who recognised the potential of the facility as the new permanent home of motor racing in SA.

The original tracks lap distance of 3.38 km was reduced to 2.601 km in late 1964 when the Bosch Curve was moved closer to the Dunlop Curve Grandstand thus removing the north-eastern leg of the circuit.

The track hosted rounds of the Gold Star from 1961-1971, the Australian Tourist Trophy for sportscars in 1962 and 1968 with the single race Australian Touring Car Championship held there in 1963 and annual rounds from 1969 when the ATCC became a multi-round title.

Keith Williams moved the Mallala tectonic plates when the entrepreneur and Surfers Paradise International Raceway owner built Adelaide International Raceway at Virginia- and sought to maximise its market success by acquiring Mallala and eliminating its use as a racetrack by placing a covenant on the title limiting such future activity. A bumma.

Chrysler Australia, not too far away (70 km) in Tonsley Park and Elfin Sportscars continued to test there with Mallala coming out of the darkness when local businessman/racer Clem Smith bought the track in 1977- the covenant was deemed unenforceable with ‘Mallala Motorsport Park’ reopening in 1982.

In more recent times, May 2017, after Clem Smith’s death, the Peregrine Corporation, owners of Tailem Bend’s new ‘The Bend’ motorsport complex own the facility. Many of the photos in this piece are from Clem’s son Brentons collection circulated on social media in recent months.

In the circuits early days the airfield infrastructure remained and created a wonderful backdrop for photographs such as the one below.

It is a Victorian duel between Norm Beechey and Jim McKeown- Holden 48-215 chasing Jim in the Jewitt Holden around the aptly named Hangar Corner (turn 1). Cars in the background are perhaps Brian Sampson or the Nancarrow brothers Austin Lancer or Wolseley 1500.

(DL Brock)

The hangar was demolished in the late sixties (date would be great folks) with Brenton advising ‘the main part of the hangar was removed leaving only the northern end which was used as a workshop from around 1964. Dad used it to swap an engine between races and then demolished it when he bought the track before it’s re-opening’.

A large concrete skid pad exists where the hangar once was.

(Hawthorn)

Mallala in 1963 would have been about as far as the designers of the oh-so-late to F1 Aston Martin DBR4/250 ever expected their cars to be from the GP tracks of Europe!

Two of these cars came to Australia and were raced by Lex Davison (DBR4/250-4) and Bib Stillwell (DBR4/250-3). This chassis was raced by Lex during during 1960 and 1961 and came oh-so-close, a bees-dick in fact, of winning the 1960 AGP at Lowood in an amazing race long battle with Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati.

Pat Hawthorn raced the car from around March 1963, here the car is on the way to fourth place in the ‘Advertiser Trophy’, the 1963 Gold Star round behind John Youl, Bib Stillwell and Wally Mitchell aboard Cooper T55 Climax, Brabham BT4 Climax and MRD Ford respectively.

(B Smith)

Neptune Racing Team in Mallala attendance.

Peter Manton, Morris Cooper S, Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina and Norm Beechey in his S4 EH Holden circa 1964. The team and drivers individually were huge crowd-pleaders at the time given the professionalism and appearance of the equipe not to forget the speed of the cars.

The SA Touring Car Championship was held over the. Easter break, on 19 April 1965 and won by Norm Beechey’s Mustang here taking an inside line (above) under Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina with Peter Manton Cooper S and Clem Smith, Valiant in hot pursuit.

Norm Beechey from Clem Smith circa 1965 (B Smith)

Clem Smith is of course the very same man who acquired Mallala in 1977 referred to in the text.

(R Lambert)

Formula Libre race during the 1964 Gold Star, October weekend.

The front row comprises a couple of Melburnians- Lex Davison at left in a Brabham BT4 Coventry Climax and Bib Stillwell’s Cooper Monaco at right. Behind Bib is Garrie Cooper’s red Elfin Mono Ford t/c 1.5.

By this stage Bib’s Cooper was powered by the ex-Scarab/Daigh Traco Buick V8- my money is on Bib for the win- who won though folks?

(B Smith)

Mallala was Elfin country of course! The cars were built in Edwardstown and first tested by Garrie Cooper at Mallala so they tended to be quick in their backyard.

Mel McEwin #16 Elfin Ford 1500 passes Andy Brown #41 Elfin FJ Ford in the photo above during the GT Harrison Trophy, a support race over the 1963 ATCC meeting weekend. The abandoned #14 car is the BBM2 Mercedes of D Dansie.

The Trophy race was won by Keith Rilstone’s amazing Eldred Norman built fifties front-engined Zephyr Spl s/c from Wally Mitchell MRD Ford, McEwin and Garrie Cooper’s Elfin Ford 1500.

(B Smith)

Bob Jane’s E Type leads the field from the grid and provides a great panorama of the track into Hangar Corner. Flat country tends to be the norm for airfield circuits for fairly obvious reasons…

(J Lemm)

The original Officers Mess (in the background above) was re-purposed as the Clubhouse and of course the corner closeby assumed that name. As Brenton Smith observed the clubhouse existed until ‘the white ants ate it’!

Malcolm Ramsay goes through Clubhouse in his sweet Elfin 600C Repco 2.5 V8 during the October 1970 Gold Star round on the way to fourth place- Leo Geoghegan won the day and the Gold Star that year in a Lotus 59B Waggott 2 litre TC4V.

Mustangs…

Commonwealth CA-18 Mustang 23 (P51D) manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory in Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. Aircraft are of the No 24 ‘City of Adelaide’ Squadron at Mallala in 1956.

(D Simpson)

Pete Geoghegan during the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship meeting. He won the race on 16 June- and the championship held over five rounds.

Credits…

Brenton Smith, DL Brock, John Neddy Needs, John Lemm, Hawthorn Family, Frank Finney, Dick Simpson, oldracingcars.com, Rob Bartholomaeus for caption assistance

Tailpiece: Avro 694 Lincoln, Mallala Air Show 1956…

Government Aircraft Factory built Avro 694 Lincoln Mk30A, one of 73 built, A73-34, this plane was delivered in 1948 (F Finney)

Finito…

 

It’s the end of the swinging-sixties- the Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and others ‘Pop Art’ phase is in full bloom…

It’s interesting to look at the graphic design and advertising imagery of the period which is wonderfully full of it, the style even extended to some stickers in Australia’s ‘Racing Car News’ magazine.

For the princely sum of 20 cents the six decals would be in your letterbox within the week, don’t you love the immediacy of snail-mail? The cheap giveaway was a time honoured technique in the pre-internet days of building a database of potential customers, oh for simpler times when identity fraud was rare rather than something to be mindful of in our daily online interactions.

The cars and drivers are all well known to Australian enthusiasts and include some of the stars of the day many of whom I have written about in whole or in passing.

The first image is Kevin Bartlett’s Alec Mildren Racing Mildren Waggott ‘Yellow Submarine’, a car first raced by Frank Gardner in the 1969 Tasman Series and then used by KB to win the Gold Star later that season. Click here for more; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/14/missed-it-by-that-much/

Frank Matich’s Matich SR4 Repco was built to contest the 1968 Can-Am series but ran hopelessly late so crucified local opposition in the 1969 Australian Sportscar Championship instead. Click here for a long feature on it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/07/15/matich-sr4-repco-by-nigel-tait-and-mark-bisset/

Whilst the Niel Allen sticker says McLaren M10B, the car depicted is the M4A he acquired at the end of the 1968 Tasman Series from Piers Courage. This piece on the ’68 South Pacific Trophy at Longford, won by Courage tells a bit about this car; https://primotipo.com/2015/10/20/longford-tasman-south-pacific-trophy-4-march-1968-and-piers-courage/

The final three cars featured are Pete Geoghegan’s Australian built Mustang above (as in built for racing), Norm Beechey’s Holden HK Monaro GTS 327 with Bob Jane’s Shelby constructed Mustang as the ‘Tailpiece’. All of these machines are covered in an article I wrote about the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship won by Geoghegan. Here ’tis; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/01/1969-australian-touring-car-championship/

 

Credits…

Bob Williamson Collection

Tailpiece…

Finito…

(M Walton)

Pete Geoghegan’s famous ’67 Mustang GTA leads a packed field at the start of the Australian Touring Car Championship, Easter Bathurst round on 30 March 1970…

This is what rocks the socks off touring car enthusiasts in Australia, this era of ‘taxis’ above all others for the variety of cars across the various classes. The drivers were ‘characters’ as well rather than the anodyne media schooled pro’s of today.

Here Pete enters Hell Corner ahead of 1970 Champion Norm Beechey’s 1970 Holden Monaro HT 350 GTS. Brian Foley slips up the inside of Bob Jane’s Shelby built ’68 Mustang in his 1969 2.2 Porker 911S with Allan Moffat’s 1969 KarKraft factory Mustang TransAm on the outside. Chris Brauer in his ex-Jane Mustang is ahead of a glimpse of ‘Skinny’ Manton’s yellow 1969 Cooper S, the only tiddler in shot.

All of these beasties are still alive with the exception of Brauer’s Mustang which met its maker at Lakeside several months later, on 26 July. Chris was edged off the track in a race incident, he hit the end of an armco barrier side on, destroying the car, hurting himself badly and ending his career. It was a very sad, grisly day in Queensland, popular Glynn Scott lost his life aboard an Elfin 600 Waggott 2 litre ANF1 car in a support event.

It was and still is a superb racing sedan in concept, execution and presentation- Minilites added to the sex appeal. Beechey, Holden HT model Monaro GTS350 V8 (N Watts)

Geoghegan took the Bathurst pole with a time of 2:29.9, 1.4 seconds ahead of Bob Jane with Moffat completing the front row of the grid. On row 2 were Beechey and Foley, and then McKeown’s 911S and Brauer.

Beechey used all 500 plus of his rampaging ‘neddies to lead going up Mountain Straight on the first lap whilst Moffat, 7th off the line made his way back to 3rd behind Beechey and Geoghegan during lap 1-before both Geoghegan and Moffat’s TransAm Mustang passed Beechey’s ‘TransAus’ Monaro going down Conrod Straight.

Geoghegan and Moffat pulled away from the rest of the field over the next 2 laps whilst ‘Stormin Norm’ Beechey suffered a misfire. On lap 4 Moffat slowed with plug problems which eventually caused his retirement, this gave Geoghegan space over Beechey and Jane who were battling over 2nd place.

Nick Petrilli, Holden Monaro HT GTS 350 also retired when a piston let go, then Jane spun at Forrest’s Elbow (photo below) a few laps later, taking the pressure off Beechey.

Jane spins his Shelby built 1968 TransAm Mustang on the exit of Forrests Elbow whilst Norm disappears down Conrod, Bathurst in the distance below. Car now in the US (N Watts)

Pete Geoghegan raced on worn tyres, Firestone did not have new tyres available! As a consequence Beechey was able to easily reduce Geoghegan’s lead in the second half of the contest.

At the same time, Phil Barnes began slowing in his Morris Cooper S, allowing Peter Manton, Bob Holden’s Escort Twin-Cam and Roy Griffith’s Falcon GTHO Ph1 past.

Beechey took the lead going into Murray’s Corner on lap 18 and pulled away for the win. Geoghegan held on for 2nd whilst Jane was 3rd despite his spin. The Porsche 911’s of McKeown and Foley finished 4th and 5th respectively whilst Brauer was the final point-scorer in 6th.

Beechey won three of the seven championship rounds that year and the title- Bathurst, Sandown and Lakeside, all power circuits- not that handling was an attribute unrequired at each track as well. Jim McKeown’s Porsche 911S (won Warwick Farm) was 2nd and the Mustangs of Jane and Geoghegan (won Mallala) 3rd and 4th in a hotly contested series.

Jim McKeown, Porsche 911S, Forrests Elbow, 911’s visually didn’t come better than these competition ‘small bumper’ machines (N Watts)

Click here for a superbly detailed Mark Oastler penned article on the brilliantly concepted, engineered and raced Beechey GTS 350 ‘Munro’…

https://www.shannons.com.au/club/news/ht-monaro-gts-350-is-this-holdens-greatest-muscle-racer/

Photo Credits…

Mark Walton, Nigel Watts on ‘The Roaring Season’, autopics.com.au

Tailpiece: Norm hooks into Hell Corner before the run up Mountain Straight where the Monaro’s 500 plus Chevy ponies were used to rather good effect…

Beechey, Foley and McKeown in their Porsche 911S from the Phil Barnes Cooper S

Finito…

(oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Norm Beechey’s Holden Monaro GTS327 V8 leads the field away for the final, deciding round of the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship, Symmons Plains, Tasmania 16 November….

Behind him is Alan Hamilton’s partially obscured Porsche 911T/R, local boy Robin Pare’s Ford Mustang, and then a Melbourne trio- Peter Manton’s Morris Cooper S, Jim McKeown’s Lotus Cortina Mk2 and Jim Smith’s Morris Cooper S.

I was casting around my ‘stock of photos’ and realised I had quite a few shots of cars raced in the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), or during other races that year, many by Dick Simpson so it seemed smart to pop some words to go with them.

This season has been done to death in many publications over the years, so treat this as a pictorial with enough words to provide international readers with the context they need rather than anything particularly insightful. For Australian enthusiasts the cars and drivers are well known, force-fed as we are in this country with all things ‘taxis’.

Moffat, Geoghegan and Jane at Calder in 1970. Mustangs a threesome- KarKraft TransAm, locally developed ’67 GTA and Shelby TransAm (unattributed)

What a sensational period for Touring Car racing it was, the ATCC was then run to Group C Improved Production Touring Car rules, there was so much variety from the big V8’s- the Geoghegan, Jane and Moffat Mustangs, Beechey’s HK Holden Monaro 327, Lotus Cortinas and Minis. The perennial giant killing ‘bricks’ driven by Brian Foley, ‘Skinny’ Manton, Phil Barnes amongst others.

That year was very significant, it was the first of the ‘modern era’, in that the championship was decided over a series of races rather than a one race, winner take all format as had been the case since the first title won by David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 at Gnoo Glas, Orange, NSW in 1960.

Brian Foley, Cooper S leads Geoghegan into the Warwick Farm Esses in 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Melbourne’s Alan Hamilton, his family were the Australian Porsche importer for decades, nearly pulled off a huge upset in ’69 coming within a point and five metres of beating Geoghegan to the title in his new 2 litre Porsche 911.

In 1967 after winning the Australian Hillclimb Championship and having on-circuit success with his 906, Hamilton decided to have a crack at the ATCC. I wrote an article about him and his cars a while back, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/

A 911R was out of the question as it didn’t comply with the rules but a steel-bodied 911R did.

The new 911T was homologated for Group 3 Grand Touring, Porsche in time honoured tradition developed a new Rallye Kit to cater for racers, offering a range of go-faster goodies and less weight by removing various luxuries.

As always with Porsche you could order whatever you liked, that included the ‘Carrera 6’ engine and running gear from the 911R! Hamilton knew the capabilities of the engine from his 906 Spyder. Two of them actually. The 1991cc six was good for 157kW/206Nm, complete with a lightweight flywheel, slippery diff, competition clutch and other bits a pieces, it turned the Rallye into a very competitive little weapon.

Hamilton in his 911T/R at Hume Weir in 1969 (oldracephotos,ocm/DSimpson)

The Signal Orange 911T/R arrived Australia in time for the 1968, one race ATCC at Warwick Farm, Sydney on 8 September, a highly technical circuit which placed a premium on handling, brakes and power, Hume Straight was a long one.

Geoghegan’s ’67 Mustang and Norm Beechey’s Chev Camaro 350 were the main threats to Porsche victory with local boy Pete Geoghegan the man most likely.

And so it proved, Pete ran away with the race securing his third title on the trot. Hamilton was as high as second but blew a rear tyre at Creek Corner on the last lap and disappeared into the boonies before recovering to finish third. Darrell King was second and Fred Gibson fourth in Cooper S and Niel Allen’s Mustang respectively.

In 1969 the title was decided over five rounds in five states- Calder on Melbourne’s Western outskirts in Victoria, Mount Panorama, Bathurst in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, Mallala, 60 Km north of Adelaide in South Australia, Surfers Paradise on Queenslands Gold Coast and Symmons Plains, near Launceston, Tasmania. Truly a national title indeed!

New star-cars of ’69- Beechey’s shortlived HK Monaro 327 and Moffat’s long-lived TransAm Mustang, Calder, late 1969 (R Davies)

Hamilton’s Porker was far from the only fresh 1969 ATCC contender…

Allan Moffat’s KarKraft Mustang Trans-Am 302, a sinfully sexy weapon in the hands of the droll, fast Canadian for the following six years was soon on the water and arrived in time for the Mallala round. Click here for the story on this magnificent machine;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/21/marvin-the-marvels-magic-mustang/

Norm Beechey had thrilled the crowds with a succession of exciting cars- Holden 48-215, Chev Impala, Ford Mustang, Chev Nova, Chev Camaro SS but for 1969 he built, with Holden’s assistance, an HK Monaro GTS powered by a 327 Chev cid V8.

Very early race for the new Beechey HK327 at Warwick Farm in late 1968- already some scars on the door! Car painted Shell blue over the summer- this colour and stripe combo ex-factory standard (R Thomas)

The car was built during ’68 by Norm’s team led by Claude Morton at Beechey’s Brunswick, Melbourne workshop. Whilst it was not completed in time for the ’68 ATCC it did defeat Geoghegan at Calder late that year.

Knocking off Pete in a car which was continually developed by John Sheppard in Sydney was always going to be a big challenge, lack of development time was a barrier, on the other hand the team knew Chev V8’s well, if not the balance of the new cars running gear.

In any event, Norm’s car had towards 500 bhp under the bonnet as the ’69 season approached- and had shown, even at this early stage, the pace to best Pete.

Beechey’s Holden HK Monaro 327 engine bay, circa 500 bhp from the Weber fed V8 (unattributed)

 

Calder Improved Tourer race later in ’69- this is Moffat giving Beechey a ‘love tap’ on the warm up lap! Geoghegan, Hamilton and McKeown follow (autopics)

The championship opened at Calder Park on March 23…

Geoghegan made the most of the freshly resurfaced track to score pole ahead of Bob Jane’s TransAm Mustang with Hamilton fourth behind Beechey’s Monaro. This car was very significant as the first of the Australian ‘Pony Cars’ to take on the American heavy metal which had dominated in Australia since the end of the ‘Jaguar Era’.

Beechey booting his Monaro around one of Calder’s tight corners during the ATCC round. Track only 1 mile long then (unattributed)

In a difficult start to the season Norm popped an engine in practice, decamping back to home base in Brunswick to rebuild the Chev bent-eight overnight.

Beechey led from the start but was passed by Geoghegan before turn one, Melbourne businessman/racer Jane passed Norm on lap 4 and Geoghegan on lap 5. Beechey popped another engine on lap 7!

Geoghegan tried everything to get up to and past Bob Jane at Calder in ’69- here throwing the car around in the manner for which he was famous (oldracephotos)

Jane had a strong lead but Pete came back at him, a passing move under brakes resulted in him running wide. Bob won the race at a circuit he would soon purchase from the Pascoe family who first built the facility in 1962. Geoghegan was second and then Hamilton third, a  lap down.

Bob Jane’s Shelby built Mustang Trans-Am, Bathurst 1969. Q2 and DNF. Bobs fortunes would change with the purchase of a Chev Camaro LT1 soonish (Bob Jane )

The fabulous, challenging Mount Panorama at Bathurst was the venue for round two on April 7…

Geoghegan had a sensational meeting plonking his ‘Stang on pole by 5 seconds and then proceeded to disappear during the race at the rate of ten seconds a lap. Pete was the master of Bathurst click on these links, about his Ferrari 250LM speed;

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

and his win in the ’72 Bathurst ATCC round aboard his Super Falcon;

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/15/greatest-ever-australian-touring-car-championship-race-bathurst-easter-1972/

Geoghegan, Mustang, Hell Corner, Bathurst 1968 (Dick Simpson)

In a meeting of attrition Jane qualified second but blew an engine on lap 9. Beechey boofed the Monaro in practice and did not start with Hamilton bending his rear suspension against the Forrest Elbow wall, finishing second, miles behind Geoghegan.

Phil Barnes, Cooper S from Mike Savvas Ford Falcon GT XT, Bathurst Esses  ATCC round 1969 (oldracephotos)

Phil Barnes did brilliantly in his Cooper S to finish third on this power circuit with Bob Inglis fourth in a Lotus Cortina.

After two meetings the pattern for the year seemed clear, Geoghegan’s pace, Hamilton in the Porsche finishing races and continually collecting points with the V8’s somewhat more brittle…

Moffat at Mallala in practice ahead of Kevin Farrisey’s Holden FJ (Dick Simpson)

Mallala, ex-RAAF Airfield 16 June…

Alan Moffat’s long-awaited TransAm Mustang was the star attraction, this car surely the most iconic ‘greatest’ touring car ever to race in Oz. Bias hereby declared!

Beechey was again a non-starter with yet another blown engine. The top four grid slots were Jane, Geoghegan, Moffat and Hamilton.

Moffat was the first to go out on lap 2 in what would become a race of attrition, followed by Jane at half distance. Hamilton followed Geoghegan home by a respectable 44 seconds for second with Peter Manton’s Cooper S third.

After a break of a month to prepare their mounts the teams took the long drive north to Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Melbourne’s Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina Mk2, Mallala 1969. Looks a picture in its Minilites (Dick Simpson)

Surfers Paradise on August 31…

Pete again took pole from Beechey and Hamilton who equalled the Monaro V8’s time- pretty amazing on this power circuit.

With Moffat and Jane non-starters, the race had looked like a foregone conclusion until Geoghegan was forced out with a puncture on lap eight, he had run over a piece of exhaust pipe left by one of his fellow competitors on circuit.

Pete returned two laps down but Beechey held on to take his first win of the season- and the first ever ATCC win for Holden with Hamilton second, collecting a bag more of points and Jim McKeown third.

A designers true intent is always shown with the first iteration of a car isn’t it? The ’68/9 HK Monaro a very cohesive design- and in GTS 327 spec a formidable tool in Series Production racing and here as an Improved Tourer. Here, Beechey’s car in the Surfers Paradise dummy grid/form up area. Car sold at the end of ’69 to WA, raced by Peter Briggs for a while and then, when some debts needed to be paid components ‘spread by the wind’. In the hands of a potential ‘restorer’ these days. Beechey focussed on his ’70 title winning, sensational HG GTS350 (unattributed)

The title now went down to the wire. Pete’s woes meant his championship lead was now only three points over the Porsche driver with Peter Manton moving into third in the title chase.

The competition rules provided each driver drop their worst score, the net effect of which was that Hamilton needed to win at Symmons Plains and Pete score no points for Hamilton to take the title.

These early 911’s are sex on wheels, Hamilton’s 911T/R as exotic as they came at the time. Still in Oz in the Bowden Family Collection. Clubhouse corner, Mallala 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Symmons Plains, 16 November…

Bob Jane had already withdrawn from the final round to attend overseas business commitments with team driver John Harvey driving his Mustang. Moffat was struggling yet again with engine trouble, the front row therefore comprised Geoghegan, Harvey, Moffat and Beechey with Hamilton back in fifth.

With just one minute to go before the flag, Geoghegan’s Mustang refused to start, leaving his crew little option but to bump start it after the race had begun and doom him to certain disqualification. All Hamilton had to do now was win!

Great arse! Moffats ‘stang has no bad angle. Symmons ’69 DNF typical of the unreliability of the car early on. It never did win the ATCC did it? Sadly. Car still in Oz, in the Bowden Collection of touring car racers (oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Harvey led Moffat until lap seven when the Mustang popped another Windsor 302. Beechey and Hamilton followed. Beechey extended his lead but the Holden started to suffer gearbox problems, he was having to avoid gearchanges, which meant he had to slip the clutch to keep the car mobile at lower speeds. By lap 15 Harvey was out with a puncture.

So near but so far! Beechey, his Holden trailing heaps of smoke from a failing gearbox, boots his Monaro away from Hamilton’s 911, last lap, last corner, last Symmons Plains round of the ATCC ’69 (oldracephotos/Harrisson)

Hamilton closed the gap getting to within a cars length of the Holden in the last corner of the race but Norm was able to boot the big V8, using all of its vast amount of torque, to accelerate away from the 2 litre 911 and win the race from Hamilton and McKeown.

Geoghegan had continued to race on, despite inevitable disqualification, breaking the lap record, making it onto the lead lap. With Hamilton failing to win, Pete won the ATCC title, his last, by one point…

Geoghegan flicking his Mustang thru Warwick Farm’s Northern Crossing in 1969. Pete always polls as Top 5 or 10 in any assessment of Australia’s Greatest Touring Car drivers (Dick Simpson)

‘You know, it’s funny’, chuckled Hamilton in a Unique Cars interview. ‘I’ve never really forgiven Norm (Beechey) for that one. Every time he comes around I like to give him a bit of curry about what happened in that race. You see, he was out of the (championship) running entirely at that point, and his car had all but expired. In fact it actually did expire about 20 metres over the line. It finally just dropped dead! Still, I can’t complain. We did well to get where we did. Unlike the V8s, the Porsche proved to be very reliable. We had a colossal season in ’69, doing hillclimbs and medal races as well as the Touring Cars, but aside from routine servicing we didn’t actually have to do anything to keep it going’.

Etcetera: ATCC Cars of 1969…

Beechey, Hume Weir 1969 (unattributed)

 

One of the earliest appearances of Moffat’s Mustang in Australia, Oran Park, 17 May 1969 (Dick Simpson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Barnes, Cooper S at Mallala in 1969. He was 7th in the ’69 title with 5th at Calder and 3rd at Bathurst (Dick Simpson)

 

Jim McKeown, Lotus Cortina, Hume Weir 1969 (oldracephotos)

 

Bob Jane and Mustang TransAm at Lakeside’s Karussell in July 1969 (G Ruckert)

 

Alan Hamilton, Porsche 911T/R during 1969 (oldracephotos)

 

Moffat at Peters Corner, to start the run up Sandown’s back straight. Moffat forever a BP man but displaying Ampol allegiance early in the Mustang’s career – May 4 1969 first race meeting? (autopics)

Bibliography…

‘History of the Australian Touring Car Championship’ Graham Howard and Ors

Photo Credits…

Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Robert Davies, autopics.com.au, Graham Ruckert, Robert Thomas

Tailpiece: Pete Geoghegan, Mallala 1969- five time ATCC winner in 1964/6/7/8/9…

Geoghegan, Clubhouse Corner, Mallala 1969 (Dick Simpson)

Finito…

 

 

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(T Watts Collection)

A favourite car, favourite marque, favourite colour. Bert Howard’s Lola Mk1 Climax at Symmons Plains, Tasmania in April 1968…

It’s a simple enough shot I suppose, a well executed pan with classic blurred background, but too good not to share.

The colour is so clear it could be 2017, but the low roll bar, helmet and background devoid of advertising hoardings gives it away a bit, its 1968. The small, lithe little machine looks like a ‘big banger’ doesn’t it?, but the 1098cc Coventry Climax FWA engined car is anything but that.

The Lola Mk1 was seminal in Eric Broadley’s early commercial success. The story of the car itself, it’s development and specifications is so well told on Lola Heritage, just click on the link here to read about these magic cars;

http://www.lolaheritage.co.uk/history/types/mk1/mk1.htm

Bert’s car, Lola Mk1 chassis ‘BR15’  first came to Australia to the order of ‘Scuderia Veloce’ supremo, David McKay in late 1960…

By the time David McKay landed the sporty and Formula Junior Lola Ford ‘BRJ18’ the former World War 2 veteran, racer and motoring journalist had already been competing since the late forties. He had second place in the 1955 Hyeres 12 Hours in southern France together with Tony Gaze aboard a ‘customer’ Aston DB3S and the 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy, Bathurst, victory as career highlights to that point, the latter aboard his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S.

Most international readers would be by now familiar with McKay from various of my articles. He was a racer at elite level who founded ‘Scuderia Veloce’ to race his own cars circa 1959. The team very shortly thereafter morphed into an enterprise which entered cars for others including internationals, Chris Amon, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart- and into a retail motor dealership on Sydney’s North Shore which sold Ferrari, later Volvo and from 1969 Porsche cars.

McKay also aided and abetted the careers of many drivers from the early days- most notably Amon, Spencer Martin, Greg Cusack and right through into the 1970’s Larry Perkins and open-wheeler Formula Pacific ace John Smith in the latter period.

Throughout this era of the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies McKay was the most influential Oz motoring journalist as motoring editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers.

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David McKay, Lola Mk1 Climax, Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Easter 1961. Won the 3 lap under 1500 scratch and was 4th outright and 1st in class in the 10 lap main sportscar event won by the Matich Lotus 15 Climax (J Ellacott)

A mate of McKay’s, dentist David Lewin based in London had written to the Sydneysider and extolled him of the virtues of both Lolas and McKay soon did a deal with Graham Broadley, Eric’s brother to acquire ‘BR15’, which was a works car raced by Peter Ashdown.

The FJ was a new car built for a category which was exploding globally. The shadows of the War by then had to a large extent diminished, globally the worlds economy was performing well and consumer credit was becoming more widely available- many young men could afford to go motor racing and FJ was very much a class of choice.

In Australia, finally some permanent venues were being built- Warwick Farm, Catalina Park, Lakeside, Sandown Park, Calder and others were all opened in the early years of the sixties. In fact McKay was keen to land both Lolas in time for the first Warwick Farm opening meeting in December 1960. ‘BR15’ was not available until the end of the British racing season however.

Between the purchase of the cars and their arrival in Australia the Australian Federal Government had increased sales tax on imported cars to 40%. Much to McKay’s chagrin the changes applied to both road cars AND racing cars including those ‘on the water’! His landed price having increased hugely, McKay quickly did a deal to relieve the financial pressure so created to sell the FJ to Sydney insurance broker Tom Corcoran who had been racing a Lotus 11. Corcoran raced the car under the SV banner thereby getting some support at race meetings and fuel and oil provided by Castrol who had about then done a deal with McKay. David of course raced the Mk1.

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Scuderia Veloce on Warwick Farm’s pit straight in 1962. Morgan Distributors Morgan Plus 4, Tony Loxley’s Ferrari 250 GT, Fiat Importers Fiat 1800, ‘Old Nail’ Cooper T51 Climax, Lola Mk1 Climax (J Fullarton)

Scuderia Veloce at the time included the little Lola, a Nardi modified Fiat 1800 taken out to 2 litres owned by Fiat Australia which David raced in the burgeoning Appendix J touring car class and his Jaguar.

By early 1960 his first Jaguar Mk1 3.4 ‘Grey Pussy’, the dominant touring car in Australia at the time had been sold to Ron Hodgson. David bought a second Jag, a 3.4 litre Mk1, like the first built by the Jaguar Competition Department, which was co-owned with Australian Jaguar importer Bryson Industries. He won the very first Australian Touring Car Championship, a one race event, at Gnoo Blas, Orange in the red Jag in early 1960 beating Bill Pitt’s 3.4 litre Mk1 and Hodgson’s car which by then was 3.8 litres in capacity.

He also occasionally raced Sydney businessman/yachtsman Tony Loxley’s Ferrari 250GT coupe in GT races.

In single-seaters, for a short time in 1959 McKay raced a new (Victa Industries owned) Cooper T51 Climax FPF 1.9 and after the 1961 Australasian International season- the Victa owned car having been sold to Bib Stillwell he acquired a Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2 from Jack Brabham. McKay realised, approaching forty that his time at the top was limited and he ‘needed to get on with it’ in single-seaters!

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Mallala AGP weekend 1961, this will be a heat as Bill Patterson started from pole after acrimony over qualifying times and Stan Jones DNS the GP itself after mechanical mayhem intruded. #6 Bib Stillwell in his new Cooper T53 Climax, #14 McKay in ‘Old Nail’ Cooper T51 Climax and #2 Stan Jones Cooper T51 Climax. That’s Gerry Brown tending to Bib and Kevin Drage with his hand on the tail of the car (K Drage)

The ‘Old Nail’ Cooper Jack Brabham had for sale was raced by Ron Flockhart and Roy Salvadori that summer as part of ‘Jack’s team (‘Ecurie Vitesse’) was none other than Bruce McLaren’s ex-works machine (chassis number either ‘F2-5-57’ or ‘F2-7-59’), the chassis in which Bruce took his first world championship GP victory at Sebring in late 1959 and another win at Buenos Aires in February 1960.

It wasn’t in the full flush of youth as a ’59 (or was it 1957!?) car with transverse leaf, as against coil sprung rear end but was still a pretty good thing to go head to head with Cooper mounted Stan Jones, Bill Patterson, Lex Davison, (noting Lex’ interludes in Aston Martin DBR4’s) Bib Stillwell, (ditto!) Alec Mildren and the rest of the local heroes in Australia.

Indeed, the difference between an Australian Grand Prix ‘Old Nail’ win for McKay and 3rd place at Mallala in October 1961 was a jumped start and 60 second penalty in the opinion of the race stewards…but not in the opinion of many informed onlookers! A story for another time. Lex Davison won the ’61 AGP, his fourth and last AGP victory aboard a Cooper T51 borrowed from Bib Stillwell (the ex-Victa Industries car raced briefly by McKay) and Bibs later, quicker!, Cooper T53 with McKay’s T51 third. As I say, that meeting is very much a story in itself for another time.

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Start of the Australian Touring Car Championship race at Gnoo Blas, Orange, NSW 1 February 1960. Ron Hodgson in Jag Mk1 3.8 ‘Grey Pussy’ at left, McKay in his new Mk1 3.4 right, Bill Pitt behind in another Mk1 3.4 then the Holdens led by Pete Geoghegan’s black 48-215. McKay won from Pitt and Hodgson (unattributed)

So, McKay was a busy boy and Lola was only one of his toys! McKay was well aware of the cars speed which was both demonstrated by the performance of the cars in the UK and Derek Jolly’s Coventry Climax FWA powered Decca’s which raced in Australia from the mid-fifties- and which McKay was well familiar with on-and off circuit.

The dominant sportscars in Australia at the time were Ron Phillips’ Cooper Jaguar, Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Derek Jolly’s 2 litre FPF powered ex-works Lotus 15 and then Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors owned ex-works 2.5 litre FPF powered Lotus 15 from the time it arrived in Australia in 1960. Matich then transferred his raw pace to a Lotus 19 Climax which further accentuated his dominance (which segued to Lotus 19B, Elfin 400 Olds aka ‘Traco Olds’, Matich SR3 Repco and Matich SR4 Repco- a decade of sportscar wins for FM in Australia)

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‘BR15’ at Symmons Plains 1968: spaceframe chassis, wishbone upper and lower front suspension with coil spring/shocks, 1098cc originally but by now probably 1220cc Coventry Climax Weber fed FWA engine and rubber bungee attached fuel tank all clear (oldracephotos.com)

The Lola was a famously light, beautiful handling car but it was not an outright contender toting only 1100cc so its place in the local order was to win the 1100 or under 1500 class and punch above its weight in outright competition.

McKay’s cars finally arrived from the UK in October 1960, their first outing a test day at Warwick Farm in October before the inaugural Warwick Farm open meeting on 18 December 1960. Bob Atkin had by then been engaged by McKay to look after the Lolas, Atkin formed a career with SV’s and was still Dealer Principal of Scuderia Veloce Motors when it was sold to Laurie Sutton a decade or so hence.

McKay won his class in the famously very wet meeting whilst finishing 2nd outright behind Matich’ Lotus 15 and ahead of Derek Jolly’s 15, Bob Jane’s Maser 300S, Doug Chivas’ Jag D Type and others. In a great day for McKay, he won a sportscar race in the Morgan Plus 4, was 4th in the Appendix J touring car race in the Fiat and took fastest lap as well as winning the 1500 class in the Lola Mk1. A great day at the office!

Over the next 12 months the car was unbeatable in its class with successes at Ballarat Airfield, Hume Weir, Longford and Bathurst.

Business end of the Lola, Longford 1960 (G Richardson)

 

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McKay’s Lola ‘BR15’ in very ugly Appendix K GT guise in 1961, circuit unknown. Gives new meaning to ‘slab sided’ ‘dunnit (M Schagen)

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport adopted Appendix K for GT cars for the 1960 season which made sense in terms of attracting people to buy and race closed coupes such as the Lotus Elite and Porsche Carrera being sold at the time. It left large numbers of sportscars out on a limb in the sense that promoters now chose between running races for the two categories-that is between Appendix C Sportscars and Appendix K GT’s.

CAMS oddly, but sensibly allowed open cars to compete as long as they had ‘a lid’. As a consequence all manner of cars including such exotica as D Type Jags, Maser 300S…and McKays Lola Mk1 were ‘converted’ from open sportscars to closed coupes.

The conversions were usually as ugly as sin, Bob Jane’s Maser 300S arguably the exception, with David’s Lola definitely in the ‘fugly’ category as the photo above proves! The work was done by Clive Adams North Sydney panel shop, ‘ there a master of aluminium work, one Stan Brown, had a small corner where he worked his magic’ as McKay so eloquently put it. ‘That it turned out an ugly duckling there is no doubt’. To make matters worse the increase in weight of the car and ‘top heaviness’ ruined the beautiful balance of Broadley’s original design.

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1961 GT Racing shot: Bob Jane, Maser 300S Coupe, Leo Geoghegan Lotus Elite, Frank Matich Jaguar D Type Hardtop and the red car is Keith Malcolm’s Skoden, Bathurst October 1961 (MK1220)

McKay in his autobiography describes the silver lining in the GT conversion work as the introduction to him of Spencer Martin, who worked at Adams shop and had started racing in a self built sportscar. Later they would achieve much together with Spencer driving both the SV Brabham BT11A Climax after Graham Hill had finished with it at the end of the 1964 Tasman Series and McKay’s famous, glorious ‘Red Lady’- his Ferrari 250LM.

The Lola ‘GT’ cannot have been too bad mind you, McKay was 2nd in the 50 mile, one race 1961 Australian GT Championship held at Warwick Farm in July 1961. Frank Matich won in a Jag XKD ‘GT’ from Brian Foley’s Austin Healey Sprite Hardtop and Bob Jane’s Maser 300S Coupe.

As McKay focussed on other cars he sold the Lola to Greg Cusack, the young motor-trader and rally-driver from Canberra was a man on-the-rise. Cusack raced the car for the first time, still under the SV banner, at Warwick Farm in December 1961. He achieved the same levels of success with it in the following twelve months as McKay.

Cusack also had an occasional race in the ‘Old Nail’ Cooper T51 Climax during 1962 including a very solid 4th in the ‘Bathurst 100’ Gold Star event on demanding Mount Panorama.

McKay played an important role in Chris Amon’s nascent career, running the young Kiwi in the Australasian International season aboard his Cooper T53 Climax in 1963- it was during that summer that Reg Parnell spotted Chris’ talent and spirited him off to Europe.

Chris had a few drives of McKay’s Coopers (Old Nail T51 and T53) in Australia in the second half of 1962 at Sandown and Mallala during practice and at the Gold Star season ending round at Warwick Farm in mid-October where he raced the T51 to 3rd place in the ‘Hordern Trophy’ behind Bib Stillwell and John Youl. The talented young Kiwi also raced the Lola Mk1 at Sandown in September to a class win in the Victorian Sportscar Championship.

The Lotus 23’s then beginning to appear gave the Lola a taste of competition for the first time. Cusack could see the writing on the wall so acquired two Elfins, a Catalina single-seater and Mallala mid-engined sportscar with which to take his career forward.

Cusack remained close to McKay, he would several years hence drive the teams Brabham BT23A Repco after Spencer Martin’s departure from Scuderia Veloce.

Lola was offered for sale and sold to to another very quick young driver, John Martin of Katoomba in Sydney’s Blue Mountains who had been competing in a Lotus 15. He first raced the car in January 1963 and achieved much success despite the more competitive grids in which the Lola now competed.

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Pete Geoghegan in ‘BR15’ giving Niel Allen’s new Elan heaps at the ’66 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting in February. It was a very effective ‘demo’ of the little cars pace despite advancing years and race miles. Geoghegan was doing as many laps in little lithe Lotuses at the time as the Touring Cars for which he was famous- he would have found Lola very much to his liking I suspect (B Wells)

Frank Demuth, a Sydney accountant was the next owner having bought the car in early 1964. He gradually got the hang of it, as a newcomer to racing, but soon traded it in after 12 months on the Lotus 23B Ford raced by Pete Geoghegan, the Geoghegan brothers were Australia’s Lotus importers.

Rather than leave the car sitting on the Parramatta Road used car lot, Pete decided to have a run in it to remind everyone Lola was about and for sale. He had the car painted the wonderful shade of yellow and added 8 inch wheels to get a bit more grip. By now the car’s Climax FWA was said to be 1220cc in capacity.

Geoghegan entered it in the 1966 Warwick Farm Tasman meeting sportscar races and gave Niel Allen’s ex-Leo Geoghegan Lotus Élan 26R and Demuth plenty of curry in the 23 he has just acquired! Still, Pete was a rather handy steerer whatever the theoretical superiority of the 1.6 litre mid-engined, Lotus/Ford twin-cam powered Lotus 23! The feature race, for the record was won by Greg Cusack in a Lotus 23B from Demuth, Geoghegan and Bob Jane’s E Type Lwt.

It was at this point that Bert Howard responded to the Geoghegan’s March 1966 ‘Racing Car News’ advertisement, asking price $A3400- read it and weep! It was a long drive from Hobart to Sydney and back but no doubt Bert had a big smile as his car towed ‘BR15’ onto the ‘Princess of Tasmania’ at Port Melbourne for the final leg of the 1600 Km trip home.

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Longford 1968: Bert Howard’s Lola in front of Doug Whiteford, works Datsun Fairlady, John Roxburgh Lotus 23C Ford and Ian Maudsley, Lotus Super 7 (oldracephotos)

There the car was beautifully prepared and presented for years at Longford, Symmons Plains and Baskerville, if increasingly outdated as the mid-engined hordes grew exponentially throughout the 1960’s. In the smaller capacity classes these cars included the Lotus 23, various local 23 ‘clones’, the Elfin Mallala, Elfin 300 and others.

Bert sold the car in the early seventies to Kent Patrick who raced it in various historic events before selling it to Kerry Luckins, well known in motorsport as the General Manager of Paul England Engineering in Melbourne, a Light Car Club stalwart and the ‘on-circuit’ Sandown commentator.

Kerry stripped the car and rebuilt it fully with the assistance of  Jim Shepherd. It is in this period in the earlyish days of historic racing that I remember the Melbourne based car and later when raced by Ian and his son Nick McDonald, the car always looked ‘a million bucks’ and was very fast as the McDonald cars always are.

The car left Australia circa 2000 when sold to Tony Moy of Page and Moy, the specialist UK motor racing travel agency. Forty years had elapsed between the cars departure from and return to the UK- a great pity as the lovely little car had been an enduring and ever-present part of the Oz racing scene and a ‘belle of the ball’ wherever it appeared.

It never looked better than in its yellow phase in Bert Howard’s hands mind you…

Etcetera: David, Graham and Friends…

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Warwick Farm function during the Tasman, guessing 1964, the year Graham Hill drove McKay’s Brabham BT11A but its a guess only. L>R unknown, McKay, unknown, Geoff Sykes Warwick Farm promoter and manager, GH and Mike Kable, motoring journalist (Warwick Farm)

Bibliography…

‘David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce’ David McKay, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Lola Heritage, oldracingcars.com, Terry Sullivan and Ray Bell on ‘The Roaring Season’, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley

Photo Credits…

T Watts Collection via Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania, Geoff Harrisson/oldracephotos.com, John Ellacott, Kevin Drage, Marc Schagen via Aussieroadracing, J Fullarton, MK1220, Bruce Wells/The Roaring Season, Greg Richardson

Tailpiece: David McKay at Catalina Park, Blue Mountains, NSW, Lola Mk1 Climax, date unknown, beautiful isn’t it…

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(M Schagen)

 

Robin Pare, Pete Geoghegan in Ford Mustangs, Bruno Carosi Jag Mk2, Frank Gardner Alfa GTA and Robin Bessant Lotus Cortina on the downhill plunge towards The Viaduct, Longford Improved Production Touring Car race 1967 (oldracephotos.com)

Pete Geoghegan did so many times too! The Sydneysider is here doing his stuff aboard the first of his two Ford Mustangs at Longford during the Tasman round in February 1967…

The Brothers Geoghegan, Leo and Ian or ‘Pete’ were stars of Australian Motor Racing from the late-fifties into the mid-seventies, Leo in single-seaters and Pete in ‘taxis’, touring cars of all pursuations. When he was a youth Pete was quick in a brief career in single seaters and a Lotus 23 Ford but he became a ‘big unit’ so his girth meant he was best suited to cars with a roof.

Geoghegan , Gardner and Carosi off the front row, no sign of Pare- perhaps not the same race grid as above ? (oldracephotos.com)

A supreme natural, Geoghegan made a car sing with flair and feel blessed to some from above. Every car he drove. His band-width extended from GT’s to Sports Cars, Production Tourers and very highly modified Sports Sedans- sedans of considerable power and performance.

His CV included some of the most iconic cars raced in Australia over the decades above including a Lotus 7 , 22, 23, the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM, Holden ‘Humpy’, Jaguar 3.4, Morris 850, the two Mustangs, Cortinas- both GT and Lotus variants, Falcon GT’s, Falcon GTHO’s, Valiant Charger E49, highly modified Porsche 911’s, his iconic, Ford factory built and later Bowin Cars modified Ford Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’ and the superb John Sheppard built Holden Monaro GTS350 Sports Sedan.

That car was as conceptually clever, beautifully built and presented sedan racer as any ever constructed in Oz. Lets not forget his late career drives in Laurie O’Neill’s Porsche 935, a notoriously tricky device to master. Much earlier on he drove O’Neills Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, every bit as exotic as the 935.

Big Pete finesses the Mustang into The Viaduct (oldracephotos.com)

Geoghegan, five times Australian Touring Car Champion 1965-69 was an immensely popular racer with the fans, his bulk, manner and ‘stutter’ part of his appeal. He was not without his issues mind you. Touring Car racing is a religion in Australia, our sedan racing has been the equal of the best in the world for decades and arguably for the last 20 years our V8 Supercar category has been consistently one of the Top 5 sedan racing contests on the planet.

A touch of the opposites on the exit to Newry (oldracephotos.com)

So, the pantheon of talented touring car aces is large, and membership of the Top 10 a subject of much informed pub chatter, tough. Most knowledgeable touring car observers would have Geoghegan in their Top 10, if not Top 5, along with the likes of Norm Beechey, Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards (a Kiwi but we take him as our own) Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup and others.

(oldracephotos.com)

Photo Credits…

Oldracephotos.com- Harrison and David Keep

Tailpiece: Came, Saw, Conquered and then returned to Sydney…

Other Reading…

Pete Geoghegan and his Falcon GTHO ‘Super Falcon’

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/15/greatest-ever-australian-touring-car-championship-race-bathurst-easter-1972/

Pete’s 1965 Mustang notchback

http://www.bowdensown.com.au/collection/ian-pete-geoghegans-1965-mustang

Finito…

Geoghegans were the Australian importers and distributors of Lotus cars from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies when Jim Smith’s Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne stepped up to the plate

The brothers Geoghegan are no doubt well known to most primotipo readers by now, even you international mob. Between them they had ‘Taxis’ or Touring Cars and Open-Wheeler racing covered in Australia. Ian or ‘Pete’ Geoghegan was a multiple national champion aboard cars with a roof and Leo was similarly credentialed in the more rarefied and refined single-seater world.

Whilst the Lotus Racing Halo internationally was huge in the mid-sixties for all of the obvious reasons, the Geoghegan connection must have polished the Lotus brand considerably in this part of the world too.

Who wouldn’t want to buy a car from them and then have it serviced there? Why, if you were lucky during February, you might even time your trip to have your Elan’s Webers tickled with the visit of Team Lotus who operated from the Paramatta Road, Haberfield dealership during the Warwick Farm Tasman weekend.

(Dalton)

The Lotus franchise in Australia is a bit of a ‘hot spud’ really- no one has distributed the things for a long time.

Not even those who were multi-franchise dealers and therefore had the earnings of other marques with greater volumes to support the lower financial contributions of what has always been a very niche brand in Australia, the brothers Geoghegan probably the longest lived of the dealers.

Some well known motor racing names have been involved in flogging the wonderful but idiosynchratic cars down the decades.

Alec Strachan was the original importer, he was based at Waitara, Sydney and negotiated the rights with Chapman off the back of purchase of a Lotus 6-the first of Chapman’s machines in Australia. Then Derek Jolly with his impeccable racing and engineering connections to Chapman himself took over, but that was never going to really work, Adelaide is a long way from the main East Coast markets especially back then given the transport and road infrastructure. Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart had tiny populations for such a niche product.

Performance Automobiles sold a few in Hobart and in Melbourne John Roxburgh, and Dick Thurston’s Pitstop Motors on the Nepean Highway, Brighton waved the Hethel flag. At the same time Lance Dixon sold plenty of used ones, many times I rode by bike from North Balwyn to Doncaster to dream about a red Europa or Elan. Simply Sportscars of South Melbourne have the rights now- these blokes are hard-core enthusiasts and should do well where others have failed.

Whad’ll she do mister? Leo Geoghegan’s ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco sitting forlornly on the 253 Parramatta Road lot in 1970. Leo raced the car finally, having acquired it from Team Lotus after the 1966 Tasman Series, in the 1970 Tasman, then it was put to one side to sell whilst Leo raced to Gold Star victory in a new Lotus 59 powered by a Waggott 2 litre DOHC, 4 valve injected engine (Fistonic)

These photos by Milan Fistonic capture the late-sixties flavour of the Geoghegan’s dealership in Sydney’s Parramatta Road, ‘Auto Alley’.

The shots are very much dated as being late 1970, the year in which Leo stopped racing his evergreen ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco V8. There it is, the 1969 JAF Japanese Grand Prix winner sitting on the used car lot just waiting for a punter with the necessary readies. Click here to read my article about this wonderful car; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

It was not an easy car to move at the time with F5000 in the process of becoming the new ANF1, to replace the 2.5 litre Tasman Formula. The nutbags at CAMS made F5000 cars eligible to contest the 1970 Tasman Series but not the domestic 1970 Gold Star- that title was won by Leo G in the Lotus 39’s replacement, a brand new Lotus 59B to which he bolted a superb circa 275bhp 2 litre Waggott engine built not too far from the dealership. The 39 fell into the very best of hands, John Dawson-Damer, who did a brilliant job restoring it to its original, ex-works 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engined form. It’s still in Australia, happily!

It seems fitting to provide some period written flavour to accompany the photos.

To do so I have reproduced the wonderful recollections of ‘DanTra2858’ he contributed to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Daniel worked for the brothers Geoghegan at that time, the late sixties. I’ve positioned his thoughts around several different headings to preserve some semblance of flow.

(Dalton)

On assembling Lotuses in Australia.

The cars arrived by ship from Hethel ‘CKD’ or in Completely Knocked Down form… ‘…1969, also working there at the time was Barry Lake (racer and very well known racing journalist) and Wally Willmott (for many years Bruce McLaren’s right hand in the nascent years of BM Motor Racing in the UK) Service Manager was Bob Everitt.

With a little help to remove a Europa from its crate and the motor/gearbox and diff assemby, it took me about 10 hours to assemble a car ready for registration.

There were some long days assembling the cars mainly due to the clutch plates attaching themself to the flywheel. Of course this did not show up until the installation of the motor/gearbox into the car on initial start up, sometimes it could be rectified by starting the car in gear but not always. Then out with the motor/gearbox as that was easier than split, fix the problem then put it all back together again, good days!

When Lotus cars were imported…they came in a open frame wooden crate with the car wrapped in plastic sheeting, that was the full extent of protection (during the long voyage from England) The motor/gearbox assembly was in a wooden box complete with the suspension, tailshaft , diff and wheels. Each crate/box had identification numbers on them to match the motor to body, so the first thing to do was match up the components to assemble a car.

When this was done the body crate was opened, plastic wrapping removed and using 2 trolley jacks the body was moved into the workshop and placed on modified jack stands. Then the motor box was opened and all suspension parts/wheels were removed and taken into the workshop ready for assembly, by this this time it was time to stop work for morning tea!

Now refreshed it was time to fit the suspension and wheels so the car was now a roller which made it easier to work on. When assembling the rear suspension the diff, drive shafts, Hillman Imp rubber doughnuts etc were all fitted. Now for lunch.

So with a full belly it was time to bring in the motor/gearbox, tailshaft and fit them into the car, along with the exhaust system. When this assembly was bolted in, cooling hoses, electrics and other parts were fitted. Then it was time to present to this ‘new arrival’ its first full meal of lubricants including brake fluid, so we then bleed the brakes. By this time it was about 4 in the afternoon so a cuppa was in order, then back to work.

Now that the car was fully assembled the work really started. Re-check that all previously assembled parts were correctly assembled and all bolts/nuts were tight, oil levels were correct and that there were no leaks in the brake hydraulic system and fluid was at correct levels. Next I checked that the clutch operated correctly and if not then one of two steps were taken to rectify the adhesion of the clutch plate to the flywheel/pressure plate. If there was no trouble with the clutch it was time to connect the battery and start the motor, let it warm up, check for fluid leaks and bleed the heater system in the cabin of the car by slackening the bleed screw on top of the heater core remembering to tighten it after all the air was bled off. If there was clutch trouble the first thing we did was to start the car while in gear, this usually caused the clutch plate to release then operate correctly. If not then it was out with the motor/gearbox assy to fix the problem then pop it back into the car- this would add 3 hours to the assembly time.

If all went well it was now about 6 pm but still the to-do list list included wheel alignment, checking that all lights operated correctly and that all of the electrics worked. Then tyre pressures were set with a final check for leaking fluids. By this time it was about 8pm and another 12 hour day was complete leaving the road test for first thing the next day- that also included cleaning up wood crates and plastic wrapping. Then onto normal service work with another assembly starting the next day. Well folks that is how it was done at Geoghegans, I may have missed a few steps somewhere along the way, it is a long time from 1969…you have the picture’.

Plenty of lonely S2 Europa’s in 1970 (Fistonic)

On The Hot Sellers of the Lotus range…

‘The sales section always required stock on the floor that covered the Lotus range excluding Super 7’s. (Not sure why they were not imported to Australia, Chapman didn’t do the deal with Graham Nearn at Caterham cars to take over the rights to build 7’s until 1971 from memory, so Lotus Components were certainly still building them in the late sixties)

The slowest moving car was the Elan Plus 2 so every time one was sold we would assemble another but that did not happen often, the most popular was the Elan Coupe followed by the Europa, we would assemble 2 or 3 a week depending on sales of the model.

I found the Europa quicker to assemble than the Elan. My first experience driving a Europa along Paramatta Road (a main artery into and out of Sydney in the days before freeways it was the ’normal’ way to go between Melbourne and Sydney so there was plenty of local and interstate traffic inclusive of large semi-trailers) was just straight out frightening especially when a double decker bus pulled up alongside me while waiting for the traffic lights to change to green. Sitting in the Europa I found myself looking up at the centre of its wheels with the bus towering over me, a feeling of vulnerability quickly came over me.’

Tried and true technique of naked ladies to get us blokes to scan the pages of a brochure in a thorough manner. Lotus Elite brochure , must be US issue, way too racy for 1960 Australia (Dalton)

On Painful Customers…

‘Pete Geoghegan did not come down to the service section much at all…on one of those times he was showing off on a motor bike, doing wheel stands in the lube bay then the 6 foot dash from the lube bay through our parts area into the Lotus workshop then back again with the biggest smile I have ever seen on a guy that has just achieved what no-one else has done.

One Elan FHC I do remember very well.

Its owner arrived at our service area unannounced while we were having morning tea wanting something fixed right away, I told him that I would look at it as soon as I finished my coffee but that was the wrong answer for this guy.

He then spoke to Bob Everitt, the Service Manager and was told by him that I would look after his car as soon as I had finished my coffee, this slowed him down a bit but he kept on looking to his watch. So I finished my coffee quickly…went into the service bay held out my hand and introduced myself, without a blink he shook my hand introduced himself and told me what the problem was, I fixed it in 10 minutes and he was on his way, oh his name…Warwick Brown, I serviced his Elan from then on…’(In 1969 20 year old WB would have just been starting his racing career in a little Brabham owned by Pat Burke- who was still his patron when he won the Tasman Championship in 1975 aboard a Lola T332 Chev F5000)

Photographer Milan Fistonic with an eye for Plus 2 Elans (Fistonic)

Lotus equals ‘Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious’…

‘Whilst at Geoghegans I only worked on one Elite and was very impressed by the construction of the car as a full mono-fibreglass enclosure setup…it was on sale in the yard so it would have been a quick mechanical check up prior to the car going on sale. The main thing that had to be done, as with all fibreglass Lotus’ was to make sure that the electrical earth set up was not corrupted by corrosion on the body to chassis alloy mounting bobbins in the body. That was number one check on all Lotuses even new ones. The alloy bobbins on the Elite are for suspension mounting, but there again steel bolts into alloy bobbins, which means corrosion of the bobbin which have been known to become loose in their fibreglass enclosure- meaning fibreglass repairs.

Lotus Elans were bad for water leaks at the top of the A-pillar and in the boot. We tried re-gluing the door sealing at the top of the A-pillar but all to no avail as the inside plastic section of the seal kept on pulling it down leaving a small opening at the top where the seal assembly transferred to the horizontal. The final Geoghegan factory fix was to push the seal assembly up as hard as you could into the top of the A-pillar while your offsider drilled a one eighth inch hole through the vinyl inside section of the seal and into the fiberglass body, then insert a pop rivet and pull it home and there was a permanent fix with nothing but happy customers. By the way we didn’t leave the pop rivet just plain silver so it would show, we concealed it by painting it with a black texta.

For me the hardest thing while working at Geoghegans was learning how to spell their name, Smith or Brown would have been much easier!’…

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic

Bibliography…

DanTran2858, The Nostalgia Forum, Stephen Dalton Collection