Posts Tagged ‘Riverside Drags Melbourne’

fishermans bend

Luvverly poster/program to promote the October 1955 race meeting at Fishermans Bend, 6 Km west of Melbourne’s CBD…

My guess is that the ‘artists car’ is Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 and the bike an MV Agusta 4…

fishos buildings

Fishermans Bend Aerodrome was located near the emergence of the Yarra River with Port Phillip Bay. The area was a vast swamp owned by the Commonwealth Government. In the early 1930s, a primitive airstrip was built there which was used by gliding and light aircraft enthusiasts.

In 1935 the Government built the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) factory, together with a long sealed airstrip. CAC is the best known of the Australian aircraft manufacturers of the Word War 2 and post war era’s. It began as a private company founded by Lawrence Wackett, a captain with the Australian Flying Corps known for his engineering ingenuity. After World War I, Wackett began design and manufacture of civil aircraft.

‘The CAC was conceived in 1935 by Essington Lewis then managing director of BHP. It was a private company formed by a consortium including BHP and GMH (Holden) to manufacture military aircraft with the intention of providing Australia with the tools to fight the modern war that was looming’.

‘Land was selected adjoining the recently completed GMH (General Motors Holden, 191 Salmon Street) factory at Fishermans Bend.

The factory manufactured a modified US designed advanced trainer under licence which became known as the Wirraway. Other wartime aircraft built included the Wackett elementary trainer, the P51 Mustang and the Boomerang, a fighter aircraft conceived, designed and manufactured in little over three months’.

fishos planes

Bristol Beaufort Mk VIII being built at Fishermans Bend in 1943 (unattributed)

‘Fishermans Bend became a centre of the wartime aircraft industry with the adjacent Department of Aircraft Production factories and the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. During the war CAC produced two interesting prototypes which sadly never made it into production. The Woomera, the first was a three seater medium bomber that had remotely operated turrets in the rear engine nacelles. The other was an interceptor, the CA-15 or Kangaroo, it was a 721 km/h fast fighter with a range of 4000 Km’.

‘After the war the CAC Sabre, one of the ultimate Sabres of the type was built. With a more powerful Avon turbojet and twin 30mm cannons the (American) frame was 60% redesigned. Post WW2 the facilities continued manufacturing and assembling aircraft’.

aerial with airfield

Aerial view of Yarra River, Newport and Fishermans Bend circa 1940-50. The smoke is coming from the Newport Power Station. To its right is the exit of the Yarra River into Port Phillip Bay. The straight road which ends at the Yarra near the berthed ship is Williamstown Road, there was a car ferry to cross the Yarra, the Westgate Bridge was opened in the mid-70’s. In the middle of the shot are the runways of the airfield used for racing. Shot also shows the Dept of Aircraft Production, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the GMH Holden factory on the right or ‘above’ the runways. Melbourne CBD is lost in the haze at the top of shot but not far away as the crow fly’s (Francis Hodgson)

For the aviation history buffs click on this link to a very detailed publication about Fishermans Bend’s 60 year role in Australian Aviation…

Its a government document of value. Therefore a global rarity.

Click to access a274981.pdf

The Aerodrome was also used for car and motorcycle racing from 1949 to 1966, using the main airstrip and the 3 km perimeter road.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was taken over in 1986 and the majority of its buildings demolished in 2003-04.

fishos start

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

‘Westgate Park’ now occupies part of former CAC land. The aerodrome’s runway became Todd Road, the taxi runway became Wharf Road. A legacy of the past is found the names of some of the nearby streets; Sabre Drive, Wirraway Drive and Canberra Drive. The railway line which serviced industry in the area remains but is no longer used and isn’t connected to the contemporary rail system.

The former CAC factory, at 344-370 Lorimer Street and 231-249 Todd Road Port Melbourne, was constructed from 1937 to manufacture military aircraft.

The only remaining buildings of the extensive factories are a section of ‘saw-tooth’ factory to the west (now part of Hawker de Havilland/Boeing) and four hangars at the eastern end of the former factory at the corner of Lorimer Street and Todd Road. These hangars, dating from WW2 comprise one US made ‘Butler’ and three British designed ‘Bellman’ hangars.

jolly fishos

Fishermans Bend sports car race October 1958. #16 Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax, various Austin Healey 100’s and a Lotus 11 behind Jolly. To the far right is the Coad Bros Vauxhall Holden Repco Spl which the family still owns (Kevin Drage)

Motor Racing at Fishermans Bend…

Airfield circuits popped up post World War 2 globally; in Australia at Point Cook, Fishermans Bend, Leyburn, Caversham, Mallala and Lowood.

The infrastructure was available, people were looking for things to do postwar and governments sought ways of creating economic activity locally.

fishos scene

Fishos’ paddock, 10 February 1957. It would have been hot but at least it was sealed, unlike all but airfield circuits at the time! #49 the Graham Hoinville MG TC, which the prominent competitor, engineer and CAMS official still owns! (unattributed)

These photos are not to show a particular race meeting but rather are selected to ‘taste’ the flavour of the place; typically airfield flat and featureless, desolate, industrial backdrops and devoid of much in the way of amenities or safety considerations.

blue car at f bend

Greg McEwin’s HRG 1500 from South Australia. The body of this car, styled on the Healey Silverstone was built by Ray Manser in Adelaide, it first raced at Port Wakefield in September 1951.Note the aircraft factory backdrop, October 1953 meeting (SLV)

The Light Car Club of Australia and the Harley Motor Cycle Club were the circuits promoters on behalf of the Air Force Association, meetings were run to raise money for a variety of disparate charities over the years.

The pent up demand for entertainment post war is shown by a Melbourne ‘The Age’ newspaper  article dated 31 October 1949 which estimated crowd numbers at 70000 people for a program of car and ‘bike events! Staggering really. Crowds of over 30000 were common, by 1952 ‘The Age’ pointing out the demand for motor sport should the quality of venues be improved.


A Cooper Bristol and Maybach 3 (or 4 Chev) , Fishermans Bend. I found this shot in the SLV archive, i’m certain about the cars, thats the easy bit! Perhaps its Tom Hawkes CB leading Stan Jones in Maybach, but it could be another CB and could be Ern Seeliger in Maybach. Stan retained Maybach after he acquired his 250F. Ern modified the car with Chev engine and mainly raced it but Stan used the car right up to 1959 on occasion. Interested to get a view from Aussie enthusiasts as to who and when (SLV/Reg Fulford Collection)

‘Fishos’ was used up until 1960 for road racing, as the surface deteriorated the government was unwilling to resurface it just for the sake of motor-racing.

The last road-race meeting was organised by the LCCA on 14 February and the last sprint meeting by the Victorian Amateur Drivers Club on May 5, 1960.

The airstrip was then used as a drag racing venue until 1966, ‘Riverside Raceway’ played an important part in the formative stages of Drag Racing in Australia…


(Ray Sprague Collection)


Early sixties wonderful Fishos scene (T Beyer)



Unmistakable Fishermans Bend backdrop. The ‘Rails’ of Ash Marshall (near) and ‘Fizzball’ Collins at Riverside in 1965 (


Drag racers view- cars lined up date unknown (T Beyer)

Random Fishos’ Shots…

austin healey 100's

Ron Phillips and Doug Whiteford in Austin Healey 100S’ 14 October 1956. Dougs #’3907′ a little more understeering than Phillips #’3906′ (unattributed)


lukey bristol

Len Lukey in his Lukey/Cooper Bristol after finishing 2nd in the October 1958 Victorian Road racing Championship, Derek Jolly in brown congratulating him. Ted Gray won this race in the Tornado i wrote about a while ago (Kevin Drage)


vrrc 1

After the finish of the Victorian Road Racing Championship October 1958. Winner is Ted Gray in the dark blue Tornado 2 Chev V8, light blue car Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev V8 and the yellow Cooper T41 Climax of Austin Miller . Note how flat and featureless the place is, circuit in classic period style bordered by hay bales (David Van Dal)


lap scoring

Lap charting Fishos 1949 style. Wonderful evocative shot from Martin Stubbs archive. Male at left in bright, white shirt Bib Stillwell 4 time Gold Star champion in the 60’s, beefy guy is Peter Ward and elegant lady with the ‘big’ lapchart is Diana Davison, Lex’ wife (Dacre Stubbs Archive)


2 red cars @ f bend

Part of the nose of the blue McEwin HRG, O’Donohue’s Jim Gullan built Ballot Olds and Otto Stone’s MG K3, October 1953 meeting (SLV)



Paul England in the Ausca Holden from Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Otto Stone in the Norman Hamilton owned Porsche 550 Spyder and Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S 10 February 1957 (unattributed)


bob jane 300s

Bob Jane on the Fishermans Bend grid October 1958. Ex-works Maserati 300S, his debut in the car in which he was ‘wild and wooly’! He got the hang of the racing caper, dual Australian Touring Car Champion in 1971 and 1972 (Kevin Drage)


wylie and jb fb vic trophy 54

Ken Wylie and Jack Brabham Wylie Javelin and Cooper T23 Bristol. 22 March 1954 Victoria Trophy (SLV)


lex, vic trophy march 54

Lex Davison, HWM Jaguar, Victoria Trophy 1954. Davison won the 1954 AGP at Southport on Queenslands Gold Coast in this car (SLV)

Credits…,, Greg Smith, Francis Hodgson, Kevin Drage, David Van Dal, Dacre Stubbs Archive, Geoff Green, State Library of Victoria, Reg Fulford Collection, Ray Sprague Collection,

Thanks to Pat Ryan, Stephen Dalton and Shane Bowden for helping ID some of the cars in the SLV shots

Tailpiece: ‘Circuit Maps’…

(O Plada)


aerial 2


(O Plada)