Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Steele’

maybach

(State Library of South Australia)

 The carefree nature of the 1950 Nuriootpa race paddock is contrasted by the formal attire of the day, young boy in the ‘Pith Helmet’ impressed by Charlie Dean’s Maybach 1…

Nuri cover

1950 AGP Program cover. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

The first post war AGP in South Australia was held in the Barossa Valley…

Not on the daunting Lobethal road circuit where the 1939 event had been held, but just down the road, the circuit was basically a square layout of 3 miles on flattish land. A permit for ‘Loby couldn’t be obtained but one for ‘Nuri was with the intervention of some prominent local businessmen including John Hill-Smith of the Yalumba wine family.

map

Nuriootpa Road Circuit Map (‘History of The AGP’)

Graham Howard’s ‘History of The AGP’ described the circuit…

‘There was a slight uphill section along the (Nuri) Main Street, followed by a right hand corner onto a downhill section back into the countryside…This lead to an Ess at a narrow bridge, after which the road ran straight to an intersection around which were collected the finish line, the pits and-on the next straight after the intersection-the start line. There was a vineyard to the left…but enough grazing paddocks for parking etc…’

The starting straight lead to two fast right hand sweeps after which the road then lead west by way of a pair of gentle Esses …to a T Intersection…then via a left-right sweep across another narrow bridge, into the Main Street again. There were some very bumpy parts…the roads just wide enough for two cars to pass readily…’

The Sporting Car Club of SA ran the event to the Australian Automobile Associations decree, the winner was the competitor finishing in the fastest time but otherwise in the best traditions of the AGP at the time, the event was a handicap and awards were made on that basis. Geddit?

davison nuri

Lex Davison takes to the circuit, Nuriootpa paddock in the background. Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B. (unattributed)

The main contenders for the race are primarily cars I have written about in primotipo before so I won’t go through the detail, but provide links if you want to refresh your memory; The Maybach, driven by its creator Charlie Dean; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

‘Black Bess’, the Ford Ute V8 Spl driven by its builder, Doug Whiteford; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/05/doug-whiteford-black-bess-woodside-south-australia-1949/

The ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Romeo Monza now owned and driven by relative novice Rupert Steele. https://primotipo.com/2015/02/20/alf-barrett-the-maestro-alfa-romeo-8c2300-monza/

Lex Davison, who would later win 4 AGP’s started his Alfa Romeo P3. The scratch man was Tony Gaze’ 1935 2 litre supercharged Alta, although he was not to start after dramas in a preliminary race. All these racers were Melburnians.

Fastest resident South Australian was Harry Neale in Eldred Norman’s, extraordinary ‘Double 8’ which married the chassis of a weapon carrier and a pair of single carb Ford V8’s from army trucks. It had independent suspension on all four corners, 7834cc in total and was rated a good chance on a ‘point and squirt’ course like Nuri with slow corners and long straights. See the section below on this amazing car.

nuriootpa poster

Australian Motor Sports described the race day scene…

‘Brilliant sunshine made the competitors paddock a colourful spectacle with racing cars in different hues, tender vehicles ranging from furniture vans and in which the Steele cars had been brought from Melbourne to the luggage trailer which Peter Damman had towed behind his racing Hudson the same distance. In a handy position near the course Motors Ltd’s mobile service van was in constant demand with its stock of racing oils, spares and field workshop’.

1950 agp

The build up to the start of the 34 lap, 100 mile race AMS described thus…

‘Between the finish of the under 1500cc scratch race and the start of the Grand Prix, there was a brief interval for luncheon; then, as 1.30 drew near, cars were lined up in the continuation of the crossroads behind the starting straight, in preparation for the big race. Two spectators climbed up stepladders which they had brought to the course for private grandstands, and the three limit men were away…’

The race itself was diminished by the inability of Gaze to start, Davison’s retirement on lap 1, having lost compression on two of the Alfas 8 cylinders and Dean’s withdrawal on lap 21 with magneto, overheating and braking problems.

What was absorbing was the battle between the ‘Aussie Battler’ garage proprietor Whiteford in his carefully evolved and very well driven Ford V8 Spl, and the ‘Silvertail’ from Toorak, Rupert Steele in the aristocratic Alfa.

The latter had the edge on top speed but the Ford, with more supple suspension, was better suited to the South Australian country roads. Whiteford was a hard man as a driver, but the novice Steele was no slouch, he must have been ‘a natural’ to adapt to the GP car with experience limited to a few hillclimbs and speed events in a Bentley road car.

rupert steele monza nuriootpa

Rupert Steele in his ex-Alf Barrett Alfa Monza, drove an exceptional race as a relative novice against the tough Doug Whiteford. (John Blanden Collection)

On lap 13 Steele ran out of road having passed a gaggle of MG’s- he spun the big Alfa and stalled. He lost about 1:49 seconds, hand cranking the supercharged straight 8 back into life but his race was effectively run.

Whiteford won the race from Steele’s Monza and Jim Gullan’s Ballot Olds, the latter first on a handicap basis from David Harvey and Ron Kennedy, both in MG TC Specials. Steele’s sporting focus was on horses for the rest of his life, sad really as his potential as a driver was clear, the Alfa was sold by the end of 1951.

Whiteford of course went on to enjoy two more AGP wins and a career which went well into the seventies as a Works Driver of Datsun Sedans and Sportscars.

whiteford

Doug Whiteford, victorious in the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa, in Black Bess’ his self constructed Ford V8 Spl. (John Blanden Collection)

The stimuli for this article were several shots I found in the State Library of South Australia archive- of the Dean Maybach, McKenna BMW 328, Jones HRG and other cars.

I’ve done the Maybach to death in the Jones article referenced above, here are some notes about the other cars, John Blanden’s ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ has provided some of the detail.

bmw 328

Peter McKenna’s BMW 328 in the Nuri paddock Car was the winner of the 1948 AGP, at Point Cook, Victoria driven by Frank Pratt. (State Library of SA)

McKenna’s BMW 328 was raced by him all over Australia at Rob Roy, Fishermans Bend, Ballarat, Port Wakefield, Albert Park’s initial meeting in 1953 and as far afield as Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast for the 1954 AGP, when he overshot a corner and rolled.

The car passed through many hands before leaving Australia in the early 2000’s, chassis # 85136 was brought into the country by John Snow, who acquired the car on one of his regular trips to Europe in 1937. The car was bought from a German General on behalf George Martin, president of the Light Car Club of Australia in Melbourne.

The car finished the 1938 AGP at Bathurst in 10th, see my article on Peter Whitehead’s ERA which covers this race, Martin sadly had a fatal accident in it near Wagga Wagga on the return trip to Melbourne.

Their were two ‘racing 328’s in period, and sadly both were involved in fatal road accidents, the other killing very talented racing driver Colin Dunne and his wife Billie at Phillip Island. Not a race accident mind you, an accident which took place on the circuit between motor-cycle events.

By 1947 the 328 had passed into the hands of champion Geelong motorcyclist and dealer Frank Pratt. Pratt famously won his first car race, the 1948 Australian Grand Prix held at Point Cook! He was aided by a favourable handicap and excellent driving. Whilst new to car racing he was well familiar with intense competition. The cars preparation by multiple AGP winner Les Murphy was also a factor…some reports say Murphy was extremely pissed off, he was originally entered to drive the car, and then was supposedly sharing it with Pratt, whose intention to drive the race solo soon became clear to Les once the arduous event was underway!

McKenna had a handicap of 9 minutes at Nuriootpa, but was not classified.

HRG

Stan Jones, HRG ‘Bathurst’, Nuriootpa AGP meeting 1950. Jones cooked his engine in a preliminary race so was a non-starter for the GP. (State Library of SA)

HRG ‘Bathurst’ Model…

Tony Gaze brought the first HRG to Australia in 1947, the car was uncompetitive. Gaze specified future cars to be light, sports/open wheelers with easily removable lights and guards so the cars could run as sports or racing cars in local events.

Brown and Dureau, a Melbourne trading firm who ‘Gaze was with’ imported the first car to these specs in 1949, Stan Jones the purchaser of the 1.5 litre, 4 cylinder car. (car had no chassis number).

He first raced it at Rob Roy in June, it was soon supercharged running 12 pounds boost, he didn’t race it for long before offering it for sale. He raced it at Corio in late 1949 before entering the AGP at Nuriootpa.

In one of the preliminary races for under 1500cc cars Jones had a furious dice with fellow Melbourne motor trader/racer and later champion Bill Patterson. Bill MGTC Spl mounted, both cars retired with overheating maladies. Jones car didn’t take the AGP start and Patto retired with head gasket failure. Not a successful trip to the Barossa for either of them.

The car was sold later in 1950 to Alan Watson, was badly damaged by him but driven by Sil Massola in the 1952 AGP at Bathurst, and according to the ‘Blanden Bible’ was/is still in Australia.

massola

Silvio Massola in the ex-Jones HRG. Victoria Trophy, Fishermans Bend 21 March 1954. (VHRR/State Library of Vic)

Blurry Maybach in the Nuri Paddock…

The shot is a bit fuzzy but still included for the atmosphere it shows, Charlie Dean in the paddock, ‘Copper’ keeping an eye on proceedings, Fiat Topolino behind the Maybach.

mayback blurred

Charlie Dean, Maybach, Nuriootpa AGP meeting January 1950.(State Library of SA)

Other Entrants…

Curran Ford V8.

curran ford

Dennis Curran, Curran Ford V8 3920cc (State Library of SA)

Regarded as one of the most specialised Ford side valve V8 specials built in Australia, Dennis Curran as an apprentice made many of the cars advanced features including its independent front suspension and modified Minerva braking system. The attractive body appears to be in the style of the Alfa ‘Alfetta’ 158/159 GP cars of the period.

The car was raced by Curran at the 1951 Narrogin AGP in WA, then in Bill Wilcox hands in the 1953/4/5 AGP’s as the ‘FLS’.

The car was then further modified by Frank Murphy on behalf of owner, Melbourne car dealer Harry McLaughlin by fitment of Lancia Lambda rear end, Jag XK120 gearbox and a new body. A 5 litre Ford V8 was fitted inclusive of Offenhauser heads and induction manifolds, it competed in this form at the 1956 ‘Olympic’ AGP won by Stirling Moss at Albert Park. It was then known as the ‘Marchel’, the car disappeared , was found by Noel Tuckey in 1980, restored and is now known as the ‘CWM Ford V8 Spl’ an amalgamation of the surname initials of the contributors to the cars evolution; Curran, Wilcox, Murray.

Bugatti Dodge.

bugatti dodge

L Robinson, Bugatti Dodge, Nuriootpa 1950. Interested to know more about this car if anyone has any information on it.  (State Library of SA)

Ballot Oldsmobile.

ballot

Jim Gullan, Ballot Olds, AGP Nuriootpa 1950. (State Library of SA)

Jim Gullan replaced the Ballot Ford he had been racing in 1944 with a 2 litre Ballot bought nearby to his families garage in South Melbourne. The Ballot engine was sold and replaced by an Olds 6 cylinder engine and ‘box. The chassis was shortened by 2 feet and narrowed by 6 inches, the chassis also lightened, you can see the holes made in its longerons to do so.

A body was made by Bob Baker in Melbourne, he built many racing bodies at the time, this Ballot credited as the first. The sports 2 seater was registered and commenced racing in 1946. It won the 1950 AGP handicap class as above.

Noted journalist and historian Ray Bell wrote about this car on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ here is his detailed account of the construction and development of the car.

‘Jim Gullan’s Ballot will always rank as one of those cars that looks the part of an Australian Special. The raked nose, the heavily drilled chassis, steering wheel close to the chest and mandatory straps over the bonnet, its wire wheels carried a car that mixed European and American as well as any other. Fortunately the early life of the car is well detailed in Gullan’s book, ‘As Long As It Has Wheels,’ and there was plenty to write about as the Ballot Olds was to bring Gullan a number of successes.’

‘The car was bought in 1944, almost on a whim, it seems, after Gullan had sold the Indianapolis Ballot (by now fitted with Ford V8) early in the war.  A 2-litre model with sohc engine and knock-on wire wheels (more important, according to Gullan), it had a poor body. He mentions 4-wheel brakes with Dewandre servo, making it a 1926/28 model 2LT.

Soon after buying it a workmate offered money for the engine, gearbox and radiator to fit into a Bugatti chassis.  Said Gullan: “I suppose any engine was better than none..’  Having just the chassis left, he thought he’d build a copy of his favourite car, the ERA. He was reluctant to go for another Ford, having had bad experiences with the V8, so an ad for an Oldsmobile engine and box (unused spares purchased for a Taxi) overcame his problems. It was to have triple Ford carbies and extractors.

The chassis was made into a copy of a Bugatti chassis, was shorter and narrower, designed to be ‘strong in the middle,’ boxed and drilled liberally ‘as on the SSK’ for lightness. The original hubs were retained, but laced to smaller rims, the spring shackles were located at the front instead of the rear as Gullan drew on all the modern technology he could identify.’

‘Bob Baker built the body round an angle iron frame, which was screwed to the chassis with small reject aircraft bolts. A deliberate effort was made to reduce frontal area, hence the car’s low appearance. Quick-fill petrol and radiator caps were fabricated and instruments (like the carbies) came from army disposals’.

‘The Ballot name was retained, even though virtually only the axles and wheel hubs remained, because it made it simple to register the car. Just roll up and pay the money!’

‘Springs were fitted outside the chassis and there were torque stays to the front axle, with finned alloy drums off a spare 2-litre Ballot Jim had bought and sold. The first race was at Ballarat at the beginning of 1947, after which hydraulic shocks were fitted front and rear (‘to the horror of the Hartford purists!’) and hydraulic actuation of the brakes was arranged. For Lobethal 1950, (the event which is the subject of this article) which the car was to win on handicap, a specially made 3.5:1 diff replaced the original 4.1:1 unit. Jim had to do the design work for the gear cutter.’

‘Gullan was in business with one of his major opponents on the track, Doug Whiteford, and when Doug imported an Edelbrock cam and heads (he’d melted a pair of alloy heads at Lobethal in 1940!) Bruce Rehn copied the cam profile and lift for the Olds. By the time of the Point Cook AGP (1948) there was yet another higher lift cam and special ratios in the gearbox. As a result of the heat at Point Cook, with the Olds running so cool and well, the engine was bored 3/16”, while both cars were fitted with enlarged sumps with cooling tubes fitted. Then for Nuriootpa’s opening meeting in 1949 PBR made up special alloy brake shoes and backing plates. These were found to be bending the chassis, so some more work was required’.

‘The car was Gullan’s expression of all he’d learned from observing racing and running his own Salmson, Wolseley, Austin and Ballot V8. It was considered by Whiteford to be ‘too sensitive in the steering and brakes, difficult to drive.’ Gullan adjudged Black Bess to be ‘tail light, tending to wander at speed, with light and spongy steering and poor brakes.’

‘Considering just how it came together – the bits that just happened to be there, the chance acquisitions – it worked very well. Gullan was a handicap specialist, with his wife Christine timekeeping and acting as strategist, and they beat the handicaps with monotonous regularity. He comments that he just had to keep on making the car quicker to keep on beating them, so it was well developed when sold to Alan Watson.’

‘He mentions getting airborne over the top of the hill approaching Lobethal at 110mph, touching 116mph on the straight and holding it flat all the way from Lobethal to within sight of the pits at that early stage of its development. By the time it won the handicap section of the 1950 AGP it must have been a fairly quick car’ (Ray Bell)

The car passed through many hands over the next 20 years, raced as late as 1963 at Calder, Victoria. It has been used since 1970 in historic events, is still alive today, i believe in Frank Moore’s Collection of Australian Specials in Queensland.

ballot olds 1946

Jim Gullan in his Ballot Olds at Rob Roy,Victoria in 1946. This provides a clearer view of the car. (George Thomas)

Double 8.

double 8

Eldred Norman in the ‘Double 8’ during the 1950 Nuriootpa, AGP. DNF on lap 2. (TNF)

The following truncated account of this car is by ‘theotherharv’ from ‘The Nostalgia Forum’.

‘In 1946 Eldred was purchasing ex-army vehicles left behind by the Americans and selling them in Adelaide. While visiting Papua-New Guinea , he acquired a war-surplus Dodge weapons carrier chassis along with a host of Jeeps and Blitz trucks at an auction in Port Moresby.

Eldred used the Dodge to construct a race car – the ‘Double Bunger’, or more commonly ‘Double V8’. The Double V8 was built from bodywork from aircraft and a tubular steel chassis.

d 8 engine

Scratchy shot of the 2 Ford V8 engines. Double 8. (TNF)

Power came from two Ford Mercury 239ci flathead V8 engines for a total capacity of 7,800cc. These engines were good for 100-110bhp each when run independently, giving Eldred some 200bhp in the Double V8. Engine cooling suffered, despite radiators both in front and behind the driver, with a tendency to overheat on long races. The engines were coupled flywheel-to-crank snout with a four-row chain drive. The engines were timed to fire as a V16, with a Scintilla magneto providing the spark.

This large 2500 lbs machine had independent suspension and water-cooled drum brakes supplied by 4 US made Toronto fuel pumps. The drum brakes produced spectacular clouds of steam as he applied them, despite being undersized for the task. The rear brake drums were built inboard, operating on the back axle and additionally cooled by a fan worked by the tail shaft.

d 8 road

Eldred Norman aboard his road registered ‘Double 8’ attractive body, truck wheels betraying cars weapon carrier underpinnings! Two seater form here, this evolved over the cars life. (TNF)

Road-registered, Eldred was frequently seen driving the Double V8 around the Adelaide hills, with trade number plates tied with string or a strap around his neck. Between 1948 and 1951 he drove the car successfully in hill-climbs and various race tracks in three States. The vehicle was also driven long distances to compete at tracks such as Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria, a 900-mile round trip journey sans mufflers.

In addition to circuit racing, Eldred also raced the it at Sellick’s Beach, South Australia where racing was undertaken between mile posts. An annual speed trial and motorcycle races were held on three kilometres or more of sand along Aldinga and Sellick’s Beaches up to 1953. The Double V8 won both the unlimited scratch race and over 1500cc handicap race held at the beach by the Racing Drivers Association of South Australia in April 1950. This event drew more than 5,000 spectators. One incident with Harry Neale at the wheel of the Double V8 ended with the Double V8 deposited into the sea, ripping off the bodywork and leaving Harry sitting on the chassis, wet but unhurt.

norman dbl 8 woodside

Eldred Norman ‘Double 8’, Woodside 1949. (State Library of SA)

Eldred’s can do, larrikin spirit was also evident in the way he once retrieved the telephone cables laid out for communication between officials at each end of the Sellick’s Beach strip… by fitting a bare rim to the Double V8 rear axle and firing up the twin V8s to power what must have been Australia’s most powerful fishing reel.

The Double V8 marked the start of Eldred’s entries into the Australian Grand Prix. The January 1950 Nuiootpa Australian Grand Prix, Eldred’s Double V8 retired after only two laps.

d 8 woodside 2

‘Double 8’ in the Woodside, SA paddock 1949. (State Library of SA)

The 1951 Australian Grand Prix was again run as a Formula Libre event in March at a 4.4 mile ‘around the houses’ road circuit at Narrogin, Western Australia. Eldred entered the Double V8. While leading on lap 7 of 24 it again broke down (this time due to suspension failure), leading to Eldred’s retirement from the race.

The car was sold in 1951 to Syd Anderson, proprietor of the Sydney Anderson Automotives used-car dealership in William Street Western Australia. During both Anderson’s and subsequent ownerships the car was modified repeatedly.

Anderson raced the Double V8 extensively, including the following West Australian meetings; The Great Southern Flying 50 meeting at Narrogin in March of 1952, winning the scratch race for over 1500cc.The Northam Flying 50 meeting at Northam in April, winning the three-lap scratch race for over 1500cc. The Goomalling Speed Classic at Goomalling road circuit in June. He was 4th in the 15 lap handicap for Racing Cars, 1st in the 3 lap scratch race for Racing Cars over 1500cc and 1st in the 5 lap handicap race for Racing Cars.

d 8 2

Wonderful color shot of Syd Anderson racing the Double 8 at the ‘Goomalling Speed Classic’ at Goomalling WA in 1952. 2 1st places at the meeting. Note truck wheels drilled for relative lightness. (TNF)

Anderson entered the Double V8 in the 1953 Johore Grand Prix in Malaya. He retired from the race due to overheating.

The Double V8 was then sold by Anderson to James Harwood, a navy veteran, musician and motor enthusiast in Perth. Harwood tossed a penny with Anderson to decide the purchase price – either £50 or £100. Harwood won. The vehicle was then towed to Harwood’s business premises where Bill Strickland removed the two Ford V8 engines, which were sold. The Double V8 body was then placed outside James business as advertising, though was removed a few days later at the request of Perth City Council.

In the period of 1955-1957 Toby Carboni raced the car extensively in Western Australia.

Keith Windsor bought the Double V8 body in 1957 and installed a V12 Lincoln Zephyr.

Lincoln produced these engines from 1936-1948, ceasing production nearly a decade before Windsor’s repowering of the Double V8. I’m not certain if Windsor used the 267ci, 292ci or 306ci engine (110-130bhp), though in any case was a marked reduction from Eldred’s 478ci (~200bhp) double V8 powerplant.

Windsor debuted the V12 Double V8 in the Christmas Cup at Caversham in late November 1958, competing in the five-lap racing car scratch race for over 1500cc, though did not place in the top three positions. Sadly, Windsor found the V12 vehicle was not manageable and subsequently scrapped it.

After the Double V8, Eldred then bought a 1936 Maserati Type 6CM.’

Such a shame that this amazing car did not survive.

MG K3…

(S Jonklaas)

Otto Stone’s car, out after completing only one lap.

Healey Elliott…

healey elliott

Another State Library of SA shot, its not clear from the caption if the car is competing or otherwise. Car behind is a Nash Ambassador. Donald Healey built 101 of these cars, Elliott refers to the body builders, Healey provided the ladder frame chassis to that firm to clothe, engine was a Riley 2.5 litre pushrod 4, the car for a time the fastest 4 seater in the world. Built from 1946 to 1950. Suspension trailing arms at the front and live axle at the rear, coil springs front and rear.

Etcetera…

Rupert Steele.

steele bentley

Rupert Steele contesting a Rob Roy Hillclimb in his Bentley devoid of bodywork in 1948. The step up from this lumbering tourer, he only did one circuit race in the car, to the GP Alfa Monza must have been immense. (George Thomas)

 

whiteford paper article

‘The Adelaide Advertiser’ 3 January 1950.

Bibliography…

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Australian Motor Sports January 1950, Stephen Dalton Collection, Motormarques, Ray Bell, The Nostalgia Forum (TNF), The Adelaide Advertiser 3/1/1950

Photo Credits…

Publications as above, State Library of South Australia, John Blanden Collection, George Thomas, The Nostalgia Forum, Stuart Jonklaas Collection

Tailpiece…

Don Cant from Ron Kennedy, both in MG TC Spls, finished in fourth and third places respectively.

Finito…

image

Alf Barrett leads Frank Kleinig, Alfa 8C2300 Monza and Kleinig Hudson Spl, Australian Grand Prix, Mount Panorama, Bathurst 1947…

This was the race within the race, these quite different cars outright contenders but the AGP was a handicap Formula Libre event in those days, the race won by Bill Murray in an MG TC, neither Barrett nor Kleinig finished the race. Alf Barrett and the Monza were the fastest combination in the immediate pre and post war periods in Australia, he was regarded as one of the countries greatest drivers.

Noted motoring writer and journalist Mike Kable wrote in 1998 upon Barretts’ death…’Alf Barrett was known as the maestro. It was an appropriate nickname because of his achievements between and after World War 2 in a supercharged straight 8 Alfa Romeo 2300 Monza at his favourite circuit – Mount Panorama at Bathurst, New South Wales.

The dapper Barrett drove the thoroughbred Italian car with world class finesse and flair with exceptional physical and mental coordination and intense concentration that enabled him to control sliding the car at its absolute limits with a calm smooth flick-of-the-wrist precision. Seeing the black-helmeted Barrett in action, sitting high in the cockpit, wearing his trademark dark blue short sleeved shirt was a never-to-be forgotten treat.

In an era of self funded amateurs who drove for token prize money, the challenging 6.2 mile Mount Panorama circuit was the standard setter by which the best drivers were judged. Barrett became the master in 1940 with an against-the-odds victory in the New South Wales Grand Prix. The classic race was a handicap with Barrett starting from scratch position, many of his rivals had already covered several laps before he started. He went on with a stunning performance where he set a new outright lap record that made the ‘King of the Mountain’. He had started last and finished first’.

bareet dacre stubbs

This quite stunning, evocative shot was taken by racer/specials builder George Reed at Bathurst during the 1947 AGP weekend. Barrett in the car, Alan Ashton being passed ‘plugs by Gib Barrett during a pitstop. Its a wonderful juxtaposition of the ‘high technology’ of the day with the rural NSW backdrop. (George Reed/Dacre Stubbs Collection)

bathurst map

Barrett was born in 1908 to a well to do family in the affluent Melbourne suburb of Armadale, he and his brother Julian or ‘Gib’ inherited their fathers passion for cars. Before too long the boys were experimenting with all kinds of petrol powered devices in the large grounds of their home.

Not too far away a young mechanic, Alan Ashton was serving his time as an apprentice at AF Hollins Motors, the three of them met and were messing around with cars and bikes which they tested at Aspendale Speedway. Alf and Alan built their first racing car, a Morris Bullnose Special in 1933, initially entering hillclimbs. The car was competitive, winning the Junior 50 and Winter 100 at Phillip Island in 1934.

photo (2)

Ad for AF Hollins, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ 1947

Barrett then bought the ex-Jack Day Lombard AL3 in late 1935 and raced the car in his first Australian Grand Prix at Victor Harbour, in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula on December 26 1936,

lombard 1936

It was the first AGP held outside Victoria and has been known over time as the 1937 AGP despite being held on Saturday 26 December 1936…and named when held as the ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’. It seems this ‘corruption of history’ as historian John Medley called it, commenced in the 1950’s, whence it originated nobody seems to know.

The Sporting Car Club of South Australia was formed in 1934 and played an active part in the celebration of 100 Years of European settlement of South Australia, the piece de resistance of the organising committee of the South Australian Centenary Committee was SA’s first real road race held 50 miles from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula, only a few miles from the mouth of the mighty Murray River on public roads beteen Port Elliott and Victor Harbour, then as now a summer playground. The event was run over 32 laps, 240 miles in total.

The race attracted the best cars and drivers from all around Australia, the limit men of the handicap race drove MG K3’s and Bugatti Types 37 and 43…and over 50000 paying customers came to an event then a long way from Adelaide.

Barrett entered the Morris for Colin Anderson, his MG ‘P type’ for Tim Joshua, driving the Lombard himself. He had a handicap of 21 minutes but lost a supercharger pop-off valve and failed to finish, Andersons Morris was delayed by overheating problems and was flagged off. Tim Joshua drove an exceptional race in the P Type and was leading the event for some laps before a 7 minute stop in the pits for unidentified maladies, he finished the race second behind the winning MG P Type of Les Murphy.

victor harbour circuit

The Victor Harbour road circuit used for ‘the 1937 AGP’. Used public roads as the map shows close to the Southern Ocean, joining Port Elliott and Victor Harbour. (The Advertiser)

In the 1938 AGP Barrett again raced the 1927 Lombard but the Cozette supercharged car, running off 22 minutes retired from the race held at Mount Panorama. Visiting Englishman Peter Whitehead won in his ERA Type B off a very favourable handicap winning from Les Burrows in a Terraplane Spl.

wirilinga 1938

Barrett racing his Morris Cowley Spl in the 1938 ‘Kings Birthday Grand Prix’, Wirlinga road circuit on the outskirts of Albury, NSW. (Unattributed)

As part of the Albury 150th anniversary celebrations a new 4.2 mile circuit was laid out on public roads at Wirlinga, an Albury suburb.

Albury is a town on the Murray River on the New South Wales/Victoria border. Barrett contested the ‘Kings Birthday Grand Prix’ or ‘Interstate Grand Prix’, the event seems to have been attributed a variety of names, in the Cowley on 19 March 1938. The event was won by local Wangaratta boy Jack Phillips in his self built Phillips Ford V8 Spl.

barrett cowley lobethal 1938

Barrett competing in the Morris Bullnose Spl, Lobethal ’50 Mile Handicap’ 1938. Kayannie Corner. The practice would be put to good use the following year. (Norman Howard)

monza blanden cover

This is the fabulous cover of John Blandens’ seminal book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’. The fact that Barrett and the Monza, of the hundreds of cars and drivers written about in the publication made the cover says everything about the noted late historians opinion of Barrett and his place in the pantheon of Australian drivers…the scene depicted is at Bathurst 1938.Alan Ashton and Alf changing a wheel on the Monza.

In late 1938 Barrett acquired and imported the Monza from the UK, it had been raced successfully there by AP ‘Ginger’ Hamilton…

Chassis #2211134 was built in 1932 and sold to Raymond Somner, he won the Marseilles Grand Prix at Miramas in September 1932 and several other events selling the car back to the factory having acquired a Maserati for 1933. Hamilton bought it in late 1933 and raced the car extensively in the ensuing 5 years. There is a more comprehensive record of the cars competition record in Europe in ‘Etcetera’ at the end of this article.

I wrote about the design and specifications of the Alfa Romeo Monza in an earlier article so will not repeat that information here, click on this link to that article. https://primotipo.com/2014/10/09/antonio-brivio-targa-florio-1933-alfa-romeo-8c2300-monza/

When the car arrived in Australia it was prepared by Alan Ashton, Ashton acquired a reputation which recognised him as one of the most talented engineers in the country, he fettled cars for Barrett until the end of his career and later Lex Davison throughout his reign in the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as various international drivers who sought his talents.

The Alfa arrived in time for the last pre-War AGP held on the fast, daunting road course at Lobethal in South Australia’s Barossa Valley...

barrett lobethal

Barrett Lobethal 1939 AGP, superb Norman Howard shot. Sandbags, barb wire fences, eucalypts, crowd on the hill, wonderful. Dangerous but wonderful…

lobethal map 2

lobethal township

Bucolic Lobethal in the late 1930’s…the race progressed into, through and out of the main road shown in this aerial shot. (State Library of SA)

South Australian, Patrick Atherton in his website ‘Lagler Racing’ paints a vivid picture of the circuit, these are still public roads upon which you can drive thus…

‘From the old start-finish and grandstand area north of Charleston you could be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing special. No really challenging corners just sweeping curves. But put it into context; these cars had spindly wires and tyres, cart springs and beam axles and near useless drum brakes. These ‘curves’ are all blind. There are crests preceding all of them, particularly the bridges, which funnel into chutes. Think of these machines dropping on to their suspension in mid-air whilst turning at 100mph.

Through the little town of Charleston, with it’s pub (still there) the crowds were thick. Stories abound of drivers stopping, mid practice sessions for a pint or two.Out past here are frightening kinks, all blind, all crests and dips. Then a blind right hand kink sucks you into Kayannie corner, the tight right hander leaving Woodside Road and heading towards the township of Lobethal. Here the spectators got off the train from Adelaide straight into spectator areas at the side of the track, driver’s left.

The climb up the hill is significant, mostly straight for almost two km, but at the top, this track steals straight from the soul of Nurburgring. Lined by trees, the blind crest plummets away left, bottoms out right, drops away again, into a rollercoaster left. Then it flattens, raises slightly, then another drop into the braking area for the hard right hander (Mill corner) into Lobethal’s main street. Even the main street isn’t straight. Past the pub on the right there’s now a little ribbon of paving (Indianapolis-style) across the road and a plaque to commemorate the racing era.

Up the hill it funnels between shops and houses and then there is the blind, off-camber Gumeracha Corner, which claimed lives. The stretch from here to the start-finish hairpin has to be experienced. 5 km of crests, blind curves, feature changes and major undulation. Here is where the truly great drivers would have made up time on nothing more than sheer bravery. Indeed they did, and one in particular, winner Alan Tomlinson.’

barrett lobethal practice

Barrett during practice with a passenger, a fearsomely quick ride on this roller-coaster technically very difficult circuit of the brave, skilful and committed. Kayannie Corner, Lobethal AGP 1939. Railway line to Adelaide, bucolic delights of Lobethal clear to see. (Norman Howard)

Jack Saywell had the car with the most potential, an Alfa P3 fitted with a 2.9 litre supercharged straight 8, Barretts’ Monza, also designed by Vittorio Jano, had a less sophisticated 2.3 litre supercharged straight 8. A big incident in practice involved Barretts’ avoidance of a slow moving MG, the Monza ran off the road at high speed, a rear wheel hitting a gutter and throwing the car high into the air landing 20 metres down the road. Alf brought the car back under control, the incident causing a bent back axle and buckled wheel which were fixed by Ashton overnight, but the wheelbase was 2 inches shorter on one side of the car than the other.

60000 people attended the event, Barrett stalled at the start, losing 5 minutes in the process. He finished 8th, the handicap event won by Alan Tomlinson in a supercharged MG TA Spl.

Despite his handicap Tomlinson ‘punched way above his weight’, his preparation for the race meticulous. He walked the circuit in the weeks prior to the event and drove around it in another TC practicing each section patrticularly the 5Km stretch from Gumeracha Corner to the Start-Finish hairpin, he knew that section would be key for a driver in a notionally slower car, if you were brave enough…Tomlinson was to say after the race that Saywells Alfa held him up on that stretch! Tomlinson returned to Lobethal in 1940 for the SA Trophy and almost lost his life in an horrific accident after colliding with another car, careering off the road through a wire fence, lucky not to be decapitated and hit a tree. The young WA driver did not race again but lived into his 90’s.

Check out this fabulous documentary on the short but sweet history of Lobethal road circuit…https://vimeo.com/83756140

The Monza quickly established lap records at Lobethal, Bathurst, Albury Wirlinga, Nowra, Ballarat and Point Cook. It’s last pre-war start was at Wirlinga in 1939, winning a short handicap and setting a lap record of over 90mph on the gravel course.

monza nuroootpa 1939

Barrett sorts himself and his new Monza out at the start of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal SA. He stalled the car and was well behind the field by the time he cleared fouled plugs. (Norman Howard)

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Wonderful high speed pan of the 8C2300 Monza, and its dark blue shirted driver, Lobethal 1939. (Norman Howard)

lobethal scene

AGP Meeting crowd scene, Lobethal 1939…captures the atmosphere and undulatig nature of the roads. (State Library of SA)

During WW2 Alf and ‘Gib’ served in the RAAF, returning to racing after hostilities ceased…

barett bathurst 1947

Barrett showing the deftness of touch and relaxed driving style for which he was famous. Monza, Bathurst AGP 1947. (John Blanden Collection)

In late 1946 the Monza was again race prepared.

The first race meeting organised by the LCCA in Victoria was at Ballarat Airfield in February 1947, the RAAF making their facility available for creation of a road circuit. Over 30000 people attended the event which featured all of the stars of the day Barrett thrilled the crowds with his driving and the sight and sound of the fabulous supercharged straight 8 engine. Alf didn’t beat the handicappers on the day, off scratch he gave away 22 minutes to the limitman, Hollinsheads’ MG J2, victory in the feature race, the Victoria Trophy going to Doug Whiteford in ‘Black Bess’, the Ford V8 Spl later to win the 1950 AGP.

This fantastic bit of footage shows both the Ballarat 1947 event and 1961 International Meeting contested by Dan Gurney, Graham Hill and many others. Don’t be put off by the commentary, Barrett is driving his Monza not an Alfa P3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2uwd7m6UGo barett ballarat

At Nowra, a new airstrip venue in June Barrett won both the over 1500cc event and 110 mile NSW Championship in the Monza achieving both the fastest lap at 93mph and time despite a pitstop.

Whilst motor racing recommenced post war in Paris on September 9 1945 the first post war Australian event seems to be a Hillclimb at Foleys Hill out of Sydney.

The first post-war AGP was not held until 1947 at Bathurst…despite problems with the police in getting the requisite permit and dissension in the ranks of the drivers there were 29 acceptances and 22 starters of the race.

monza bathurst 1947

The caption of this photo is of ‘Alf Barrett receives the chequered flag October 1947’, he DNF’d the AGP so perhaps this is the finish of a preliminary race. Wonderful shot all the same. (Unattributed)

Barretts’ Monza was off scratch due to the absence of Saywells faster P3, it’s engine was dispatched by sea prewar to Italy for a rebuild, never to survive the voyage. Lex Davison entered a Mercedes SSK 38/250, the first of many successful AGP’s for the Victorian, other fast cars the Kleinig Hudson Spl of Frank Kleinig, Hope Bartletts’ Dixon Riley and Ewings’ Buick Spl.

davison and barrett bathirst 1947

Lex Davison leads Alf Barrett AGP 1947. Mercedes 38/250 and Alfa Monza respectively…it would not be long till Lex impoted a Jano designed Alfa of his own, he imported a P3 in 1948 Davison set the fastest overall race time in the fearsome 7.6 litre SSK but was classified 3rd under the handicap system. (Byron Gunther)

Practice was on the preceding Thursday and Sunday, Barrett enlivening proceedings by taking all and sundry for rides around Mount Panorama in the Monza, as did Lex Davison in his Merc complete with linen helmet, goggles, coat and tie!

Barrett gave away 37 minutes to the first car away, Alf lapping at 3:08 and 124mph down the ‘narrow, bumpy and spooky Conrod Straight between the trees’ but retired on lap 27 with valve insert trouble. He didn’t ever have a surplus of AGP luck! The race was won by Bill Murrays’ MG TC.

‘Alf in his 8C2300 was the fastest driver in Australia in 1947’ according to John Medley but for 1948 the level of competition increased with Tony Gaze and Lex Davison importing a 2 litre supercharged Alta and Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B respectively.

barrett with passenger 1947

Barrett with a passenger sans helmet…before the 1947 AGP at Mount Panorama. What a wild ride it must have been. (Byron Gunther)

The 1948 AGP was held at Point Cook…

Its easy to forget the context of the post war times in a low key year for motor racing in Australia, John Medley in ‘Cars and Drivers #3’…’The post war age of austerity with its restrictions and ration books still prevailed with a shortage of fuel, oil, paper, steel, food and power. In fact fuel rations were tightened during the year which placed a limit on the number of events…The mainstay of Australian motor racing still remained the homebuilt sprecial, a few of them single-seaters but most two seaters used on the road with number plates and lights, and for racing’.

barrett point cook

With ‘B24 Liberator’ and 1 Bristol Beaufighter aircraft as a backdrop Barrett leads Bill Fords’ Hudson Spl (7th) and Dennis Currans’ Willys Ford V8 Spl (5th) during his brief race in conditions which were amongst the hottest of any AGP. Fantastic evocative shot. (George Thomas)

Point Cook is in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs, the first time the AGP was held at an airforce base and the first AGP not held on a course using public roads.

26 cars entered the race, held on Australia Day , 26 January which was over 42 laps of a 3.85 km circuit comprising airfield runways, taxiways and service roads. A total distance of 100 miles. Only 10 cars completed the race which was held in excruciating hot conditions. No shade was to be had on the desolate airfield. The handicap event, AGP’s not held as scratch events until 1951 was won by Frank Pratt a Geelong, Victoria motorcycle racer/ dealer in a BMW 328.

Barrett started the race poorly having some issues which slowed him down then was the fastest car in the race for a while before withdrawing from the event with heat exhaustion on lap 22. He was far from alone, only 10 cars completed the event.

Alf contested the Easter Bathurst meeting which comprised some short handicap races, he didn’t win but set fastest lap in his. Gaze blew the Altas’ 2 litre engine and Davison retired early after troubles arising from a spectacular practice crash. The feature, handicap race, the ‘NSW 100′ was won by John Barrcloughs’ MG NE with a fine battle between the Barrett and Davison Alfas’, Barrett in the older car breaking the lap record at 3m 01 seconds with Davo recording 144mph down Conrod in the P3, a new straight line speed at Mount Panorama.

Melbournes’ Cup Weekend in November seems to be Alfs’ final race with the Monza, winning his class at Rob Roy Hillclimb at the Australian Hillclimb Championship. With a growing family and a business to run Barrett sold the Monza and retired from racing, not entirely though!

Alf retired at the top, John Medley commenting about 1948 as follows…’Cars new to the scene included Lex Davisons’ Alfa P3 and Tony Gazes’ two Altas with Alf Barretts’ Monza Alfa Romeo still the car to beat in major races’

The Monza passed into the hands of Rupert Steele in late 1949…a Victorian who was very quickly on the pace, practising the car on the back roads between Beaconsfield and Dandenong to help get the feel of the fabulous car.

He raced at Fishermans Bend, was 6th in the SA Championship at Nuriootpa, SA in 1949 and put that practice to good effect in the 1950 AGP which was also held on that quick road course in the Barossa Valley. The race was still a handicap event, Steele finished 2nd to Doug Whitefords’ Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’ and shared the fastest lap with Whiteford, a formidable driver with vastly more experience than Steele albeit a much less sophisticated car. ‘Black Bess’ famously based on an ex-Victorian Forestry Commission Ute!

Steele didn’t own the car for long, later in life he became a notable Victorian in business and horse racing, the car was advertised again for sale.

rupert steele monza nuriootpa

Rupert Steele in the Monza contesting the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa in the SA Barossa Valley. He finished second and shared the race’ fastest lap with Doug Whiteford, the winner. (John Blanden Collection)

Ron Edgerton was the buyer… Victorian ‘Racing Ron’, a very experienced driver was very competitive in the Monza racing it around the country, an initial win at Ballarat Airfield in the 1950 Victorian Trophy against strong opposition was impressive.

edgerton victorai atrophy 1950

The car raced at the Bathurst October meeting in 1951, finishing 4th in the ‘100’ and 3rd in the 50 Mile ‘Redex Championship’. The year was capped with a 4th in class at the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy, in Melbournes’ Christmas Hills.

edgerton bathurst

‘Racing Ron’ Edgerton in the Monza ‘2211134’ ahead of Frank Kleinigs’ Kleinig Hudson Spl, Hell Corner, Bathurst in the 50 Mile ‘Redex Championship’ in October 1951. (WJ Farncourt)

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Alf Barrett hadn’t entirely retired, here he is at Bathurst in 1950 driving Tony Gaze’ 2 litre Alta Monoposto ’56S’, whilst the latter was overseas. (John Blanden)

The Winter 2012 issue of ‘Loose Fillings’ the wonderful Australian Newsletter about air-cooled racing cars had an article by the late lamented Australian Historian/Enthusiast/Racer Graham Howard…

‘He (Barrett) was at Bathurst in October 1951 as a spectator when offered a drive in Misha Ravdell’s Firth-prepared Mk4 Cooper Vincent… after Ravdell himself had been injured in a local road accident. Not having driven a racing car of any kind for more than a year and with no experience whatever of a Cooper-style car, he won a six-lap under 1500cc handicap and was well placed in the main event when he ran over a displaced sandbag and broke a driveshaft universal joint. He vividly remembered the Cooper’s vibration. ‘It was like driving a lawnmower– dreadful. You’d get out of it as if you’d been driving a lawn-mower.’ But everything else compared to his beloved Alfa was a revelation.

‘The Cooper made my hair stand on end. It ran so straight and it stopped straight. The brakes were like running into cotton wool. With the Alfa you always felt you were a foot off the ground and it would get such dreadful brake tramp. ‘The thing I noticed with the Cooper, it held on until all four wheels went together. You could go too far with the Alfa and cars like that, and they’d still hang on, the Cooper would just go snap. ‘But that little Cooper – it just went straight, it stopped straight. So when I say the Alfa was good, it was good-until the Cooper’.

barett cooper bathurst

Barrett in the borrowed Cooper Mk4 Vincent, Bathurst October 1951, he finished 1st in a race despite not having sat in the car before! He is in his ‘civvies’ collar and tie…and with a noticeable smile on his face! (John Medley)

Its fascinating to get the insights of the day from a top driver of the comparison between ‘the old and new paradigms’ of front and mid engined cars…Cooper won their first Grand Prix in Argentina 1958, in Stirling Moss’ hands, himself a former Cooper 500 exponent.

The Monza was offered for sale by Edgerton in ‘Australian Motor Sport’ in April 1951 and was bought by Toorak, Melbourne enthusiast Earl Davey Milne, it is still owned by the family and whilst in good hands and complete it remains disassembled and unrestored…

alf bwa 1953 agp

Alf racing and sharing brother Gibs BWA, in the early laps of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park. The car was a fusion of MG TC Chassis, Lancia front end and steering box, Lancia wheels, brakes and 1935 Chev truck driveshafts powered by a 1.5 ltre supercharged Meadows 4 cylinder engine from a Frazer Nash! (Unattributed)

Alf made a comeback of sorts in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix, the first held at Albert Park…Alfs’ brother Julian or ‘Gib’ was also a racer and built a 2 seater sports car called BWA, colloquially the ‘Bloody Work of Art’ pre-War but actually named after the cars builders Barrett/Ashton/White.

The BWA was converted into a single-seater post war, the 1953 AGP regs allowed 2 drivers so Alf started the race and handed over to Gib. It wasn’t their best of races the pair losing 15 minutes at the start with fouled ‘plugs and then managed to set fire to it after a fuel spill at a pitstop. Still, they finished 12th, Doug Whiteford won the race in his first Talbot Lago, it was his third and final AGP win, the Lago as aristocratic as Black Bess, his 1950 AGP winner, was proletariat having won the AGP at Bathurst in 1952 in the Lago as well.

bwa ablaze

The BWA ablaze at the Albert Park pits…this was the end of the conflagration, the ‘BBQ’ was immense at the point of ignition…the Barretts got the car going and finished the event. (Youtube)

Barrett remained a motor racing enthusiast and in a neat bookend to his careers commencement also finished it in a Morris…

He contested the 1969 Bathurst 500 in a Morris 1500 shared with Kyneton, Victoria motor dealer/racer Mel Mollison. They finished 37th Barrett driving the car with the same verve and flair for which he was famous if not wearing the blue T-Shirt for which he was also renowned…he died in 1998.

barrett morris 1500

Tailpiece…

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Barrett and Monza, descending the mountain thru ‘The Dipper’, Bathurst 1939. (Unattributed)

Etcetera…

barrett bwa rob roy

Alf Barrett racing brother Gibs’ BWA in early unbodied form. The car was a fusion of MGTC chassis, mainly Lancia componentry and supercharged 1.5 litre Meadows engine. 16th Rob Roy Hillclimb. (State Library of Victoria)

barrett wirlinga 1938

A close up of Alf Barrett and his Morris ‘Bullnose’ Cowley Spl, Wirlinga, Albury 1938. Car built together with brother ‘Gib’ and Alan Ashton. Historian John Medley noted that this car was destroyed in a bushfire, the engine only survived. (Unattributed)

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Barrett AGP Lobethal 1939. (Norman Howard)

barrett lobethal 1939 2

Yet another stunning Norman Howard AGP Lobethal 1939 Barrett shot.

lobethal paddock

Monza in the Lobethal paddock 1940. To the left is the Jack Phillip’s Ford V8 Spl which won the main event at that meeting ‘The South Australian 100’ and at far left a Bentley Ute used as a tender vehicle. Barrett DNF with rear axle failure but set fastest lap at 5m 48sec, 92mph avg. (Ean McDowell)

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Barrett and the Monza at Ballarat Airfield February 1947. (John Blanden Collection)

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Barrett, Monza, Bathurst AGP 1947…the fastest car driver combination again that year. (Byron Gunther)

lago and monza

Doug Whitefords’ Talbot Lago in front of the Monza, then owned by Ron Edgerton at Bathurst in 1951… a happy hunting ground for both cars. (Unattributed)

Monza # 2211134 History…

The following article was published in ‘Motor Sport’ by Denis Jenkinson in 1976 with input from Earl Davey-Milne, a Melburnian who still owns the car. monza m spoort 1 monza m sport 2

Bibliography and Credits… John Medley in Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, ‘Loose Fillings’ Winter 2012, Motor Sport, MotorMarque, Patrick Atherton Lagler Racing, ‘Cars and Drivers’, John Medley

John Blanden, George Reed, Dacre Stubbs Collection, John Blanden Collection, Ean McDowell, John Medley, autopics, State Library of Victoria, W J Farncourt, George Thomas, Byron Gunther, Norman Howard, Allan Griffin Collection

Finito…