Posts Tagged ‘Stan Jones’

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(K Harris)

The Northern Territory entered Jaguar Mk7 of B Kingston and a Holden 48-215 line up for fuel at Bonds Chalet, Alice Springs during the 1953 Redex Round Australia Trial on 9/10 September…

It’s a quintessential Alice Springs scene, the red-brown parched soil and mid-green eucalypts framed in the distance by the MacDonell Ranges. Most of us of a certain age attended Primary Schools with artwork by Albert Namatjira, in these hues, hanging on the classroom walls.

Adelaide based Bonds Bus Tours provided ‘Parc Ferme’ and refuelling facilities for the rally in Alice Springs. These amazing photos were taken by a longtime employee, Kevin Harris. Rolled gold they are too, even though they are of the cars at rest, with one exception.

The post-war pent-up demand for entertainment, in those much simpler times was massive. Bouyed by an economy which was starting to boom, Australians turned out in their thousands to watch the progress of the 187 participants in the 1953 Redex Round Australia Trial.

In part it was because most roads west of Adelaide were challenging to say the least. The fact that the rules provided that cars were largely unmodified meant that the average man in the street could see how his car, or the one he aspired to own went created some interest. Cars were stock other than for underbody protection, carburettor, exhaust, lighting and instrument modifications.

Many of Australia’s better racing drivers competed, not that they were all household names by any stretch, but many were by the end of the decade in part due to their trial exploits in the years to come. The media, by the standards of the day provided massive coverage also fuelling the fire of public interest.

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Stan Jones Holden 48-215 and O Yates Austin A40 Atlantic, Stan a tough nut purpose built for an endurance event like this, even if his press-on style was not (K Harris)

Fifty thousand people lined the streets of Sydney from the start at the Sydney Showgrounds at Centennial Park on 30 August and lined the route through the major cities the circus traversed. Whilst the event was styled as a reliability trial it was effectively a race as we shall see. So there were plenty of acts of derring do and accidents aplenty.

Name drivers included ‘Gelignite Jack ‘Murray, the ‘Preston Holden Team’ of Holden 48-215’s driven by Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. David McKay and ‘Curley’ Brydon ran Austin A40’s and Jack Brabham a Holden 48-215. Norman (father of Alan) Hamilton, the Porsche importer entered a 356, Frank Kleinig a Morris Minor. Jack Davey ran a Ford Customline- the popular radio show host broadcast on local radio stations along the route and had a can of hairspray in the glovebox to look his best at all times. Bill McLachlan ran a Customline, Don Gorringe a Jowett Javelin, Peter Antill, a trials ace raced a Plymouth with Eddie Perkins in a Rover 75, Laurie Whitehead ran a Citroen and John Crouch a Peugeot 203, Ken Tubman another.

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Norman Hamilton, Porsche 356, I wonder if this car still exists? (unattributed)

The entry included all of the above as well as an Allard, Vauxhall Velox, Mercedes 200D diesels, MG TD’s, De Soto, Humber Super Snipes and a swag of big, strong 1948 Ford V8’s. In addition were Peugeot 203, Jaguar Mk7, Chrysler Airflow, Hudson Terraplane, Ford Anglia, Zephyr and Consul, Singer 9, Simca, Vanguard, Hillman, Riley and so on!

It isn’t my plan to cover the trial in detail but rather to showcase the Kevin Harris  photographs taken during the Alice Springs stopover on September 9 and 19 1953. A summary of the trial, a heavily truncated version of a couple of other articles follows.

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B Gurdon Austin A40 and Lex Davison Holden 48-215- the ever versatile Victorian racer/businessman was quick in anything or any sort of event from Trials to GP cars (K Harris)

Ted Hoy’s Chrysler Airflow, car #1 later to play a critical part in the result of the event, was the first to leave the showgrounds at 2pm, the last to travel along Driver Avenue was a Queenslander, Miss J. Hill aboard a Renault 750 at 11.33pm.

150,000 people lined the streets through Sydney’s northern suburbs to Hornsby to watch the start of this amazing 6500 mile adventure, the second longest event of this type in the world at the time. The first breakdown was a Jaguar Mk7 which died near the Hawkesbury River only 52 Km from the start!

The leaders averaged about 50 mph (80 km/h) up the Pacific Highway to Brisbane, with mechanical failure taking points from some of the novices. The first bad accident happened near Gin Gin, when Patience/Binks hospitalised themselves after rolling their Ford V8 down an embankment.

The field didn’t strike unsealed roads until after clearing Rockhampton. The challenges began with corrugations, culverts, cattlegrids, washaways, dry creek beds and everything else the vast brown land could throw at them. McLachlan, one of the favourites, lost two hours 15 minutes with water pump failure on his Customline, but still made the Mackay control on time.

In 24 hours’ rest at Townsville, the organisers counted 177 cars in control with 128 clean-sheeters.

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The Antill Chrysler Plymouth, no idea where (unattributed)

At this point the trial stopped being a rally and became a road race.

Word went thru the field that the organisers had decided that if several crews reached Sydney without loss of points, their times on the TownsvilleMt. lsa and Alice SpringsAdelaide sections would decide the winner. They were given 16 hours to cover the 609 miles (980 km) from Townsville to lsa. It was ‘game on’ amongst the racers.

Peter Antill’s Plymouth was fastest with an incredible 13:22. The first car to reach Mt. Isa was Possum Kipling’s, 14 hours 12 minutes after leaving Townsville. He had to get the control officials out of bed, he was so early!

Behind him was a nightmare of crashed cars, irate police and horror stories. Half the field was spread across most of Queensland. Bill McLachlan was directed wrongly in the middle of the night and drove 136 miles (219 km) off course before getting back on the right road, only to hit a cattle grid that had been de-guttered by the field. Stan Jones hit the same grid.

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Bonds Alice Springs vista ( K Harris)

Bill Murray rolled his Plymouth, Hamilton’s Porsche hit a kangaroo and deranged its front suspension, driving the rest of the way into the Isa on the undertray. The last car, Anderson in a Skoda, staggered into town after a 24 hour 44 minute trip following a trail of wreckage

The next stage over bitumen to Darwin, was 1098 miles (1760 km) the average set at 44 mph (71 km/h). Antill hit a galah (indigenous bird) which took out his windscreen, his car already had a cracked chassis.

McLachlan had broken his Customline’s diff housing, but the medium-sized cars, like the Holden of Kipling, who was second into Darwin, and the Rover of Perkins, 3rd into control, were in good shape.

‘Wheels’ magazine in its report of the trial wrote: ‘The myth that the only car suited for Australian conditions was the large American vehicle had been exploded’.

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‘Parc ferme’ #114 Charlie Deans Holden 48-215, the master engineer taking time away from his Repco Research/Maybach race preparation duties but no doubt keeping some kind of eye on his driver S Jones Esq in one of the other ‘works’ Holdens. Stan very much one of the quickest guys in Australia at the time and stiff not to win the Australian Grand Prix in Maybach 1 that November with mechanical problems ( K Harris)

From Darwin 132 cars set out for an easy drive down the bitumen to Alice Springs  for servicing and repairs at Tennant Creek, then on to the Alice.

At Alice Springs the field stopped at Bonds facilities as shown in the photographs. The cars were scheduled in from 8.51am on Saturday the 9th, and out, commencing 12.01am on the 10th.

Of the 41 clean-sheeters who departed Darwin, 38 were there when the field lined up for 368 miles (592 km) of desert to Kingoonya.

This stretch was considered impossible to cover in less than 48 hours- the organisers had set a time of 15 hours 10 minutes. In addition the field were given only one hour’s rest at Kingoonya before despatch for the 424 mile (682 km) run to Adelaide, an an average of 42 mph (68 km/h).

Lex Davison arrived in Kingoonya in an unbelievable 13 hours 39 minutes. Second was Possum Kipling in another Holden in 14:10. Tom Sulman, prominent racer, was fastest in his Humber Super Snipe when he emerged from the desert and drove south to Adelaide.

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Magic scene, the Cusso framed between the truck wotizzit? and old Shell bowsers. Driver is S Levy, NSW (K Harris)

By Adelaide there were 11 clean-sheeters. Crews had to be lifted from their cars after up to 60 hours at the wheel without a break!

 The road had decimated the field, who limped in with hair-raising tales of tying up rear suspensions with tyre chains, living underground at the opal mining settlement of Coober Pedy, jamming coir matting into a broken front end to keep going and crew members going crazy from the dust and heat.

The field of 11 clean-sheeters who left Adelaide faced only bitumen roads through to the finish in Sydney via Melbourne. They were Davison, Kipling and Davies in Holdens, Perkins (Rover), Tubman (Peugeot), Sulman, Ken Robinson and Jack Masling (Humber Snipe), Antill (Plymouth), Nelson (Vanguard) and David McKay (Austin A40).

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HR Smith, Pug 203 from WA, no idea where the crossing is (unattributed)

The journey was easier given the sealed roads and by this stage the police were very stroppy ‘about the crazy high speeds’. As a consequence the organisers threw in a special section or stage to help break up the field.

An 11-mile (17.7 km) stock route was chosen between Marulan and Bowral in NSW, part of a 30-miles (48 km) long elimination section which included a flooded river crossing, Paddy’s River. It was a metre deep with several cars being washed downstream.

Some drivers stopped and fitted protection in front of the radiator before entering the water, but the winner of the event, Ken Tubman was one who elected to drive right through. He stalled, but the 203’s engine restarted.

The Paddy’s River crossing and the strange action of Hoy, the man who had retired his Airflow at Mount Isa, got bogged, with the whole field held up for at least 30 minutes. The drivers naturally tried anything to get around him and save points.

No-one is quite sure what happened to whom or who set up the stage. The contest was so tight it took five hours for the Australian Sporting Car Club to work out that 37 year old Ken Tubman and his navigator, John Marshall won in their Peugeot 203 by 25 seconds from the Robinson Humber Super Snipe- 25 seconds after 10,500 kilometres of murderous country!

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Ken Tubman and John Marshall take the chequered flag in Sydney. Results not announced until some 5 hours later. Peugeot 203 (unattributed)

In one of those ‘Win On Sunday, Sell on Monday’ moments the victory caused a sales rush on Peugeots- every new Pug in the country was sold within a week.

The first Redex Trial went down in the annals of Australian automotive history as one of the harshest long-distance events ever run. It had everything- characters, heroes, bravery, stupidity, crashes, ingenuity and mayhem!

Off the back of its 1953 success, 31 203’s were entered in the 1954 Redex, that year won by Jack Murray’s Ford. Ken Tubman competed in rallies well into his sixties winning a re-run of the trial from ‘Gelignite Jack’ Murray in 1974. He also took part in a 1983 anniversary re-run in a Peugeot 505. He died at his Maitland, NSW home in May 1993.

Bibliography…

Redex.ru, Unique Cars and Parts

Photo Credits…

Kevin Harris

Tailpiece: End where we started with the Kingston Jag Mk7, here  lifting its skirts as it leaves Alice Springs…

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Stan Jones struggles to keep Maybach 3 in front of Reg Hunt’s Maser A6GCM during the first lap of the 1955 Australian Grand Prix at Port Wakefield, South Australia…

The two cars were arguably Australia’s greatest special and production racing car at the time. Mind you the ‘special’ descriptor belies the ‘tool room’ quality of the Maybach series of cars in terms of both design and execution by Charlie Dean and his team at Repco Research in Melbourne. The Maserati A6GCM and 250F family are members of one the greatest series of production racing cars ever built. Not that either of them won this particular contest mind you!

Jack Brabham returned to Oz from his first season in Europe replete with a self-built Cooper T40 Bristol, winning the Port Wakefield race in the 2 litre, 150bhp, 1100lb, mid-engined car. Was it the first time a ‘modern era’ post-war mid-engined car won a national Grand Epreuve?

Brabham had luck that weekend in South Australia in a car which later became notorious for its unreliability- he won the race after the retirement of, or problems encountered by some of the races ‘heavy metal’ including Jones ‘works Repco’ 3.8 litre Maybach, Hunt’s Maser 250F engined Maserati A6GCM and another Melbourne motor-trader, Doug Whiteford’s 4.5 litre Talbot-Lago T26C.

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Clem Smith’s Austin Healey 100, DNF suspension being rounded up by the first and second placed cars of Brabham and Hunt- Cooper T40 Bristol and Maser A6GCM 2.5 (unattributed)

Hunt and the Maser were the form combination at the time, Reg took the lead from Jones on lap 1 and lead the race convincingly until the failure of a finger type cam follower forced the Maser onto 5 cylinders, Brabham was soon past into a lead he held for the races duration. Jones had clutch dramas, with Whiteford 3rd, behind Hunt, in a car which raced too late after it’s initial arrival in Australia- devoid of some of the trick bits Doug paid for, shifty furriners!

The 80 lap, 104 mile event was the 20th AGP and noteworthy as the first on a bespoke purpose built circuit, Port Wakefield is 100Km north of Adelaide in flattish, coastal, saltbush country. Previous Grands Prix in Australia were on closed roads or airfields. Port Wakefield, 1.3 miles in length, was used from 1953 to 1961, when Mallala, built on a disused Royal Australian Air Force airfield became the main South Australian circuit.

Credits…

State Library of Victoria, Reg Fulford Collection, G Howard and Ors ‘The 50 Year History of The Australian Grand Prix’

Tailpiece: ’55 AGP, 20 lap, third qualifying heat underway, Hunt and Jones on the front row…

As a cursory glance of the mix of competitors shows, the race is a Formula Libre event. On the second row is Brabham’s streamlined, central-single seater Cooper T40 Bristol and multiple AGP winner Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C. Rather a neat contrast of post, and pre-War technology? On the next row is the Austin Healey 100 of local South Australians Greg McEwin and Bill Wilcox’ Ford V8 Spl. Desolate flat, saltbush country clear.

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Bill Patterson getting all he can from the 1000cc JAP engine in his little, lithe, light and nimble Cooper MkV. He is on his way to Australian Hillclimb Championship glory on 19 April 1954 at Collingrove, Angaston in South Australia’s Barossa Valley…

Patterson was an immensely fast driver, look closely and you can see his left hand proud of the wheel as he gently corrects the powerful little cars slide on the testing, wonderful Collingrove Hill.

I wrote a short article about this Cooper, chassis # MkV/41/51 a while ago, that article was inspired by a photo, as is this one which covers the history of the car and of Bill Patterson, an Australian champion driver. Click here for the earlier article which provides information about air-cooled Coopers generally, and the MkV specifically.

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/08/cooper-mk-v-jap-penguin-hillclimb-tasmania-australia-1958/

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(500race.org)

The car was bought by Melbourne’s Bill Patterson and Geelong’s Tom Hawkes in the UK and raced by them in 1951 before they brought it back to Australia…

The wealthy Victorians arrived in mid 1951 with the intention of having a racing holiday. Tom was to buy and prepare the car and Bill was to drive it. John Crouch, the Australian Cooper Distributor arranged for delivery of a newly released Cooper MkV to the duo but it was fitted with a JAP 500cc engine rather than the more reliable Norton ‘double knocker’ which was simply unobtainable. The car was specced with long range tanks with longer races in Australia in mind.

The 500 Club 500race.org has this to say about Patto’s performances in it ‘Patterson travelled to England in 1951 and bought a Cooper MkV JAP which he raced in England and Europe. Given the competitiveness of the British scene, and the dominance of the Manx Norton engine, Patterson achieved some creditable results including a 2nd in the Commander Yorke Trophy in August…In September he took a trip to Grenzlandring, Germany, 3rd to the Ecurie Richmond cars of Brown and Brandon…he managed a 2nd and 4th in heats at Brands but failed in the final.’

He arrived razor-sharp back in Australia after the intense competition of F3 in the UK and Europe first racing in Australia at Parramatta Park, Sydney in January 1952. Stan Jones then bought the Cooper in a deal in which Tom Hawkes acquired Stan’s Allard J2. But Patterson shared the racing with Stan before eventually buying the car in 1954.

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Bill Patterson’s Cooper MkV chasing the big ex-Bill Wilcox Phil Harrison Metallurgique/Dodge Special at Port Wakefield, South Australia’s opening meeting, in January 1953. Classic battle of big and small/old and modern technology, the chassis of the Metallurgique/Dodge dating back to the 1920’s. Harrison won the race, the car based on a chassis found in a wreckers yard with a body built by Bob Baker in Melbourne. Patto retired with a broken throttle cable on lap 4 (State Library of SA)

A JAP 998cc engine was fitted, the car  first raced in this form at Rob Roy Hillclimb in outer Melbourne on 28 February 1954, Patto won the 1954 AHCC in it as detailed earlier, as well as the 1955 South Australian Hillclimb Championship, also at Collingrove.

The little car contested the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield with Patterson at the wheel with a JAP 500 fitted, he retired. In fact the mates Jones (Maybach), Hawkes (Cooper T23 Bristol) and Patterson all retired from the AGP, won by Jack Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol, Jack having made his F1 Championship GP debut in that car at Aintree several months before.

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Stan Jones, Collingrove, Cooper MkV, Easter 1955  (State Library of SA)

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Stan Jones, Cooper MkV in the Collingrove paddock, probably Easter Monday 1955. He set a new outright record of 38.02 seconds during this meeting (State Library of SA)

The car passed into Ken Wylie’s hands who raced it with both Norton 500 and JAP 1000 engines before crossing Bass Straight to Jock Walkem in Tasmania, he fitted a JAP 1000. The car came back to the mainland, Victorian John Hartnett raced it with both JAP 500 and 1000cc lumps. It then went back to Tassie, raced by both Dave Powell senior and junior powered by JAP 500, 1000 and 1100 motors as well as a BSA 500 engine. The car was then sold to Peter Dobson and passed to Brian ‘Brique’ Reed who restored it in the 1970’s. After many years of ownership it was bought by Peter Harburg.

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#12 D Harvey MG TC s/c from #8 Bill Patterson or is it Stan Jones? Cooper MkV, #11 D Tillett MG TC, Port Wakefield, Easter 1955 perhaps (State Library of SA)

Bill Patterson…

Patterson, was born on 30 August 1923 into a family of considerable wealth. He was the son of Wimbledon tennis champ Gerald Patterson and a nephew of famous Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba.

Gerald Patterson was the Wimbledon singles champion in 1919 and 1922. He represented Australia in the Davis Cup from 1919-1928 and in 1927 won the first Australian singles title at Kooyong until the modern era, the home of Australian tennis. Patterson fought in the Great War and was decorated for his bravery, being awarded the Military Cross as a member of the Royal Field Artillery at Messines in 1917.

By the time his tennis career was over he had embarked on a very successful business career initially with sporting goods manufacturer AG Spalding Bros, by 1935 he was its CEO and went on to become a director of some other well known companies of the time.

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France’s Suzanne Lenglen and Gerald Patterson, mixed doubles champions at Wimbledon in 1920 (Bob Thomas)

Bill was born into a life of privilege, initially growing up at 15 Barry Street in Kew, the scene of many society parties and events including tennis matches on the home’s grass court. The family soon moved to nearby Toorak, Melbourne’s suburb of the ‘great and the good’.

He attended Scotch College in nearby Hawthorn, leaving in 1934 to attend Geelong Grammar, his sporting intent and prowess apparent as a member of the school’s rowing First VIII in 1938. Born into such circumstances is a double-edged sword of course, being the son of an elite sportsman-and businessman is seldom an easy thing given the expectations foisted upon the child.

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Bill Patterson is his stripped MG TC, approaching The Spillway, at the 16th Rob Roy Hillclimb, 2 May 1948 (George Thomas)

I am intrigued to know what Bill did when he initially left school, he first came to motor racing prominence driving one of the first MG TC’s delivered to Melbourne post-war. His first event appears to be the 11th Rob Roy Hillclimb on 24 November 1946. This car was soon replaced by a second TC which was stripped and tuned.

He contested the 1948 Australian Grand Prix at Point Cook in outer Melbourne in this TC, which was fettled by Reg Nutt. The race is famous for the intense heat of the meeting which forced many of the top runners to retire from the impacts of the heat on either their mount or themselves. By lap 13 Patterson led the race, aided by a pretty good handicap. The car retired from the race, boiled dry on lap 24. The event was won by Frank Pratt’s BMW 328, which like Patterson, was aided and abetted by a good handicap.

Soon after the AGP Patterson and later Australian Grand Prix three times winner Doug Whiteford built a stripped, lightweight, two seater TC Special which had a curvaceous aluminium body made by Bob Baker in Melbourne. The engine was fitted with all the trick bits of the day and was supercharged, a Marshall blower was fed by a 1 3/8 inch SU carburettor at a boost of 10psi. The car was powerful, finned drum brakes were fitted as well as adjustable shock absorbers.

This famous little car, which still exists, first appeared at Rob Roy in January 1949, it’s first race was at Fishermans Bend in March. The car was fast from the start but Patto’s nemesis in under 1500cc events was Ken Wylie’s Austin A40 Spl. The MG first won at Nuriootpa in April 1949.

Back in the Barossa Valley, Patterson contested the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa in South Australia and was on hand to see his friend Whiteford win in ‘Black Bess’ Doug’s Ford V8 Ute based, amazing, special. Patto’s TC blew a head gasket on lap 6 having had a torrid dice with Stan Jones HRG in a preliminary race, Stan did not start the race.

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Patterson and his MG TC Spl at Hell Corner, Bathurst, Easter 1950. Pretty, fast, well driven car (George Reed)

At Bathurst in Easter 1950 he did a lap of  3:17 seconds, the fastest a 1500cc car had been around the demanding mountain circuit. John Medley observed in his ‘Bathurst Bible’ ‘The lightweight green car had an impressive collection of wins to its credit and was probably then Australias fastest MG…the driver was to become one of Australia’s fastest’.

Of great interest to Patterson was the appearance at Bathurst of the first two Coopers in Australia. The cars, MkIV’s, were raced by Keith Martin/Arthur Wylie and Jack Saywell. These ‘very light, 600lbs dry and with 82bhp 995cc JAP motors, all independently sprung MkIV Coopers, were, for their competitors, a taste of tomorrow’ said Medley.

Patterson had a very successful meeting with the TC at Balcombe on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in June 1950 with two wins and two seconds. Not long thereafter the car was sold to Sydney’s Curly Brydon who also did well with the car, developing it further.

For Bill Patterson though, the path was clear, he was off to the UK to race a Cooper in British 500cc F3, the toughest training ground of all at the time. Patto contested the Round Australia Trial in a Holden and a Peugeot, and other than a brief Ferrari flirtation which fell into his lap, he was pretty much a Cooper Man for the rest of his racing career.

After his 1951 season and the continuation of his career with the MkV in Australia covered above, he finally sold the little air-cooled bolide and bought his first Coventry Climax engined Cooper. This mid-fifties period coincided with the commencement of his Holden dealership, let’s spend a moment on that before picking up Patterson’s next Cooper.

The Australian economy boomed in the 1950’s buoyed by the pent up demand of wartime austerity, global demand for our products, wool, wheat and goods produced behind high tariff walls, high levels of migration from war-torn Europe and greater availability of consumer credit. The ‘great Australian dream’ of owning a home and a car were now within reach of larger numbers of people than ever before.

It was in this environment that Bill Patterson and his father (Gerald’s biographical notes make it clear he was a director of Bill Patterson Holden) chose Holden as the marque they would sell and Ringwood as the centre of their ‘Prime Market Area’ they secured from General Motors Holdens. It was an astute choice of location. No doubt Holden were well pleased to have Patterson as a dealer given his and his families profile. Fellow elite Melbourne racers Reg Hunt, Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Bib Stillwell also had, or would have Holden franchises

In 1955 (Bill Patterson Motors Ltd was incorporated on 3 October 1955) Ringwood was very much on the eastern urban fringe of Melbourne (30Km) as the city marched, for the reasons outlined above rapidly in every direction other than into Port Phillip Bay! Surrounding suburbs of Mitcham, Heathmont, Vermont and Croydon were served by better roads into Melbourne and train lines. The middle class were Holdens target market, Bill chose his location wisely. As the local populace and their incomes grew so too did Holdens range of cars, Patterson added BMW to the mix in the 1970’s, another great choice of a marque not well known in Oz, and on the rise.

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Patterson’s dealership at 55 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood in 1959. Holdens are ‘FC’ models, Cooper is the T43 Climax. It might not look so special now but the architect designed showroom was schmick at the time (Wolfgang Seivers)

Patterson’s Ringwood premises were initially modest but by 1959 he had built a state of the art dealership at 55 Maroondah Highway, just at the bottom of the downhill drop below Heatherdale Road, designed by Hassell McConnell Architects, Hassells are still one of Australia’s best architectural outfits, a global one at that. I can well remember as a kid visiting my aunt in Mitcham ‘out in the sticks’ as my father described it, and the impact of Patterson’s big site whenever we were in the area.

The point here is that Patterson, did things well and thoroughly. It helped that he had access to, probably, family working capital but he invested wisely and ran a very strong operation for decades.

In a previous life I worked as a consulting accounting/financial advisor to motor dealers for 7 years or so and worked with over 20 dealers across many franchises, not Patto I hasten to add. They are complex businesses; effectively 5 enterprises under one roof-new cars, used cars, service, parts, plus finance and insurance. Add to that the property aspects.

Lots of people think dealerships are ‘money for jam’. They are not, the space is incredibly competitive and the profit margins thin. The investment in infrastructure is significant. They need to be very well run with great, ongoing vigilance around daily detail to make good money. Patterson was one of Holden’s best dealers for decades, consistently in their Top 15 nationally and the figures were distributed monthly by GM, the peer pressure relentless and ongoing! At the top of the GMH tree, by the way, was often fellow Victorian, former champion racer Reg Hunt, his huge site on the Nepean Highway in Elsternwick well known to many Australian race fans.

Back to the racing. In 1956 Patterson imported a Cooper T39 Climax, #CS/12/56 a sportscar powered by a Coventry Climax SOHC 1500cc engine. The car first raced at the Albert Park Olympic AGP Meeting in November 1956, he managed to roll it at the end of the straight during the Australian Tourist Trophy won by Moss’ works Maserati 300S! Damage was superficial. Quickly repaired the pretty little car won its class and was 3rd outright in the Argus Trophy in the second weekend of the two part meeting.

The car was pretty much unbeatable in its class, Bill took it to Caversham for the 1957 Australian Grand Prix held in WA, Caversham is 16 kilometres from Perth. He stripped a gear in the first heat and, unable to race the car, became relief driver for Lex Davison’s ex-Ascari/Gaze Ferrari 500/625  winning the race with Davo in searing heat. Bill did some laps whilst Davison was treated for the effects of heat before returning to the event.

The win was in somewhat controversial lap scoring circumstances from Stan Jones, who raced solo in his Maser 250F. Patterson was 10th in the 1957 Gold Star Championship, the first year in which this for many years prestigious championship was run. Davison won the award in his Ferrari.

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Patterson in his Cooper T53 Climax, Longford 2 March 1964. The car is painted in his usual subtle but distinctive livery of white with a light blue stripe. He only completed 13 laps of the race won by Graham Hill’s Scuderia Veloce Brabham BT4 Climax (oldracephotos.com)

Patterson raced a succession of Cooper single-seaters and was always regarded as one of the fastest local drivers…

The Cooper T39 sports was sold when Bill bought the ex-works Jack Brabham Cooper T43 Climax #F2/9/57 which Jack brought to Australia to race at Gnoo Blas, Orange in January 1958. Jack sold the car to Bib Stillwell, the first of many cars Jack sold to Bib! Bib sold the car shortly thereafter to fellow Melbourne motor trader Patterson after Stillwell repaired it; he rolled the car at its second meeting in his hands at Bathurst, Easter 1958.

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Patterson’s Cooper T43 Climax chasing Arnold Glass’ Maserati 250F through the Longford Viaduct during the first heat of the 1959 AGP carnival. Whiteford’s Maser 300S won from Glass and Patto. Stan Jones won the GP in his 250F, Glass 3rd and Patto DNS the GP itself having lost a tooth off third gear in this heat (oldracingcars.com)

Bill first raced it at Lowood, Queensland in 1958, and later in the year at Bathurst in the Australian Grand Prix, a great race won by Davison’s evergreen Ferrari 500/625. Bill qualified the 1760cc Climax engined car well, on row 4 amongst much more powerful machinery. But he was out of luck again, this time not taking the start with a blown head gasket.

He retired again at the Melbourne Grand Prix at Albert Park in November 1958 and did not take the start of the Longford 1959 Australian Grand Prix, that race won by Stan Jones’ Maser 250F. Bill was 3rd in his heat but knocked a tooth off 3rd gear preventing a start in the GP itself. Again.

Bill put the car to one side and kept it as a spare which was occasionally raced by Doug Whiteford when he bought a T51 GP Cooper, #F2/15/59, a car supplied less engine in mid-1959. The car was built up in Patterson’s Ringwood dealership by his mechanic, Trevor Hill and made its debut at Port Wakefield in October 1959.

He was 4th in the 1959 Gold Star, using the T43 and new T51 which was fitted with a 2 litre Coventry Climax FPF DOHC engine winning 2 rounds at Port Wakefield and Phillip Island, both in the T51.

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Patterson leads Austin Miller’s Cooper T51 Climax during the 11 December 1960 ‘Lukey Trophy’ at Phillip Island, in his first T51 ‘F2-15-59’. Bill is diving into MG Corner during his winning run (AMS)

He went one better, 3rd in the 1960 Gold Star in the Cooper T51 Climax, the car at one stage won 9 times in a row, not at championship level mind you. The FPF’s capacity was increased to 2.4 litres by Doug Whiteford by the time of the October 1960 Bathurst International meeting. Despite greater consistency Patto won only the Lukey Trophy at Phillip Island in December. He took seconds at the Island in March, Bathurst in October and thirds at Fishermans Bend and Easter Bathurst.

The second place at Bathurst was behind Brabham’s current 2.5 litre T51, Patto was racing his earlier 2.4 litre engined, leaf sprung T51; the drive was talked about for years for its fighting brilliance on this most demanding of road circuits.

Into 1961 the car was fitted with a full, factory 2.5 litre FPF Patto acquired on a trip to the UK, in this spec he set lap records at all of his Gold Star races.

At Lakeside on 16 July 1961 Bill had a huge accident on this very fast circuit, rolling the car, having taken 4 seconds off the lap record earlier in the day and dicing with Stan Jones at the time of the crash. He was badly hurt, the car rooted, albeit the bits which were usable were retained as spares for the replacement, new, T51 Bill bought from Coopers. By then he was well and truly a long-standing ultra-loyal customer!

The replacement car, chassis #F2/5/57 (probably the plate of an old car attached to what was certainly a T51 of current specification) won the national title in 1961…

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A bit less BP and a bit more Cooper would have enhanced this shot! Patto and his victorious 1961 Cooper T51 Climax at Caversham in 1961, a successful weekend with a win in the WA Road Racing Championship (unattributed)

Early in the season Patto was 3rd at Longford in March, a week later going one better with a 2nd to Jack Brabham in a T53 Cooper ‘Lowline’ at Hume Weir circuit at Albury/Wodonga on the NSW/Victorian border. At the following round at the Bathurst Easter meeting Patterson took a great win from Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Arnold Glass, Alec Mildren, David McKay and Noel Hall all in Cooper T51’s. The only other finisher, Queenslander Glynn Scott was 8th in a Cooper T43!

Patterson won again at Lowood in June, winning the Queensland Centenary Road Race Championship from Mildren and Jones.

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Aren’t these Cooper T51’s the prettiest of things. The F1 champion of 1959 is such a contrast with the champion car of 1958, the Ferrari Dino 246! Here Patterson is practising his car at Caversham in August 1959, he practised carrying his usual #9 and raced as #19 (Ken Devine)

Patterson’s boys towed the new Cooper across the continent to Caversham, Western Australia, the effort rewarded with a win in the 1961 WA Road Racing Championship on August 12. The victory also gave him the ’61 Gold Star.

Another long tow to South Australia for the October Australian Grand Prix, at the Mallala airfield circuit, 60Km from Adelaide.

Bib Stillwell had imported a T53 Lowline providing Bill with strong competition. Patterson won his heat in a good start to the weekend and started the race from pole, there was a good deal of ill-feeling amongst the drivers as to time-keeping. McKay got the jump at the start-too much so according to the officials! By the end of lap 1 Patto was in the lead from McKay, Davison, Youl and Stillwell.

Patto pulled away at a rate of 1.5 seconds per lap, McKay was penalised a minute on lap 20, 5 laps later Pattersons Cooper was misfiring. Patterson stopped twice, but returned after the problem, vapour lock, was solved. McKay led Davison on the road but was effectively 3rd with his penalty.

Patto rejoined the race a lap behind, finished 4th and set fastest lap…

Davison again took a contentious AGP win, in a Cooper T51 borrowed from Stillwell, this time the controversy over an alleged jump start by McKay, the resultant penalty cost him the race. The shame though was Bill’s retirement, it was a race which was ‘his’, by that stage Patto was also very much a master of his craft, a driver of great experience, speed, and ‘tiger’. He was a man who was ‘high born’ but boy he drove with hunger!

With his two wins at Bathurst and Lowood, Patto won the Gold Star title by 36 points from Lex Davison’s Cooper T51 and Bib Stillwell’s T51 and T53.

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Patterson and his boys after winning the WA Road Racing Championship at Caversham in August 1961, Cooper T51 ‘F2-2-57’ or ‘F2-5-57′(Ken Devine)

Into 1962 he raced on but the T51’s raced by Patto and others were becoming less competitive as chassis design rapidly advanced, the Brabham BT4 probably the pick of the ‘Intercontinental’ cars at the time. 3rd was therefore a good result in the Gold Star in a season in which he raced sporadically.

He was first Australian resident in the Sandown International, the circuits opening meeting in March 1962, was 3rd in the Bathurst 100 at Easter not racing again until the Victorian Road Race Championship, at Sandown his home circuit in September where he was 3rd behind Davison and Stillwell’s later Cooper T53’s.

Patterson contested the AGP at Caversham in November, 4th a good result behind the latest equipment but the T51 was three laps behind McLaren’s winning Cooper T62, the car Bruce used to good effect in the 1963 NZ and Australian Internationals.

Patterson was 6th in the Gold Star in 1963 but only raced his ‘Lowline’ Cooper T53 Climax sporadically. He bought this car from Bib Stillwell, #F1/5/61, the car probably a chassis used by Brabham and Surtees in Intercontinental events in the UK in mid 1961. Bib raced it in 1962, a win in the Mallala Gold Star round in October his best result.

Bill’s first race in the T53 was the Sandown International in March where he was a DNF with gearbox failure. He raced it again at Sandown in September, very close to home for Bill, the circuit was only 10 km from his Ringwood Holden Dealership, and retired again from the Victorian Road Racing Championships. The speed was still there though, he was 3rd in the Hordern Trophy at Warwick Farm in December.

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Patterson in the Cooper T51 Climaxes, the double rear wishbone chassis. He is in the Caversham form up area in the August 1961 WA Road racing Championship weekend, a race he won. Syd Negus Cooper Repco Holden and Plymouth Spl in the background (Ken Devine)

Patterson raced on into 1964, he was 41 and dealing with a growing business and it’s attendant pressures. There was a credit squeeze in 1961 caused by the federal governments responses to the growth of inflation at the time; it knocked the socks out of the economy and many highly geared motor traders, not least his friend Stan Jones, so perhaps that was a factor. Mind you, the Patterson family wealth meant that Bill’s access to working capital would have been greater than most.

In any event, he contested the Sandown and Longford rounds of the inaugural Tasman Series in 1964, in fact Longford was his last championship drive. For one who had raced so long, his was a relatively quiet retirement.

I well remember one drive when Bill raced/demonstrated one of his Coopers in the ‘Tribute To Fangio’ meeting at Sandown in 1978, the YouTube footage of that ‘race’ between Brabham’s Brabham BT19, his 1966 championship winning chassis and Fangio in a Benz W196 well worth a look.

Longford was the end of a long career which commenced way back in ’46 at 23 years of age.

Patterson focused on his growing business starting a long period as the sponsor or supporter of other drivers by acquiring the ex-McLaren/Mayer Cooper T70 Climax which was raced by John McDonald for a couple of seasons before its sale to Don O’Sullivan in 1967. This is the car now owned by Adam Berryman in Melbourne, it’s history chronicled not so long ago in my article about Tim Mayer.

Cooper historian Stephen Dalton observes that Bill Patterson ‘had the longest run of anyone using Cooper chassis, starting in 1951 in England/Europe through to 1966 when he was running McDonald’. Patterson’s business interests centred around his large Ringwood, outer eastern Melbourne, car and truck dealerships ‘Patterson Holden’ / ‘Patterson Cheney’ and later ‘Bill Patterson BMW’, as covered earlier in this article.

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Henk Woelders in the first of two Elfin 600 Ford F2 cars he raced with Patterson’s support. This is the first, a 600B at Calder in 1969 not too long before the ban which outlawed clever wings like this. Very much a movable aerodynamic device, the wing could be feathered on the straights to minimise unwanted drag (Bob Mills Collection)

Drivers Patterson supported included Henk Woelders who won an Australian F2 Championship in an Elfin 600E Ford and Peter Brock’s Holden and BMW Le Mans Touring Car campaigns. He also sponsored Alan Jones 1977 Rothmans F5000 Series assault in Teddy Yip’s Lola T332 Chev. Patterson was a mainstay of support for the Holden Dealer Team in its various incarnations, the performance of that team in production or production based touring car races important brand positioning for The General over the years.

Many elite drivers have also been motor traders across the globe, in Australia there are quite a few who put more back into the sport than they took out, Patto was one of those. Bob Jane, Alec Mildren, David McKay and Ron Hodgson are others who spring to mind, not the only ones mind you.

Even though his businesses had been highly profitable down the decades, in his later years his fortunes changed. He sold out of his dealerships and invested in an air transport business which serviced the islands in Bass Strait between the Victorian mainland and Tasmania. Unfortunately the business was unprofitable and sustained considerable losses.

Bill lived comfortably with his wife albeit on a different level than that to which he was accustomed, he died on 10 January 2010 at Karinya Grove aged care facility, in the well to do Melbourne bayside suburb of Sandringham aged 86.

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Where Does Bill Patterson Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Champion Drivers?…

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual 1964’ rated the Top 20 as Frank Matich, Bib Stilwell, John Martin and Leo Geoghegan and then in no particular order Lex Davison, Bill Patterson, Bob Jane, Ian Geoghegan, John Youl, Greg Cusack, John French, Brian Muir, Norm Beechey, Peter Manton, Brian Foley, Harry Firth, Bruce McPhee, Keith Rilstone, Jack Hunnam and Glynn Scott. Depressing is that about 70% of this lot are Taxi Drivers, that is Touring Car racers.

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Bill Patterson, Cooper T39 Climax, Fishermans Bend, Victoria probably in February 1958. Car is registered and would have made a quick road car! (Bradbury West)

Of Patterson the annual said ‘Ah Patterson. Still the most spectacularly fast of all Australians, Bill Patterson races when he feels like it and always uses all the road and part of the verge. In the past he has been renowned for some fiery displays on the grid and past it; in a competitive car  he is on his day, always the man to beat’.

Lex Davison in his Australian Motorsports magazine column wrote of Patto in relation to the 1963 Hordern Trophy at Warwick Farm ‘…meanwhile our fastest driver, Bill Patterson, lacking recent activity, was rough and unpolished’.

David McKay, racer, team owner and journalist always described Bill in his columns as ‘The Hare’ to indicate his outright pace.

Patterson proved he could ‘cut it’ in his brief F3 stint in UK/Europe in 1951, in many ways it’s a pity, given his growing wealth that he didn’t acquire an outright contending car when he returned to Oz then. To have seen Patto go toe to toe in the mid-fifties in equivalent machinery to Davison, Jones, Hunt, Stillwell, Mildren, Whiteford, Gray, McKay and others would have been really something.

Whatever the considerations Patterson always got more than the best from his cars and without doubt was ‘Top 3’ in Australia for a season or three in an era, late fifties to early sixties, when there was increasing depth amongst the front rank drivers and greater equipment parity than had been the case in the decades before. And ran a very successful business whilst doing it…

Etcetera: London to Moscow tow…

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(Ken Devine)

I chucled when i saw this fine shot by Ken Devine of Bill’s Cooper T51 and its ‘Rice’ Trailer in the Caversham paddock, Western Australia in August 1961.

From Patterson’s Ringwood base to Caversham trip is about 3440 Km, from Australia’s East to West Coast, London to Moscow is only 2870Km. The road then was a shocker too, the Eyre Highway was not much more than a track in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the West Australian section was sealed in 1969 but the South Aussies didn’t do their bit until 1976.

It would have been a long, painful, difficult drive for the mechanics, the driver of course flew by Vickers Viscount or some such…

Bibliography…

Rob Saward The Nostalgia Forum, oldracephotos.com, State Library of South Australia, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, John Medley ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’, Graham Howard and Ors ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’

Special thanks to ace researcher and Cooper historian Stephen Dalton for his assistance in identifying or confirming venues, dates of race meetings and which Cooper is which! Any errors are mine.

Photo Credits…

State Library of South Australia, Bob Thomas, George Thomas, Ken Devine, George Reed, oldracephotos.com, Bradbury West, Wolfgang Seivers, Bob Mills Collection, Australian Motorsports magazine

Tailpiece: Patterson’s Cooper T51 6th leads Bib Stillwell T53 3rd and Angus Hyslop T53 4th into Longford Corner during the South Pacific Championship at Longford won by John Surtees T53 in 1962…

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(oldracephotos.com)

 

 

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Brabham, Cooper T23 Bristol, Altona, 9 March 1954 (SLV)

Jack Brabham thrilled a crowd of over 12000 with his Cooper Bristol’s speed during the inaugural car meeting of the new Altona circuit in Melbourne’s inner west on 9 March 1954…

Brabham made the switch from speedway to circuit racing in, one of the characteristics of his driving style was the ‘Brabham Crouch’ over the wheel, its much in evidence down the years and very much present at the 2 1/4 mile Altona track.

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Brabham crouch, Cooper Bristol, Altona 1954 (SLV)

Jack set a lap record of 1:50, an average speed of 73.5 mph, the Cooper was timed at nearly 130 mph. Stan Jones won the F Libre open event after Jack’s Cooper sheared the magneto drive of its Bristol engine. ‘The duels between Brabham and Jones Cooper 1100 were a feature of the meeting, the brilliant cornering of the latter helping him hold the bigger faster car’ The Age newspaper reported.

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Many of the noted racers of the day entered the meeting; Jones, Reg Smith, John O’Dea and Lex Davison in 1100 Coopers and Bill Patterson in a 500. Cec Warren’s Maserati 4CLT, Ted Gray’s Alta Ford, Tom Hawkes Allard, Doug Whieford in his Ford Spl ‘Black Bess’ as well as Lex Davison’s HWM Jaguar, it won the AGP at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast, later in the year completed a strong line-up

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Aerial view of the Altona Circuit and Williamstown horse racing course taken in 1958 after the circuits closure , at the top of the shot is Port Phillip Bay (SLV)

Over the years there was motor racing at Point Cook (one race only, the 1948 AGP on the airforce base) Fishermans Bend and Altona, they are all in the ‘same part of the world’, respectively 26/6/16 Km from Melbourne’s CBD. Of the three, Altona was the least successful, only six meetings were held.

Well known Melbourne racer/businessmen Stewart and Neil Charge invested between 35000-40000 pounds in the venture. They acquired land on the west side of Millers Road transforming ‘ a swamp into a GP track…they formed the Altona Motor Racing Co with preliminary work to commence in two weeks’ the ‘Williamstown Chronicle’ reported on 2 April 1953.

Neil Charge took leave from the family trucking business to pull the enormous project of creating the facility, ‘the track was built from fly-ash from the South Melbourne gasworks’

The swamp was converted into ‘Cherry Lake’, later reports suggested the promoters intention to ‘dredge the lake (deeper) to form a speedboat circuit’. Six meetings year were planned with local charities to benefit to the tune of about 4000 pounds per year.

Somewhat prophetically ‘The Chronicle’ noted the circuit may pose new problems for the promoters of Phillip Island, the expectation that Altona because of its close proximity to Melbourne may draw larger crowds. In the event, Phillip Island is still with us, despite a few ups and downs over the decades and Altona is long gone and largely forgotten!

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‘Williamstown Chronicle’ 19 February 1954

Altona was completed on time, its first meeting, for bikes, was opened by former Australian Olympic cyclist, Federal Parliamentarian, Sir Hubert Opperman on 21 February 1954…

Before the opening meeting the Williamstown Chronicle described the circuit as the first of its type in Australia, the Charges ‘have laid more than 2 1/4 miles of all weather bitumen fully enclosed by a steel safety fence…future plans provide for stands, changing rooms, fully equipped racing pits and permanent refreshment rooms’. The opening included a novelty match race between Jones Cooper and F Sinclair’s Vincent Spl sidecar, its not reported who won!

Car racing events were promoted by the Victorian Sporting Car Club, there were problems with the surface from the start. The track was ‘re-surfaced and built up where necessary after the recent ‘consolidation’ meeting. The track surround is safer with the removal of boulders and an encircling safety fence’. Edges were levelled to give a safe emergency run-off area. The Argus reported the improvements cost 4000 pounds with speeds expected to be higher by 20% compared with the first meeting.

In a 2013 interview Altona owner Neil Charge said that had the investors in the consortium, (there were 6 he said, not just he and his brother as reported by the media at the time) known that Albert Park was to be used for motor racing they would not have proceeded with their investment. International readers will understand the inherent beauty of Albert Park and its proximity to Melbourne’s CBD. Imagine the exact visual opposite; what was then flat, featureless, muddy or dusty, industrial land on the cities outskirts. In short, in a popularity contest close to Melbourne’s CBD, Albert Park wins hands down every time from a spectators perspective.

That the Charge brothers didn’t know about Albert Park as a racing possibility is a little hard to fathom, they were well connected Melbourne businessmen and stalwarts of the local racing community, which was even more incestuous then than now.

Other issues which inhibited the circuits success was the converted swamp land upon which it was built, land consolidation not understood as well then as now. The land continually subsided making the track difficult to maintain and dangerous, which is the reputation it gained from competitors. Entry numbers suffered as a consequence. If you can’t attract the cars, the ‘punters’ don’t come to watch and so a bit of a downward spiral started.

The Phillip Island Auto Racing Club in its own history relating the trials and tribulations of getting their circuit running have this to say; ‘ One example of a circuit hurriedly built and opened was Altona in 1954. With sharp corners, narrow straights and a dangerous lack of shoulders running along the edge of the circuit the track started to deteriorate from the very first (motor cycle) race. With four cars rolling over the same spot and several parts of the track crumbling to powder, it was clear the track was doomed from the beginning. This was despite an average lap speed of below 65mph’

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Cherry Lake, Altona in modern times, the industry of the Inner West is in the distance (unattributed)

Ultimately the Altona investors made the commercial decision to sell the land, the acquirer, local authorities who used it as parkland. Charge said the transaction resulted in a small profit which must have been some kind of miracle given the sum invested and paucity of spectator numbers in the 6 meetings run. Now the area is a residential one, the local amenity very much enhanced by Cherry Lake!

There are few photos to be easily found of this interesting track, if any Australian readers have an image or three you would like to share I am sure we would all like to see them! Please get in touch.

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Hand colored print of the Redex Spl prior to the 1954 AGP at Southport on Queenslands Gold Coast. (Kev Bartlett reckons its Mt Druitt not Southport) The Bristol engines front camshaft bearing turned in its housing blanking off the drilling for lubricating oil, seizing le moteur. Stub exhausts interesting, not they way they were raced in the UK (Nye/Brabham)

Jack’s Cooper T23 Bristol…

I have done the ‘Cooper Bristol to death’ in terms of articles written, check these links out for information and photos about these important, wonderful cars, rather than me repeat it all again;

The shots of Jack’s car do beg the question about its history though, important as it was in his development as a driver. His success in it directly lead to his decision to try his hand in England in 1955, in fact he regretted selling the car in Oz, carefully developed as it was. Peter Whitehead’s Cooper Alta, the car he bought and raced when he first arrived in the UK was not a patch on the car he left behind.

The summary of the car is based on an article from John Blanden’s book, that research largely based on Doug Nye’s Cooper tome albeit its somewhat truncated. The best source of information on Jack’s formative years is the biography he wrote with Doug Nye, picking that book up always brings a smile to my face.

JB publicised ‘The Jack Brabham Story’ in Melbourne shortly after it was published and in the Friday before the 2004 AGP. He spoke at a function at the Windsor Hotel, the book was sold after the event and autographed by the champ for those prepared to stand in a long queue. My youngest son was 8, the only kid amongst 300 businessmen at the breakfast.

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Windsor Hotel menu of the day! I wish i had the presence of mind to get Jack to sign this as well as the book! Sponsors are the Age Newspaper and Dymocks, a book retailer

Local ‘motor-noter’ and TV commentator Will Hagon was MC for the event, they used a question and answer format which worked well. Hagon was a great choice as the ‘right questions’ were asked rather than the crap someone with no knowledge of the sport, ‘how fast did she go Jack?’ ask.

Brabham was an absolute prince in the way he dealt with Nick when we collected his signature. ‘Bic’ still remembers that gig, Jack and the long day we had together strolling the wide open spaces of Albert Park. We still do the wide open spaces of Albert Park but all three sons are as interested in the beers on dad as much as the racing! You would think I would get one racer outta them given the number of events they did with me racing my Historic FF!? (Lola T342 at that time)

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Brabham at Parramatta Speedway on 26 February 1954. Harley V twin engined speedcar owned by Spike Jennings modelled on Jack’s old car (Fairfax)

Brabham cut his racing teeth in the immediate post-war years on Sydney Speedways. By the early fifties he was essentially making his living on his prizemoney, racing three times a week made it difficult to keep up with the workload of his machine shop as well. He ran his Speedcar in some hillclimbs, and, fitted with front brakes won the 1951 Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy in outer Melbourne.

Beating the road racers with his Speedway car caused quite a stir, but also ‘put his name and capabilities up in lights’. He was effectively a professional in an amateur sport (road racing in Oz) well before he left for the UK. It was during these years he met Ron and Austin Tauranac who were racing their Ralts at the time, RT of course the other half of the ‘BT’ partnership.

Jack enjoyed the hillclimbs which convinced him to give circuits a go. In quick succession he acquired and raced Coopers Mk 4 and 5. To fund his road racing he sold his speedcar, continuing to race on the dirt tracks in a car owned by Spike Jennings with whom he shared the prizemoney.

The big step up was purchase of the Cooper Bristol.

Chassis ‘CB/Mk2/1/53’ was despatched to Australia as a new car to the order of David Chambers, prior to the cars arrival by sea, he committed suicide as a consequence of the financial trauma in which he was engulfed. The car was offered for sale on behalf of his deceased estate, Brabham’s bid of 4250 pounds, supported by some funds from his father and Redex, his sponsor, was the successful one.

Jack recounts how, upon testing the new car at Mt Druitt, an old WW2 emergency landing strip just outside Sydney for the first time, the Bristol engine lost oil pressure within a few laps. A subsequent tear-down revealed a bent crank and badly worn bearings. It soon became apparent that the new car was thoroughly ‘shop-soiled’, it had been raced by its first owner, John Barber in Argentina. Upon return to the UK, it was given a ‘cut and polish’ and then despatched to Chambers as a new car. It was not the first or last time ‘colonials’ were shafted by ‘nasty furriners’ in the UK and Europe a long way from the South Pacific!

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Jack fettles the Cooper in his Penshurst workshop. He recounts the story of welding a crack under the engine, the torch ignited some fuel vapours. Brabham’s extinguished was in another locked shed, he ripped the lock off in his bare hands to get the ext and doused the fire but ‘that day i could have lost everything’ (Nye)

When Jack carefully assessed the Bristol engine, having raced the car a few times, he couldn’t believe the hefty flywheel and quickly modified it along the lines of the Harley Davidson clutch assembly used on his Speedcar. He lightened the clutch/flywheel assembly from around 34Kg to 7kg thereby vastly improving the responsiveness of the engine and its reliability. The long, thin crank of the Bristol engine was a weakness because of the vast weight of the flywheel assembly. Further improvements to the engine were made with the assistance of British pre-war racer Frank Ashby who had moved to Sydney’s Whale Beach.

Jack had already replaced the Bristol’s Solex carbs with ex-Holden Stromberg units which were modified further after Ashhby’s suggestion to incorporate smoothly shaped bell mouths to aid air entry with consequent increases in power. Jacks hands-on engineering capabilities were part of his ‘competitive back of tricks and unfair advantage’ which never left him.

Brabham quickly established himself as one of the men to beat with the Cooper winning many events. His battles with the nascent Confederation of Australian Motorsport and their ‘no advertising on cars’ policy became  a constant thorn in his side, RedeX’ commercial involvement essential to his ability to run the car.

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Brabham at Altona again in 1954 (SLV)

In Europe and the UK the ‘no advertising thing’ didn’t seem to hold the sport back, there were enough wealthy individuals to make up the numbers and manufacturers to give worthy drivers without wealth a steer. Here in the mid fifties the drivers of ‘ANF1’ cars were either ‘silvertails’ like Lex Davison, mind you he made much more than he inherited or ‘self made’ blokes, a whole swag of whom were motor traders (Mildren, Jones, Stillwell, Patterson, Hunt, Glass and others, I’ve included Patto and Stillwell on this list but they too had family $ behind them from the start). The point is it was RedeX money which helped fund Brabham’s campaign, without it he probably wouldn’t have achieved what he did. What am I saying? The Americans goddit right from the start with a totally commercial approach which allowed those with talent access to sponsors funds to help them progress.

The cars race debut was at Leyburn, Queensland on 23 August, he won the ’53 Qld Road racing Championship. Brabham set quickest time in the NSW GP at Gnoo Blas, Orange but non-started the 1953 AGP at Albert Park after he ran the Bristol’s rear camshaft bearings in practice due to excessive friction.

Brabham contested the 1954 New Zealand Grand Prix, finishing 6th, meeting Tony Gaze, Reg Parnell, Peter Whitehead, Ken Wharton and a VERY young Bruce McLaren. Jack stayed in the McLaren home, Leslie McLaren a local racer and garage owner. The race was won by Stan Jones Maybach .

The car continued to do well throughout Australia, his clashes with Davison’s HWM Jag, Dick Cobden’s Ferrari and Jones Maybach were highlights of the period.

At the ’55 NZGP meeting two visitors from the UK, Dunlop Racing Manager Dick Jeffrey and Dean Delamont, Competition Manager of the RAC, convinced him he should try his hand in the UK the following year. By the time he alighted the ship on the journey back to Sydney he determined to do just that, and the rest as they say is history.

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Stan Jones in the ex-Brabham Cooper T23 Bristol, Altona, date uncertain (unattributed)

Stan Jones was the eager buyer of the Cooper having destroyed his new Maybach 2 whilst leading the 1954 AGP. Stan was lucky to survive a very high speed journey backwards through Southport’s trees. Whilst Charlie Dean and his band of merry, Repco men designed and built Maybach 3, Stan first raced the CB in the Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend on 19 February. The nose of the car was slightly modified before his next race at Albert Park in March 1955.

Stan retained ownership and had Ern Seeliger race at Bathurst Easter 1955, Ern was 2nd in the ‘Bathurst 100.’ Jones was forever buying and selling racing cars, ‘moving metal’ was his business after all! Have a read of my article about the champion racer if you are unfamiliar with Alan’s father and his own impressive racing CV;

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

Later in 1955 Jones sold the car to ‘Ecurie Corio’s’  Tom Hawkes, the Geelong businessman raced the car for 3 years before leaving for Europe.

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Hawkes in the Cooper T23 Holden at Port Wakefield, SA, Labor Day meeting 1957. Top shot! (Geoff Chennells)

Hawkes first race was the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield, winning a heat but DNF in the race itself with fuel feed problems. Tom then modified the car by lengthening the nose, altered the front suspension and most importantly fitted a Holden ‘Grey Motor’ incorporating a Phil Irving Repco ‘Hi-Power’ head. The car raced in this form at Albert Park in March 1956 and over the next 2 years in this spec.

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Cooper T23, with its neat 6 cylinder Holden Repco engine Gnoo Blas or Bathurst (Ian McKay)

The car was very fast in this form, not quite an outright contender amongst the ‘heavy metal’ of 250F’s, Ferrari 500/625 and Ted Gray’s V8 engined Tornado but still quick enough to finish 2nd in the 1957 Gold Star series to Davison. Those points were amassed by finishing 4th in the Victorian Trophy, 2nd in the Qld Road Racing Championship, 2nd in the NSW Road Racing Championship. He was a terrific 3rd in the 1958 AGP at Bathurst.

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Same meeting as the pic above, longer in the nose and all the prettier and quicker for it. Gnoo Blas or Bathurst (Ian McKay Collection)

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Tom Hawkes, Cooper T23 Holden Repco, about as pretty as racer of the period can get, and mighty fast in ‘Hi-po’ Repco head form (Ellis French)

Ace historian/researcher Stephen Dalton dates these Phillip Island shots (above and below) of Tom’s T23 as during the October 1957 meeting, note the mixed grid of MG T Spls. The shots show just how sleek the car has become in its ‘definitive’ later Repco headed Holden form. It may not have quite been an outright car in terms of outright performance by then but Hawkes did a mighty fine job of extracting all the car could give.

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Next to Hawkes Cooper T23 Holden on the right is Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins, Porsche Spl and Ted Gray in the Tornado Chev at left, Unlimited Racing Car event, October 1957, Phillip Island (Ellis French)

When Hawkes left for the UK at the end of 1958 he retained the car but tasked Murray Rainey to fit a Chev Corvette 283cid ‘small block’ V8 into the Coopers lissom spaceframe chassis.

This job was completed by Earl Davey Milne who bought the car in April 1962. Gearbox used was  Borg Warner T10, a slippery diff was also fitted and the bodywork modified. The car is still retained by his family 50 years later. Because it never raced ‘in period’ in this form the Cooper is ineligible for a CAMS ‘Certificate of Description’ and appropriate logbook.

The car appears in demonstrations from time to time, looking immaculate, its importance as the first Mk2 CB and its role in the ‘Brabham Ascent’ appreciated by all enthusiasts.

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The ‘Cooper Corvette’ ex-Brabham T23 driven by Troy Davey-Milne at Albert Park  in one of the historic demonstrations during the AGP carnival (Davey-Milne)

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Chev 283 Corvette ‘small block’ with 2 big Holleys atop, installation very neatly done ‘in period’ but ‘Cooper Corvette’ never raced in this form. Albert Park 2006 (Davey-Milne)

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Troy Davey-Milne in #CB/Mk2/1-53 Cooper T23 Chev at the wet Geelong Sprints, Ritchie Boulevard in November 1995 (Stephen Dalton)

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Still a handsome car, Troy Davey Milne at Albert Park in 2006 (Davey-Milne)

Etcetera…

Probably too arcane a topic for international readers but some Australian enthusiasts may find this short photo based article about the Charge Brothers on the great ‘Aussie Homestead’ site, of interest. None of the photos of the brothers cars are at their Altona circuit. In fact they are everywhere in Victoria but the place which is not what I wanted at all! Click on this link to have a look;

http://aussieroadracing.homestead.com/Charge-Bros.html

altona prog

Photo Credits…

State Library of Victoria, Stephen Dalton Collection, Fairfax Media, Troy Davey-Milne, Ellis French, Ian McKay Collection, Geoff Chennells

Bibliography…

The Age 3/3 and 9/3 ’54, Williamstown Chronicle 2/4/53, 19/2/54, The Argus 17/2/54, 28/4/54

Doug Nye ‘The Jack Brabham Story’

Tailpiece…

a brabs

JB again @ Altona in 1954 (SLV)

 

stan jones

(Pat Smith/oldracephotos.com)

Stan muscling his big Maserati 250F around Longford in 1959 en-route to his one and only Australian Grand Prix win…

The win was timely, he was monstered all the way by Len Lukey’s Cooper T43 2 litre, the way of the future of course. ‘Twas the last AGP win for a front engined car, mind you Lex Davison came within metres of winning in an Aston Martin DBR4 at Lowood, Queensland in 1960.

Stan’s was a well deserved victory, he and his team lead by Otto Stone had a car which was consistently and reliably fast. Perhaps his driving now had a more measured approach to match the fire and pace which was never in doubt.

The Stan Jones story is an interesting one, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

stan

Jones at the wheel of his Maser, 1956 AGP Albert Park. Lovely portrait of the guy and looking quite the pro driver he was! (unattributed)

Jones gave his Gold Star defence a red hot go in 1959 having won the title in 1958, he raced four cars in his quest.

He didn’t race in the season opening event in Orange, NSW. Jack Brabham won in a Cooper T51, but he wheeled out his Maybach for Fishermans Bend’s ‘Victoria Trophy’ on 22 February. He finished second t0 Alec Mildren’s Cooper T43.

Stan hadn’t raced the Maybach for years but had retained it. His friend and fellow racer Ern Seeliger evolved the car by replacing the Maybach engines which had been at the core of Maybach’s 1-3 with a Chev Corvette 283cid V8. The car also had a De Dion rear end and other clever modifications.

He swapped back into the Maser, winning the AGP at Longford on 2 March.

maybach

Stan in the big, now blue Maybach 4 Chev beside Alec Mildren’s Cooper T43 Climax at fairly desolate Port Wakefield, SA, March 1959. (Kevin Drage)

He switched back to the Maybach for the ‘SA Trophy’ at ‘Port Wakefield’ on March 28, winning the race. Crazily, the next round of the title was at Bathurst on 30 March, two days later. Very hard for contestants to make that trip from SA to Central NSW now, let alone with the road system of 1959!

Stan flew to Bathurst to drive the Maser. Whilst he won his heat he had engine dramas in the final and failed to finish, victory was taken by Kiwi Ross Jensen in another Maserati 250F.

He used the Maybach again at Lowood on June 14, he was third, then swapped back to the Maser for the next round, again at Lowood on 30 August, hitting a strawbale and failed to finish.

The reasons for the choice of car at each meeting would be interesting to know but are probably a function of vehicle availability and suitability. Which was the primary and which the secondary factor meeting to meeting no doubt varies…

‘Mid-engined inevitability’ was clear though despite none of the Australian Cooper exponents being able to secure a full 2.5 litre FPF Coventry Climax engine…yet. The ‘mechanical mice’ as Lex Davison christened the Coopers were only going to get quicker.

Whilst his fellow competitors were back at Port Wakefield for the 12 October meeting Stan was doing a deal with Bib Stillwell to buy his Cooper T51 2.2 FPF, chassis ‘F2-20-59’, the first of several T51’s Stan raced.

stan

Stan Jones, Cooper T51 Climax, Caversham, WA October 24 1959. (Dave Sullivan Album)

He soon got the hang of the car, after all he had been an ‘air-cooled’ Cooper exponent earlier in the decade, finishing second to Len Lukey’s Cooper at Caversham, WA.

jones and lukey

The Jones #3 Cooper T51 beside Len Lukey’s earlier model T43, Caversham August 1959. Lukey the Gold Star winner in 1959 driving both Cooper T43 and T23 Bristol. (Dave Sullivan Album)

The final rounds of Australia’s longest ever Gold Star series were Phillip Island’s ‘Westernport Cup’ and ‘Phillip Island Trophy’ races on 22 November and 13 December respectively.

Jones brought his ‘roster of cars’ to four for the year when he drove Ern Tadgell’s Sabakat (Lotus 12 Climax) after damaging his Cooper in a collision with Lukey. The Cooper was too badly damaged to start, as was Lukey’s but Stan, very sportingly was lent the Sabakat by Tadgell.

Lukey won the 1959 title from Alec Mildren by 2 points with Jones a distant third. Mildren’s time would come in 1960 with fabulous AGP and Gold Star wins in a new Cooper T51 Maserati he and his team built over the summer.

Sadly it was the ‘last full-blown’ Gold Star campaign for Jones, economic pressures from 1960 on meant he did a few title rounds but was not a serious title contender, although still a tough competitor in any individual race he entered.

jones cooper

Stan settles into his Cooper T51 at Caversham. (Dave Sullivan Album)

Photo Credits…

Pat Smith/Oldracephotos;  http://www.oldracephotos.com/content/home/

Dave Sullivan Album, Kevin Drage

Tailpiece…

equipe stan

Equipe Jones at Albert Park during the 1956 AGP won by Moss’ 250F. International truck and the ‘Rice Trailer’, was the ‘ducks guts’, still a few of these around and highly prized (unattributed)

Finito…

 

bib

Bib Stillwell’s new fangled Cooper T43 Climax leads Stan Jones olde world Maserati 250F off Long Bridge towards Newry Corner, Longford 3 March 1958…

Ted Gray’s Lou Abraham’s owned Australian Special, ‘Tornado 2 Chev’ took the win in ‘The Longford Trophy’. There was life in front engined cars yet, Jones took the 1959 Australian Grand Prix at Longford in his fabulous Maserati, albeit assisted by the absence of 2.5 litre Climax engined Coopers, that would change soon enough.

Stillwell was still learning his craft, his time at the top came in the sixties with four Australian championships ‘on the trot’ from 1962 to 1965…

Introduction…

As usual photo’s have stimulated the article, this time a great series of shots Lindsay Ross of oldracephotos.com posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ of the Tasmanian event. The fact that Tornado won it made that great Australian Special; equal only to the Charlie Dean/Stan Jones Maybach perhaps?, the main thrust of the article.

I didn’t so much see the Tornado as hear it for the first time; i was at Sandown in the 1970’s. I heard what i thought was an F5000 on circuit, in fact ’twas Tornado, small block, injected Chev V8 powered. I made a bee-line for the car in the paddock and marvelled at the smarts behind its construction and the ‘balls of steel’ of the fella who raced it in period.

Other tangents are the Tornado’s pilot, Ted Gray about whom little has been written. Also the 1958 Gold Star series and AGP which he deserved to, should the planets have been better aligned, won!

stns car fettled

(Walkem Collection)

Otto Stone, leaning over the Maser’s engine and John Sawyer fettle Stan Jones’ 250F in the Longford paddock. Jones’ performances in the car improved once Stone started preparing it. By 1958 they understood the Italian stallion’s nuances and Stan’s driving was a little more of a ‘percentage game’ than a ‘win or bust’ approach. Dividends were Gold Star victory in 1958 and AGP win in 1959.

glass

Arnold Glass in his ex-works/Reg Parnell Ferrari 555 Super Squalo. He was 3rd ahead of Doug Whiteford and Len Lukey. The bucolic pleasures and ever-present dangers of Longford readily apparent (oldracephotos.com)

The entry for the third round of the Australian Drivers ‘Gold Star’ Championship race was one of great depth for the day and reflected competitor interest in Longford, allocated a round of the championship for the first time that year…

Arnold Glass had raced his Super Squalo since November 1957, having bought the car off John McMillan who raced it for a short time when sold to him by Reg Parnell. The car was an ex-works 1955 555 Super Squalo. I wrote about it a while back, click here to read the article; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

miller and patterson

Austin Millers Cooper T41Climax FWB 1.5 Climax ahead of Bill Patterson’s Cooper T39 Climax (oldracephotos.com)

Coopers were starting to arrive in Australia in numbers, the transition from front engined Grand Prix cars and Australian Specials to ‘reasonably priced’ mid-engined cars, the first of which were Coopers was underway.

Jack Brabham won the first mid-engined AGP victory with his Cooper T40 Bristol at Port Wakefield in 1955, but that was a lucky win and flattered to deceive, at the time anyway.

By March 1958 Stirling Moss had won Cooper’s first World Championship GP win in Argentina, by the end of the year the ‘paradigm shift’ was pretty clear, despite the lack of a 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine.

doug and arnold

Whiteford, Maserati 300S #4 and Glass, Ferrari 555 Super Squalo in the Longford form-up area (Walkem Collection)

Doug Whiteford’s ex-works Maser 300S was an outright contender in Formula Libre championship events in Australia when he first bought it after the 1956 Olympic GP meeting, won by Stirling Moss in a 250F, at Albert Park. Despite Doug’s artistry behind the wheel, he was still one of the countries best drivers, the Maser was finding the going tough with so many fast single-seaters around by 1958.

Arnold Glass was not of the same calibre or experience as Whiteford but drove the Ferrari well and shone in 1959 when he acquired the ex-Hunt/Stillwell 250F, which was a more forgiving and faster car.

Lou Abraham’s Melbourne built Tornado Chev was one of the greatest of Australian Specials of the 1950’s. The big V8 engined, ladder frame chassis car, capably driven by Ted Gray was easily capable of taking the Gold Star and the AGP at Bathurst in 1958 with more luck and reliability. It was to be a mixed but successful Tasmanian weekend for the team.

The 1958 Longford Trophy…

tornado

Ted Gray in the victorious, big, blue, booming Tornado 2 Chev, bellowing its way thru the beautiful Tasmanian countryside. Longford 1958 (oldracephotos)

The thrill of seeing some fast cars from the mainland attracted circa 40000 raceday spectators despite the possibility of rain.

Ted Gray was in bed with ‘flu, so Geelong’s Tom Hawkes did a few laps in the Tornado. Things got worse for the team in early practice on raceday when the cars gearbox failed. With the aid of  Hawkes and a Ford truck gearbox from a wreckers yard, Lou Abrahams and his crew replaced the unit in time to record a nominal practice time at the rear of a sports car race. Alec Mildren damaged his Cooper in a preliminary race so only 6 cars faced the starter for the 54 mile Longford Trophy race, if the race lacked quantity of starters it certainly had quality.

Bib Stillwell’s new Cooper Climax got the jump from Stan Jones’ Maser 250F, Gray’s Tornado, Arnold Glass’ Ferrari, Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol and Doug Whiteford’s Maserati.

jones 2

Stan Jones, Maserati 250F, Longford 1958. Shot taken in practice, car bearing the scars of an attack on the local real estate or another car by Stanley (oldracephotos.com)

With 3 laps completed Stillwell held a small lead from fellow Melbourne motor trader Jones, the rest within 250 metres of each other. Stillwell retired with pinion trouble, Jones simultaneously lost the 250F’s 3rd gear. The Tornado took the lead on lap 4 from Jones, Glass, Whiteford then Lukey.

Gray extended his lead over Jones but was being progressively splattered with oil from the errant ‘box. He pressed on when the taste! of the oil made him aware the problem was the gearbox not the engine. Gray had also lost 1st and 2nd gears but the torque of the big Chev V8 was still an effective combination relative to Jones who was short 3rd, the Maser DOHC 6 cylinder engine less able to ‘plug the torque gaps’ than the Chevy.

Jones tried to chase Gray down but the Tornado took the win several seconds from Stan, the big, wonderful Chev engined Special clocked 147.5 mph over the measured mile. Glass was 3rd, 8 seconds behind Jones then Whiteford and Lukey, less than 30 seconds separated the 5 cars after 54 miles.

Stan Jones won the Gold Star in 1958 with wins at Fishermans Bend and Phillip Island in Victoria and seconds at Orange, NSW, Longford and Lowood, the Queensland airfield circuit.

tornado AMS PW

Ted Gray in Tornado 2 Ford ahead of Stan Jones Maser 250F, Port Wakefield, South Australia  (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Lou Abraham’s Melbourne built Tornado’s were two of the great Australian Specials of the 1950’s...

The Tornado was no ‘flash in the pan’ it was built by a couple of wily racers and their team who knew their way around racing cars and V8’s. There were two cars, three really, the short life of Tornado 1 led to Tornado 2 but before both was a highly modified Alta V8.

Wangaratta, Victorian driver Ted Gray first came to prominence well before the war, when as a young motor apprentice he contested the events won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA R10B at Aspendale Speedway in Melbourne on 1 October 1938. Whilst Whitehead won the day and took the lap record, Gray nearly matched him in his motor cycle engined midget.

He almost did it again 2 months later coming close to Whiteheads ERA times at Rob Roy hillclimb in outer Melbourne, again driving the Alan Male owned midget. Alan Male’s career started as a salesman for the Fisher Norton agency in Melbourne, shortly thereafter starting a used car business which provided both the cashflow to pursue his racing passion and the means to promote his business.

gray

Ted Gray on the left and Colin Best on the last lap of a Speedcar event at Aspendale Speedway, Melbourne in 1939. Details of chassis’ and engines unknown  (vintagespeedway.com)

Gray also contested the January 30 1939 Rob Roy meeting when Frank Kleinig became the first driver to break 30 seconds in the famed Kleinig Hudson, perhaps the most famous of all Australian Specials, if not the most famous then certainly the longest lived.

As War loomed Gray raced one of the last pre-war Australian motor races at Wirlinga, Albury, on 17 June 1940. ‘The Male Special’ was the ex Alan Sinclair Alta 1100 fitted with a Ford V8, Alf Barrett was the scratch man but Gray was not giving the exotic GP Alfa Romeo Monza too much. Barrett won the 6 lap preliminary with Gray in 2nd, both failed in the 25 and 75 Mile Events.

There was the occasional event during the war years. In his book Jim Gullan recalls a three heat match race to raise money for charity between Gray in the Male Spl/Alta V8 and Jim’s Ballot Ford V8 at Aspendale Speedway; Ted won the first heat, Gullan the second and Ted by half a wheel the third ‘…we were lapping the dirt track at 80mph in one long sideways drift, it was exciting!’ Gullan recalled.

Gray set FTD at an early postwar Greensborough Hillclimb.

He contested the 100 Mile NSW Grand Prix at Bathurst in 1946 in the ex-Mrs Jones (Alfa 6C 1750SS) Alfa Ford V8, Gray 2nd to Kleinig in the over 1500cc handicap and 4th in the 100 Miler, Alf Najar’s MG TB Spl the victor.

Gray received a lot of publicity when he recorded a 73mph average in the Alfa V8 from Wangaratta to Melbourne to win a bet in 1946! These days there is a dual lane freeway from Albury to Melbourne but that was not the case post war, Ted would have been flying to do that time! No doubt he was well familiar with the Hume Highway, his home and motor dealership business were in Wang but at least one account records him having an engineering shop in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, now vibrant as the city’s ‘Chinatown’.

gray alta

Ted Gray in the Alta Ford V8, Fishermans Bend March 1954. 4th in the Victorian Trophy . This car still exists, restored by Graham Lowe to its original form in the mid ’80’s (SLV)

Around 1948 Gray re-acquired the Male Spl/Alta V8 he raced pre-war and fitted a Ford Mercury side-valve V8 which was fitted with a locally made OHV conversion by Lou Abrahams.

The car first ran in this form at Fishermans Bend in October 1952 and was competitive enough to place 4th in the 1954 Victoria Trophy at FB. The capacity of the chassis to handle the engines power had been reached so Gray and Abrahams decided to build a new car ‘The Tornado’ the name the same as those Lou applied to his boats.

gray 2

Another shot of the Abrahams/Gray #8 Alta V8 at the ‘Victoria Trophy’ meeting at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne on 22 March 1954. #3 is Lex Davison’s HWM Jag, winner of that years AGP at Southport, Queensland, and Jack Brabham in a Cooper Bristol (SLV)

Gray was obviously a talented, fast driver with mechanical sympathy, he often drove cars owned by others throughout his career.

The engine out of the Alta 1100 referred to above was built into a special by speedway racer Bill Reynolds in Melbourne. He built a neat ladder frame chassis and transverse spring suspension front and rear car. Passed into Bill Dutton’s hands, Gray raced it for him from late 1949, more often than not the Alta engine problematic.

ted gray bathurst

Gray in the Alta 1100 Spl at Bathurst in 1950, LF tyre off the deck (Historic Racing Cars in Aust)

Lou Abrahams, a wealthy but unassuming man started racing dinghy yachts in his teens but transferred his sporting inclinations to cars and speed boats, before later returning to yachts, his first Sydney/Hobart victory came in 1983 but that was all in the future.

In the fifties his ‘Louisco’ plastics and packaging business provided the cashflow for mechanical pursuits. Ian Mayberry whose father and uncle worked on Tornado recalls that Lou’s father owned the George Hotel in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Lou also had a screenprinting, fabrics and plastics business named Colortex Fabrics in Murrumbeena which he later sold to Nylex Ltd, becoming a board member of that large public company in the process.

lou abrahams

Lou Abrahams towards the end of his life, he died in February 2014 at 88. Cruising Yacht Club, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney. He won Sydney-Hobart twice in 1983 and 1989, sailed it 44 (times, 43 consecutively, a record. He also sailed 7 ‘Fastnets, the biennial classic off Britain and Ireland  (unattributed)

fishos start

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

Gray built the Tornado 1 chassis from formed box sections of sheet steel, the structure had boxed side and cross members and specially made cross-members front and rear to which the suspension was attached.

Ian Mayberry doesn’t recall how Lou, Ted and his uncle, Bill Mayberry met but the three of them were the teams core. Lou basically did the engines and between Ted and Bill they built the chassis and body and maintained the car.

Some of the bodywork was built at the panel business owned by Ians father Jack, who painted the cars and Bill, located at 248 East Boundary Road, East Bentleigh, a southern Melbourne suburb. Ted Grays workshop Ian believes at that stage, was in Coburg or Carlton, both inner Northern Melbourne suburbs. This workshop looked after retail customers but was also where the car was built and maintained.

Independent suspension was used front and rear; the front comprised a transverse leaf spring low down with upper control arms and shockers from a Peugeot. At the rear a transverse leaf spring was again used on top of Holden lower control arms.

tornado front end

Tornado 1 front suspension detail; Peugeot upper control arms and shocks, transverse leaf spring at the bottom. Brakes Chev drums with Mustang aircraft internals ‘They worked very well at Orange’ said AMS, but perhaps not so well at Bathurst later in the year! (AMS)

Lancia stub axles were grafted onto the Peugeot steering knuckles to take advantage of the centre lock wire wheels, steering was Peugeot rack and pinion.

Fabricated hubs were used at the back using Lancia splined hubs and wheels with Monroe Wylie telescopic shocks. The bridge type structure at the back housed a Halibrand quick change final drive, brought back from the States by Lou with various engine goodies. Dodge universals were used on the rear drive shafts.

tornado rear sus 2

Tornado 1 rear end; suspension by top transverse leaf spring and Holden wishbone below, diff a quick change Halibrand with Ford V8 crownwheel, brake drums Chev with P51 Mustang fighter mechanisms, note rear and 2 side fuel tanks, also crossply road tyres upon which the car is being raced, the car chewed its tyres, races lost as a consequence! (AMS)

Brake drums were Chev 11.5 diameter and 2 inches wide, the operating mechanism from a Mustang fighter aircraft and had ‘one cylinder operating a one piece self energising single shoe to each wheel. Ted figures they stopped 5 tons or so of P51 Mustang, so they should stop the Tornado…’

tornado engine

Tornado Ford Mercury based engine. Block cast iron, heads bespoke aluminium designed by Lou Abrahams. Shot of OHV gear and central ‘plugs, pump for Hilborn-Travers fuel injection at the engines front (AMS)

The engine was Abrahams responsibility and was unique as the first in Australia to use fuel-injection.

The Ford Mercury V8 was bored and stroked to over 5 litres, the most innovative element it’s locally cast aluminium, OHV heads designed by Abrahams to replace the side-valve originals. They featured hemispherical combustion chambers with valves; 1 7/8 inches inlet and 1 5/8 inches exhaust in size, inclined at an included angle of around 90 degrees operated by rockers from standard cam followers. ‘Plugs were centrally placed, the whole lot topped by attractive aluminium rocker covers which could be seen, seductively, through the bonnet sides.

Each exhaust port had its own pipe, the inlet ports had a cast light alloy stub incorporating an air butterfly and spray nozzle from the Hilborn Travers fuel injection system. A Scintilla magneto provided the spark with the water pump and clutch standard. Drive was via a standard Mercury gearbox with a close ratio gearset imported from the US.

tornado engine

Engine of Tornado 1 Ford on its Gnoo Blas debut at Orange, NSW in January 1955. Ford Mercury side-valve block with bespoke aluminium heads designed by Lou Abrahams in Melbourne . ‘Louab’ fuel injection Hilborn-Travers based. Nice lookin’ thing innit?  (oldracephotos.com/Devine)

The frames to take the body were of round steel and ‘are part of the chassis’ ; one in front supported the radiator, there was another at the firewall and ‘another which carries the kitchen type Laminex instrument panel’ (!) and one behind the seat.

Pedals are pendant the brake master cylinders mounted into a beefy ‘top hat section arch’ under the scuttle. Instruments comprised tach, oil and fuel pressure, oil and water temperature and a push-pull switch for the magneto.

Fuel was carried in three tanks; one in the tail and one either side of the driver.

tornado orange debut

Tornado 1 Ford on its debut at Gnoo Blas, Orange, January 1955 ‘…first outing last month showed that it will be a very impressive car in the very near future’ Note engine exposed thru bonnet (AMS)

When completed Tornado 1 Ford made its debut, painted white at Gnoo Blas, Orange in January 1955 where its potential was clear despite various teething problems.

Back in Victoria in February the car retired from the 50 Mile Victoria Trophy held at Fishermans Bend with grabbing brakes, prophetic as things turned out, Lex Davison took the win in his HWM Jaguar.

At Albert Park for the Argus Trophy in March, the big V8 placed 3rd in a heat and 5th in the final, Doug Whiteford the winner in his Lago Talbot T26.

Off to Bathurst in October for the NSW Road racing Championship and disaster.

Gray, running 4th in the ‘Group A’ race ‘was running neck and neck with Robinson’s Jaguar Spl…Down the straight for the last time and the white Tornado either locked a brake or touched Robinson’s rear wheel, sliding horribly out of control for over 150 yards before hitting a bank and a tree on the left, bits spraying down the road…Miraculously, a very lucky Ted Gray survived, receiving multiple fractures and severe shock. The Tornado was a write-off. Rebuilt, its great days were yet to come’ said John Medley in his ‘Bathurst Bible’.

tornado bathurst

John Medley; ‘ Until seeing Garrie Cooper’s 1978 AGP accident (in an Elfin MR8 Chev F5000 at Sandown) i hadn’t seen one worse. In the overcast from up on Griffin’s Mount, all one could see was white bits flung down the road, rolling and bounding. Ted Gray wore white overalls and helmet. That he actually stepped out before collapsing is incredible’ (Bernard Coward photo in ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ by John Medley)

The two partners decided not to rebuild the rooted car but rather use what they could in Tornado 2, Abrahams incorporating all they had learned from the previous cars completed the reconstruction of the car with Bill Mayberry and other artisans whilst Gray was in hospital, recovery took 6 months.

Tornado 2 had a ladder frame steel chassis with 3 inch wide side members and incorpated most of the suspension and steering parts from Tornado 1 including the Peugeot steering, Lancia stub axle and Holden suspension components. The Halibrand diff, Ford engine and ‘box were also transferred from the old to the new. The P51 Mustang braking system was removed and replaced by a conventional drums all round setup built by Patons Brakes in Melbourne, eventually a Repco subsidiary.

Gray’s involuntary racing vacation was around 6 months, Abrahams and his team did an amazing job building the replacement so fast; the blue painted fibre glass bodied car made its debut in the hands of multiple Australian Hillclimb Champion, Bruce Walton at Albert Park in March 1956.

Walton performed well despite teething problems, an appearance at the Geelong Sprints resulted in a standing quarter mile of 15.1 seconds. The car was continuously modified throughout 1956 to get it running fast and reliably, the ‘high maintenance’ constantly cracking fibreglass body replaced by an aluminium one late in the year of the same shape.

Gray contested the 1956 AGP meeting at Albert Park won by Moss’s works Maserati 250F but the beast only lasted 15 laps before retirement. Its future competitiveness was underlined at the opening Phillip Island meeting in December 1956 with 2 wins on the very fast open circuit suited to the cars power and strong handling.

Tornado 2’s 1957 season commenced at Fishermans Bend in February, a tyre failed whilst holding 2nd place.

At Albert Park for The Victoria Trophy’ meeting on 24 March, 3rd behind Davison and Jones in Ferrari 500/625 and Maserati 250F a good result but retirement followed in the championship race, a Gold Star round that year, the first year for the prestigious annual award for Australia’s Champion driver.

gray albert park

On the Albert Park grid alongside Bob Jane’s Maserati 300S. Here Tornado 2 with low cut body sides and Ford engined (autopics.com/Peter D’Abbs)

The car failed to score any Gold Star points and later in the year a Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 engine replaced the faithful Ford/Abrahams V8.

Despite the ongoing development of the Ford Mercury based engine with its trick Abrahams head the lighter, over-square, OHV in standard form, small block Chev was the way to go with plenty of parts to improve the engines performance readily available in the US. The engine was sourced using contacts of Abrahams and Jack Mayberry at Holden.

tornado chev engine

Tornado 2 with Chev engine, bespoke rocker covers as with the Ford engine. Hilborn-Travers injection incorporated in specification, Vertex magneto clear. Circa 380 bhp claimed (Merv Bunyan Collection)

With Commonwealth Oil Refineries (soon to be BP) sponsored Australian Speed Records scheduled at Coonabarabran in central NSW on 28 September the small team had only a week to adapt the Chev to the Ford ‘box, fit the fuel injection system and fettle the thing into running order. The car was unloaded from its trailer on the long 620 mile tow from Melbourne to Coonabararan, over 200 miles was covered to run the engine in and refine its tune on public roads!

BP had chosen cars and drivers to attempt the various records which were held on a 4 mile stretch of road linking Coonabarabran with Coonamble via Baradine. The sealed aggregate surface was good and allowed high speeds but it was only 18 feet wide and had a pronounced crown.

Run off to the sides was limited by white posts, to the east by trees, to the west a railway line and a string of telegraph poles. Additional hazards were small dirt tracks to give farm access and a dirt road near the railway line both of which provided plenty of dust…a bend at each end of the 4 miles limited run-in and braking and slowing down.

Such attempts were best held in the cool of the morning for optimum engine performance but media needs meant they were held later in the day when the wind was gusting so no motorcycle attempts were made.

The Tornado was fitted with a 3:1 final drive ratio and 19 inch wheels with 5.25 inch wide tyres, Ted was aiming for over 160mph but magneto dramas limited revs to 5300rpm. The team lowered the ratio to 2.8:1 to reduce revs, achieving 157.53mph on the Sunday to take the outright record from Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, the very same chassis ‘005’ with which Alberto Ascari won his 1952/3 world championships, which was quicker the day before.

Tornado 2 created a sensation at 157.5 mph, the big, spectacular blue car thundering and bellowing across the plains on the long, flat public roads.

Straight to Bathurst from Coonabarabran for the NSW Road Racing Championships on 6 October, two years after the demise of Tornado 1. The cars aluminium fuel tank split, thefuel leak the cause of its retirement. The metal fatigue was overcome by sheathing the ‘ally tank in 1/2 inch thick fibreglass.

A week later at Fishermans Bend was more successful, Gray taking a strong win

1958 Gold Star Season…

tornado

Tornado Chev in the Bathurst paddock, AGP meeting 1958. Its derivative of the best GP cars of its day but has a beauty all of its own. Bill Mayberry built the Tornado bodies (Kevin Drage)

Whilst of ‘plebian origin’ in comparison to its main competitors for the 1958 Australian Drivers Championship; Davison’s and Arnold Glass Ferrari 500/625 and 555 Super Squalo, Stan Jones and Doug Whiteford’s 250F and 300S Maserati’s and the Mildren, Lukey, Miller, Hawkes Coopers of front and mid-engined inclination. Tornado 2 was much more than the sum of its parts and had consistently shown championship winning speed if not reliability.

Perhaps one of the great injustices of ‘motor racing’s world of mighta beens’ is Tornado 2’s failure to win the Gold Star in 1958 just when it neeeded to as the mid engined tide came in.

It was not until 1971 that an Australian built car won the AGP and Gold Star, that honor going to Frank Matich in his Matich A50 Repco at Warwick Farm in late 1971.

The 1958 Gold Star comprised 9 meetings in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland; a big program of travel in the days when the continent was the same size as now without todays road  network!

1958 Season/Gold Star Series…

gnoo blas

Tornado 2 at rest, Gnoo Blas, 1958 (Ian McKay Collection)

South Pacific Trophy, Gnoo Blas, Orange NSW 27 January.

Gray chased Brabham’s Cooper in 2nd, set the first 100mph lap of the circuit and retired with a misfire, Brabham won the race from Jones Maser and then set-off for his European season.

tornado fishos

Handsome beastie that it is! Tornado 2 Chev in the Fisherman’s Bend paddock February 1958. Spectators cars Jag Mk7 ? and Holden FB (Geoff Green)

Victoria Trophy, Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, Victoria 23 February.

‘The Carnival of Motor Racing’ was a combined car and motorcycle meeting.  Jones won a close race from pole. Gray qualified 2nd and ran 2nd until he had throttle linkage problems, he returned to the race but later retired. Jones won from Glass’ Ferrari and Whiteford’s Lago.

fishos first lap

First lap at Fishermans Bend, the flat industrial landscape clear in this shot. The big front engined cars of Glass and Jones with Gray obscured on the outside lead the pack (Geoff Green)

Longford Trophy, Tasmania 3 March.

Covered at this articles’ outset. A win for Gray’s Tornado after practice dramas.

fishos 3

Tornado 2 Chev, Fishermans Bend, February 1958. Good front suspension shot showing the Peugeot top wishbone/shock and transverse lower leaf spring (Geoff Green)

South Australian Trophy Race, Port Wakefield, South Australia 5 April.

Jones led the race until his radiator was blocked by straw from a haybale he attacked, Lukey’s Cooper Bristol won from Austin Miller’s Cooper. Gray didn’t enter.

tornado lowood

Gray kept the lead at Lowwod on 15 June for most of the race but slowed towards the end when the ‘breaker strips’ on his rear tyres started to show, allowing Mildren to take the lead (AMS)

Queensland Road Racing Championship, Lowood, Queensland 15 June.

Jones led until problems with the Masers rear end caused its retirement. Gray led Mildren’s Cooper until Tornado’s tyres started to shred towards the races end, Gray’s easing gave Mildren the win from the Tornado and Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

The Tornado turned the tables on Mildrens Cooper the following day at Gnoo Blas, Orange when Gray won the ‘Canoblas Trophy’ a 55 mile race with the Cooper 2nd, the event contested by 17 cars. Tornado was timed at 153mph and Mildrens 2 litre Cooper T43 Climax at 145mph.

The dedication of competitors at the time is absolute; it was an 825 mile all night drive from Lowood to Orange. ‘The Canberra Times’ reported ‘The Queensland Grand Prix finished at 4.30pm…each in private cars towing the racing cars, they left Lowwod at 5.30pm and travelling in company most of the way arrived at Orange at about 8am.

‘They then prepared their cars, practiced…started a 4 lap scratch race at noon and the Canoblas Trophy at 2.30pm…’

It wasn’t too far for Alec to then drive back to Canberra, where his business was then but Ted had a 325mile drive from Orange to Wangaratta to be at work on Tuesday, before towing Tornado back to Lowood again in late August, 875 miles, or a bit like driving from London to Rome without the autoroutes.

Lowood Trophy Race, Queensland 31 August.

Jones led from Gray and eventually took him on the oil soaked track but this time the Tornado had diff problems . Mildren’s Cooper passed Jones, taking the win from Victorians Jones and Lukey.

vrrc 1

Finish of the VRRC Race at Fishermans Bend, October 1958. Gray won in the ‘red nosed’ Tornado, yellow car Austin Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax and Ern Seeliger’s blue Maybach 4 Chev (David Van Dal)

Victorian Road Racing Championships, Fishermans Bend 18 October.

The championship was not part of the Gold Star in 1958 and a week before the AGP at Bathurst so was perhaps a risky event to contest but it was an excellent one for the team, Gray won the race from Len Lukey’s Cooper Bristol with Austin Miller’s Cooper T41 Climax third

vrrc 2

41 year old Ted Gray getting the trophy and plaudits of the crowd. VRRC champ, Fishermans Bend 1958. Bill Mayberry in moustache and stocky Lou Abrahams in red  (Kevin Drage)

agp grid

Bathurst, 23 October 1958 grid; A preliminary race i suspect as the grid is not as for the AGP itself #12 Davison Ferrari 500/625, white nosed Ferrari Super Squalo of Kiwi Tom Clark with Tornado on the outside of row 1. Row 2 L>R Mildren’s Cooper T43 Climax, Merv Neil Cooper T45 Climax and Curley Brydon’s Ferrari Chev, the Jones Maser is obscured by Neil’s Cooper against the fence on row 3. Red clad Tornado crew looking on (David Van Dal)

Gray was on pole from Jones, Davison returning to racing in his unsold Ferrari 500/625, Neil’s Cooper T45 and Lukey’s Cooper Bristol.

Jones led Davison from the start, Ted’s strategy was to start with a light fuel load build a lead and stop later in the race for fuel. He soon passed Jones and Davo, the three cars ran spectacularly nose to tail for the next 12 laps.

bathurst nose to tail

Jones 250F leads Tornado across the top of Mount Panorama during their great dice (Alan Stewart Collection)

On lap 19 he made his stop but only had a lead of 10-12 seconds, then his stop was cocked up, taking another 25 seconds before setting off in chase.

On the first lap out he achieved the fastest standing lap of Mount Panorama ever, he was too fast though, boofing the fence at Skyline, damaging Tornado’s steering and suspension, the car retired 2 laps later.

He had led for 20 of 24 laps and set the fastest ever speed of 155.17mph recorded on ConRod Straight.

Jones led Davo for another 2 laps, until breasting the first hump on Conrod the 250F dropped a valve after 7 laps of clutchless gear changes.

Davison eased his pace, over 2 minutes ahead of Ern Seeliger in Maybach 4 Chev and Tom Hawke’s Cooper T23 Repco Holden.

It was one of the greatest AGP’s ever.

tornado melbourne

The new and old; Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre leads Ted’s Tornado and Jones Maser 250F on lap lap 2 of the ’58 Melbourne GP at Albert Park. Moss’ winning Cooper T45 is further up the road  (AMS)

Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, Victoria 23 November.

Moss and Brabham disappeared into the distance in their 2 litre Cooper Climaxes, Gray retired whilst fastest local, Jones also withdrew with falling oil pressure, Whiteford, Stillwell Maser 250F and Len Lukey took the remaining Gold Star points.

Philip Island Trophy Race, Victoria 26 December.

Jones won the race and Gold Star in his GP Maser from pole, Mildren and Roxburgh were 2nd and 3rd in Cooper Climaxes. Gray didn’t enter and Stan Jones won the Gold Star he deserved.

1959 and Beyond…

Tornado was barely raced in 1959 which was a pity as Jones Maser 250F won the AGP at Longford early in the year and Gray finished 2nd to Stillwell’s Cooper at Bathurst in pouring rain for the NSW Road Racing Championship in October, Mildren’s Cooper was 3rd; there was life in the front engined cars still.

Perhaps with more reliability in 1959 after all the learnings of the hard year in 1958 the wonderful, big blue V8 could have prevailed but as the great Frank Gardner said ‘IF Yer Auntie Had Balls She’d be Yer Uncle’… Ifs, buts and maybe’s mean nothing in sport. But the speculation is fun!

Lou and Ted raced the car in the 1960 New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore on January 9. An interesting idea but they were on a hiding to nothing with the plethora of Cooper’s racing in Australasia by then. Brabham won from McLaren and Bib Stillwell all in Coopers. Tornado retired after 5 laps with magneto dramas.

bz gp

First lap of the 1960 NZGP, Ardmore, College Corner; #47 Bruce McLarens Cooper T45, #7 Moss Cooper T51 #4 Brabham Cooper T51 #18 David Piper Lotus 16 Climax, Gray in Tornado is at the rear of this shot on the outside of a Cooper, light colored band on the nose. 14 of the cars which started were front-engined so Ted was far from alone and with an engine not the largest in this F Libre race (sergent.com)

Upon its return to Australia Tornado was sold to South Aussie, Mel McEwin who contested both the 1960 and 1961 Australian Grands’ Prix in it but the car was by now, like all other front-engined cars being blown off by 2.5 Litre FPF engined Coopers. The 2495cc variant of the FPF engine was now fairly common in ‘The Colonies’; scarcity in this part of the world gave the front engined cars a slightly longer front line racing life than would otherwise have been the case.

In the 1965/6 the car passed to ex-Cooper racer John McDonald as a ‘fun car’ after his frontline career finished but he had a massive accident in it at Calder ‘breaking the car in half’.

In the early 70’s the car was restored by McDonald in Canberra making its Historic Racing debut at Hume Weir, Albury on Boxing Day 1976.

The big, bellowing, blue Tornado has been an occasional starlet at historic events for decades, sold to Frank Moore, it has been a part of his collection of Australian Specials/Cars since 1999.

tornado cover

After this articles publication David Rapley, Australian Racer, Historian, Author and Restorer got in touch with his insights on Tornado, a car he fettles in Melbourne for its Queensland owner Frank Moore…

‘I was delighted to read your work on ‘The Tornado’ as Teddy Tornado is a great friend of mine having spent a lot of time with me in recent years. My comments/contribution is only of a very minor technical nature but I felt your work so good that I wanted to add it.

When Frank gave the me the car with a broken con-rod from an outing at the Melbourne GP it was in a very bad state. After inspection we concluded that the whole car had to be dismantled, crack tested and properly reassembled. Frank insisted that nothing should be repainted or anything done to modernise it-a welcome attitude after the over restored cars we mainly see these days at Historic meetings’.

‘The front suspension was a mess with badly cracked stub axles and pivot/king pins and steering arms. (I use these parts still for show and tell to ‘try’ and educate old car people in the danger of not crack testing-sadly largely a waste of time!) These were originals covered in weld, the stubs themselves being I believe Itala not Lancia.

The brakes on the car-front are single leading shoe with two wheel cylinders per side of Aero origin I believe War Hawk but could well be Mustang and clearly date back to Tornado 1. The drums are locally made and may be Patons only contribution as the rear brakes are A90 Austin or Healey. I have not found any period photo’s to date when they were fitted but looking at how they were mounted I would guess from the first building of Tornado 2′.

‘It is obvious that the rear transmission support box and lower wishbones were used straight from the earlier car but with a top wishbone added, the transverse spring only providing now suspension’.

‘We went to great lengths to find a 1958 correct block and Corvette heads but sadly this engine was sabotaged at a subsequent Melbourne GP by someone pouring steel shot down the inlet trumpets of the Hilborn injection in the supposedly secure display tent. The current engine has a correct block but they are getting very difficult to find’.

‘An interesting aside-after the car was wrecked at Calder the front suspension was sold off to a Hot Rodder; Richard Bendell was horrified, bought it back and gave it to McDonald to repair the car.

Pleased to report Teddy still has all his original aluminum body now much battered and cracked and as much as possibly all of its bitz and bobbs’.

tornado agp

Ellis French’s wonderful atmospheric shot of Ted Gray gridding Tornado 2 up for the 1959 AGP at Longford. DNF on lap 4 with a run main bearing, #5 is Len Lukey’s Cooper T45 Climax 2 litre 2nd . Lukey took the Gold Star title that year, at 12 rounds the longest ever (Ellis French)

Where Does Ted Gray and Tornado Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Motor Racing?…

There is not a lot published about Ted Gray. He was born in Wangaratta 140 miles from Melbourne its rich grazing country. Well known to Aussie racers, Wang is close to Winton Raceway.

Born in 1917 he was apprenticed as a motor mechanic and commencing racing career on Speedway’s the most popular and common branch of the sport in the 1930’s. He finished 2nd in the 1938/9 Victorian Speedcar Championship to George Beavis in a match race at Olympic Park, Melbourne.

He continued race on speedway’s into the late 1940’s whilst also road racing and had a massive accident at Maribyrnong Speedway in Melbourne’s west in December 1947. In a classic ‘interlocked wheels speedway prang’ Gray was thrown from his somersaulting car sustaining spinal injuries and extensive lacerations, recovering in the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

So his 1955 Tornado 1 Bathurst crash was not his first ‘Big One’. Clearly he was one tough nut as his speed after the Bathurst prang, he had a six month ‘holiday’ after it remember, was if anything faster after the prang than before it. These country boys are hard men.

In terms of his business, he was a partner in the local Ford Dealership in Wang. He also had workshops in Melbourne’s CBD and later Carlton or Coburg. It was in the latter that Ian recalls another bad accident in the early sixties when Gray’s legs were broken in a workshop accident in which he was pinned to a wall by an errant car.

The Australian Motor Sports Review Annual in 1958/9 rated a quartet of drivers ‘representing the ultimate performances in the 14 years since the war; Doug Whiteford, Lex Davison both triple AGP winners at the time (Davo later won a fourth) Len Lukey 1959 Gold star winner and Ted Gray.

Of Gray the review had this to say;

‘Ted Gray has been driving Lou Abraham’s Tornado since the car first raced. Winner of the Longford Trophy in 1958 and numerous other races his main claim to distinction is as Australia’s fastest recorded driver. In the Tornado at Coonabarabran, NSW in 1957, Gray recorded a new ‘Class C’ Australian record of 157.53mph, the fastest yet achieved in Australia.’

Quite how Stan Jones was overlooked in the quartet is beyond me. I wasn’t there at the time but Stan had won a lot of races including the NZ GP in 1954 by 1958, personally I would have popped him in front of Gray and Lukey.

None of which is to take anything from Ted Gray who was a vastly experienced and very fast driver. Further, he was one of that engineer/driver breed who had the skill to design, build, race, interpret the beasts needs and modify their steed further to make it competitive. Maybe Larry Perkins was the last Australian of Gray’s ilk?

I’m not sure when Ted Gray died and am interested to hear from anyone who can add more to his story.

That the small, clever, experienced and adequately funded team from Melbourne took on the best of European Grand Prix cars at the time was a great achievement. Its just a shame they don’t have the ’58 AGP and Gold Star to reflect Tornado’s speed…

tornado crew

The Tornado 2 Chev crew in 1958, circuit unknown. L>R Ted Gray, Lou Abrahams and Bill Mayberry in red (AMS Annual 1958/9)

Bibliography…

Special thanks to Ian Mayberry for his recollections and David Rapley for his comments on the car in modern times.

John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Stephen Dalton Collection, Australian Motor Sports July 1956, The Canberra Times 18 June 1958, John Medley ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ and ‘John Snow: Classic Motor Racer’, Australian Motor Sports 1958 and 1959 annuals, Graham Howard Ed ‘The History of The AGP’, Stephen Dalton Collection, James Gullan ‘As Long as It Has Wheels’

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com stunning archive, thanks to Lindsay Ross, Walkem Collection, vintagespeedway.com, Ian McKay Collection, Kevin Drage, Geoff Green, David Van Dal, Alan Stewart Collection, sergent.com

Tailpiece: One of the greatest ever AGP’s, Bathurst October 1958, Jones 250F, Gray Tornado and Davison Fazz 500/625 at it ‘hammer and tongs’ on a circuit to test the skillful and the brave…

stan bathurst

(AMS Annual)

hawkes

Tom Hawkes, Allard J2, Collingrove Hillclimb, Angaston, SA, March 1952. 1st in the over 1500cc Sports Car class. (State Library of South Australia)

Tom Hawkes caresses his powerful Allard around the twisty, challenging gravel confines of South Australia’s Collingrove Hillclimb at its inaugural, public, 15 March 1952 meeting…

Chassis #99/J/1731 fitted with Ford Pilot engine # 5338/26 was the first of 6 Allards imported to Australia, the car arrived in September 1950 to Rube Gardner’s order. Gardner was appointed the local concessionaire having travelled to the UK to do the deal with Allard himself early in 1950. Gardner’s premises were on the Princes Highway, Carlton, a southern Sydney suburb.

Gardner drove the car to the October 1950 Bathurst meeting. He didn’t race, but took it to Mount Panorama for display purposes. The red painted, side valve Ford Pilot engined car immediately impressed Stan Jones, the 1959 Gold Star and Australian Grand Prix Winner and father of 1980 World Champion Alan Jones.

Stan was well aware of the car’s competition record in the UK and US and bought it on his inexorable rise to the top of Australian Motor Racing. I wrote an article about Stan’s career, click on this link to read it; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/

jones

The J2 in the Bathurst paddock during Stan Jones ownership at Easter 1951. Color red, ‘standard’ Ford Pilot side-valve spec V8. 5 of the 6 J2’s imported to Australia entered this meeting,3 started! (Ray Eldershaw Collection)

Jones first J2 competition event was the 1950 Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy in November, he finished 2nd in his class. In 1951 he raced the car successfully at Rob Roy, at Bathurst he was timed at 104.8mph on ConRod Straight, and at other meetings.

Jones sold the car to Geelong, Victoria, driver  Tom Hawkes in a deal which involved Jones taking over a Cooper MkV 500 Bill Patterson and Hawkes had raced in England in 1951.

Hawkes raced the car in standard form for a while and then engaged Melbourne’s Ern Seeliger to modify it by fitment of an Ardun OHV engine kit and Jaguar 4 speed gearbox with ‘C Type’ ratios, to replace the 3 speed Ford Pilot ‘box.

The tail of the Allard was replaced with a narrower one, the front and rear guards removed and wire wheels adapted to Lancia hubs fitted. The light car now developed circa 300bhp. It was a formidable, noisy and spectacular weapon at the time.

sellicks

Hawkes ahead of Eldred Norman’s Maserati 6CM at Adelaide’s Sellicks Beach. This meeting in 1953 was the first all car beach program post-War. Sellicks Beach 55 Km from Adelaide. Tom is kicking the tail out, no shortage of power on the soft sand! Eldred Norman and his many cars are fascinating stories for another time. (forum.fefcholden.club)

Over the next couple of years the J2 competed widely, mainly driven by Hawkes but occasionally by Reg Robbins who maintained it. It was also driven by John Sawyer and Adrian Gundlach. The car raced at Fishermans Bend, in Albert Parks inaugural meeting in 1953 and Rob Roy, all in Victoria. Hawles competed at Collingrove Hillclimb, Sellicks Beach and Port Wakefield in South Australia.

He travelled to New Zealand for the 1954 NZ Grand Prix meeting at Ardmore in January. There the car blew the OHV engine in practice, a stone pierced the radiator with the side valve engine fitted for the race, famously won by Stan Jones in the Maybach. The J2’s Ford engine was brittle and ‘popped’ comprehensively at least 3 times, twice with rod failure, the errant component carving the cast iron block in half on both occasions.

The J2 was quick, it recorded 137 mph on Longfords ‘Flying Mile’ during the 1955 Tasmanian Trophy meeting. Hawkes advertised # 1731 for sale in October 1955 but continued to race it. The car was finally bought by Reg Robbins who had been preparing the car for Hawkes as noted above. He raced it at Phillip Island and Rob Roy in late 1956 and early 1957 respectively before sale to Geoff McHugh in Tasmania.

Melbourne’s Ian McDonald repatriated it from a Tasmanian ‘chook shed’ in 1964, he restored it, a process which took 2 years. He first raced the car in an historic event at an open meeting at Sandown in 1966.

The car has passed through numerous sets of caring hands since then and is still in Australia.

paddock

The Hawkes Allard in the Collingrove paddock March 1952. The modifications referred to in the text are not yet evident, this is early in Hawkes ownership of the car. Compare with the other later Collingrove shot below and the Sellicks Beach shot above where the car is running sans guards and with the wire wheels referred to in the text. (State Library of SA)

Allard Short History…

In the the 1930s Sydney Allard was successful as a British Trials and Hillclimb competitor with his Allard Specials. Operating from, Adlards Motors, a Ford Dealership he acquired in 1929, Allard competed successfully in international motor racing; 3rd at Le Mans in 1950 and victory in the Monte Carlo Rally in an Allard P1 in 1952. After racing motorbikes he moved to four wheels. In 1936 the first ‘Allard Special’ was built.

Allard’s first cars were based on Ford products. The first ‘CLK 5’ combined a Ford Model 40 chassis and engine with a Bugatti Type 51 body. Its light weight and ground clearance made it an ideal Trials racer. By moving the cockpit as far backwards as possible, Allard concentrated weight over the rear wheels, a design principle of all future Allard’s. Ford’s flat-head V8 provided plenty of power, it was competitive immediately.

coll 2

This later Collingrove shot in 1954 shows the Hawkes J2 in its later modified form; with Ardun head, ‘skinny tail’, sans guards front and rear and with its wire wheels. (State Library of SA)

Pre War a small number of Allard Specials were built powered by either the Ford V8 or Lincoln V12 and were race winners.

During the War Adlards Motors repaired damaged military vehicles…and Sydney designed a new sportscar, which was built in 1946 and is now referred to as the J1. Ford components formed the basis of the car. A braced and boxed frame housed a Ford 3.6 litre V8 and 3-speed gearbox. Suspension was by a split axle at the front and live axle at the rear, transverse leaf spring’s were used front and rear. A full width body was fitted, but the guards could be removed and replaced by cycle-guards to turn the J1 in a Trials car.

12 J1s’ were built and competed in Britain and in Europe. The shortcoming of the J1 was the flat-head V8, which was underpowered and overheated.

Allard then built, in larger numbers, the K1 sports two seater, L-Type Tourer and M-Type coupe.

allard drawing

J2 factory drawings. (The Allard Register)

In 1950 Allard launched the J2. Based on the J1 design, the new car was designed with the J1’s shortcomings in mind. The front suspension was similar, the transverse leaf springs replaced by coils at both front and rear. At the back a De-Dion axle was fitted with inboard drum brakes. The combination of rear weight bias and better rear suspension gave the car much better traction. Modified Ford sidevalve V8’s were Allard’s engines of choice, but the chassis was built to accommodate other engines, with Cadillac’s pushrod V8, the J2 was ‘in a league of its own’ and very successful in the US.

butt

Butt shot showing the Hawkes J2’s modified tail, fuzzy shot but modifications clear; #1731 sans guards, wire wheels. On ‘The Wall’. (Collingrove Hillclimb)

‘Allard’s biggest road racing success was in 1950, when Sydney Allard and Tom Cole drove a Cadillac powered J2 to third place overall and a first in class at Le Mans. In 1951 a slightly modified version, dubbed J2X was introduced. It was similar to the J2, but the engine was mounted further forward to allow a larger cockpit. Chrysler Hemi and Cadillac powered J2s and J2Xs dominated racing in America. The final evolutions of the J2 were the J2X Le Mans and JR, which both featured a fully enveloping body’, said Wouter Melissen in ultimatecarpage.com.

syd vicious

Sydney Allard practicing his J2 at Le Mans in 1950. He and Tom Cole finished 3rd outright in the race won by the Rosier father and son Talbot-Lago T26GS and 2nd place Talbot-Lago Monoplace. These 2 cars were essentially ‘GP cars in drag’, so the Allards 3rd was a great result 5 laps adrift of the winning car. Allard wore a helmet in the race! This shot was on Allard’s corporate 1950 X Mas card to contacts of the company. (allardownersclub.org)

After 1908 Allards were built, production ended in 1959. Increased competition from Jaguar, Lotus, Austin Healey and others producing quality production sports and racing cars made the going tough as the sixties dawned but the company and its clever products ‘punched above their weight’ very successfully for many years.

chassis

J2 chassis and general layout drawings. (The Allard Register)

Technical Specifications…

90 J2’s were built from 1949 to 1951. Cars delivered to the US were usually ‘sans engine’ allowing the customer to choose, those with ultimate performance in mind specified the Cadillac or Chrysler ‘Hemi’ OHV engines with a wide variety of modifications available ‘off the shelf”.

Specifications of the Ford Pilot ‘Ardun’ engine as fitted to #1731 and modified by Tom Hawkes; 3923cc, bore and stroke 80.96mmx95.25mm. Compression ratio 8:1. Magneto ignition. 2 Solex carburettors giving a claimed, and i suspect very optimistic, 300bhp.

The cars chassis was a ladder or box section frame, it had a wheelbase of 100 inches and track of 56/52 inches front/rear.

Front suspension was Allard divided or split axle with coil springs and hydraulic shocks. A De-Dion setup was deployed at the rear again with coil springs and hydraulic shocks. Drum brakes were fitted mounted outboard at the front and inboard at the rear.

Steering was Ford Pilot ‘Marles’ worm and roller. The fuel tank held 20 gallons and weighed circa 1700-2000lbs. (estimates of weight differ widely across the reference sources and would do so dependent upon the engine fitted)

allard roadie

Factory J2 shot. (Allard Motor Co)

The Six Australian Allard J2’s…

For those with an interest in these cars this excellent MotorMarques article by Philip Stanton details the history of all J2’s imported to Australia. http://www.motormarques.com/community/marques/item/39-allard-j2

The Allard Register…

If you are interested in Allards more generally checkout this interesting website; http://allardregister.squarespace.com/

Collingrove Hillclimb…

This website about the Barossa Valley venue is terrific; http://www.collingrovehillclimb.com.au/home/

collingrove

Collingrove is a sensational climb, highly technical and difficult. Its at Angaston in SA’s Barossa Valley, the place a stunningly pretty spot. Angaston is 85 Km from Adelaide. In use since 1952.(Collingrove Hillclimb)

paper

‘The Mail’ article about Collingrove’s first meeting in March 1952. Hawkes won the over 1500cc modified sports car class. (Collingrove Hillclimb)

sideways

Distant shot of Hawkes coming off ‘The Wall’, well sideways on the slippery gravel surface. Shot included to show the topography of this fabulous climb. (Collingrove Hillclimb)

Bibliography and Credits…

John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, Wouter Melissen’s Allard article in ultimatecarpage.com, MotorMarques article by Philip Stanton, State Library of South Australia, Ray Eldershaw Collection, The Allard Register, forum.fcfeholden.club, Collingrove Hillclimb website, allardownersclub.org

Finito…