Posts Tagged ‘Stan Jones’

Train commuters watch an unidentified MG TC, then Les Wheeler, MG TC chasing A Griffiths, MG TC Spl s/c at the June 1952 Parramatta Park meeting  (CRPP)

‘A two mile motor racing circuit with ground accommodation for 100,000 people is being built at Parramatta Park’ Parramatta, Sydney The Sunday Heralds headlines proclaimed on 21 October 1951…

 Parramatta is a large city within greater Sydney, 25 Km from the CBD, the huge park occupies an area of 245 acres and straddles the Parramatta River on the western edge of the town.

The 8,000 pound investment in the park facility was funded by ten local businessmen and used to clear and widen existing roads to a minimum of 28 to 30 feet. The projected average circuit speed of the circuit, designed and to be run by the Australian Sporting Car Club Ltd (ASSC), was 55 mph.

Barrie Garner, Frazer Nash in June 1955. Later an ace hillclimber in a Bowin P3 Holden. Track surface needs a sweep! Carnival atmosphere, big picnic crowd so close to the centre of Sydney (CRPP)

Motor racing in Parramatta Park had been mused about for decades. An article about the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ mentioned the possibility of events in either Centennial Park, Sydney or Parramatta Park with the writer just as rapidly despatching the idea as one which would be scuttled by the authorities. Indeed, officialdom caused plenty of grief in relation to racing at Parramatta when it was finally becoming a reality.

The proposed event on 28 January 1952 was not the first planned at the venue, a meeting was scheduled to be held on 5 November 1938- the star Peter Whitehead.

The wealthy wool merchant/racer was to compete in his 1938 Australian Grand Prix winning ERA R10B. Officialdom intervened in the form of the New South Wales Chief Commissioner of Police who decided to ban the race on Friday, the day before the meeting, due to concerns about competitor and spectator safety. Click here for my article on the 1938 AGP including details and pictures of the ’38 abortive, aborted Parramatta Grand Prix. https://primotipo.com/2015/04/16/peter-whitehead-in-australia-era-r10b-1938/

In a reprise of the 1938 dramas the Chief Commissioner of Police again stepped in and refused permission for the January 1952 race. The ASCC appealed his decision before the Parramatta Court of Petty Sessions with the Magistrate upholding the appeal. The event was allowed to take place on the basis that spectators were permitted no closer than 40 feet from the circuits edge.

Over 40,000 paying punters turned up on raceday causing massive traffic jams throughout the area and its surrounds.

John Crouch Cooper MkV JAP from Curley Brydon’s MG TC Spl in a handicap event during the January 1952 meeting. One of the ultimate TC specials in Australia shaded by the new generation of cars. Check out the crowd (CRPP)

Star of the show that weekend was Sydney driver John Crouch driving a new-fangled, mid-engined Cooper JAP MkV to three wins of the seven events.

One of victories was perhaps the ‘main event’ of the day, a six lap invitation scratch race for the quickest guys of the weekend- he won it in his 1097cc Cooper. Stan Jones was second in the 4.3 litre Maybach 1 then came Reg Hunt’s mid-engined Hunt ‘500’ fitted that weekend with a Vincent 998cc engine Then was Jack Saywell’s Cooper 1000, Doug Whiteford’s 4.375 litre Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’  and Alec  Mildren’s 1750cc Dixon Riley. The results are indicative of the rise of the small, efficient, mid-engine Coopers in Australia as was the case everywhere else in the world! Crouch set the lap record with a time of 1 minute 59 seconds.

In a reminder that ‘Motor Racing is Dangerous’, a wheel came off Doug Whiteford’s 1950 Australian Grand Prix winner, ‘Black Bess’ whilst travelling at circa 80 mph and landed in the backyard of a Victorian cottage adjoining the course. Fortunately the lady of the house was not hanging out the washing at the time the errant wheel landed atop her prize petunias.

Peter Lowe, Bugatti Holden from Laurie Oxenford, Alvis Mercury, January 1952 (CRPP)

Many meetings were held at the venue until 1957, regularly attracting over 10,000 spectators when the demands and difficulties of holding the races became too much. The circuits closure left the New South Wales circuits at the time as Mount Panorama at Bathurst, Gnoo Blas, Orange and Mount Druitt in Western Sydney.

I have long wanted to write an article about Parramatta Park but a paucity of photographs was the barrier. Not so now- the convenor and members of the Facebook group ‘Car Racing at Parramatta Park’ have uploaded some pearlers of shots- I’ve chosen some at random to give you a flavour of the place. For you FB folks just find and like the page in the usual way.

Stan Jones with a touch of the opposites in Maybach 1 chasing ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray’s Allard Cadillac in the opening January 1952 meeting. Jones was so impressed by the speed of the Coopers in relation to his GP car he promptly placed an order for one, a MkIV was soon in his Balwyn, Melbourne driveway (CRPP)

Both the aces of the day and coming-men raced at the ‘Park including drivers such as Doug Whiteford, Frank Kleinig, Stan Jones, David McKay, Bib Stillwell, Dick Cobden, Bill Patterson, Lex Davison, Tom Hawkes, Alec Mildren, Tom Sulman, Ted Gray, Ron Tauranac, Jack Brabham and many others. RT ran the very first of his Australian Ralts in the opening meeting, as against the Pommie built ones, and his later partner Brabham raced his Dirt Midget!

Jones big Maybach ‘monstering’ Ron Tauranac’s Ralt Norton ES2 500, January 1952 (CRPP)

The program described Jack thus- ‘A familiar winner at the speedway, and this years Australian Hillclimb Champion, Jack should find the circuit well suited to his style. His car is very light, has four wheel hydraulic brakes and is powered by a home made engine using J.A.P bits’.

By the June meeting Jack had jumped into a Cooper Mk5 500, the wry description in the program observed; ‘Australian Hillclimb Champion of 1951, Jack, one of our best midget drivers, is a new recruit to road racing, his Cooper…was an 1100, now has an engine designed and built by the new owner, a foremost expert at getting quarts out of pint pots’ ! A sage description of Jack’s ability to conjure something out of not very much throughout his career as both constructor and driver.

Dick Cobden from Bill Patterson in Stan Jones car and Bill Shipway- Coopers galore, all MkV’s I think June 1955 meeting (CRPP)

Bibliography…

Sydney Sunday Herald 21 October 1951, ‘Fast and Furious: The 1938 Parramatta Grand Prix’ article by Peter Arfanis

Photo Credits…

‘Car Racing at Parramatta Park’ Facebook Group (CRPP)

Tailpiece: Parramatta Park opening meeting, January 1952…

 

 

 

(K Drage)

Falls mainly on Warwick Farm, at least at its first open meeting it did, 18 December 1960…

Sydneysiders heap plenty of shite on Melburnians given our ‘four seasons in one day’ weather which does present its challenges to the ladies every now and again. Whilst I am a Mexican (Victorian) I am a Sydneysider by inclination having lived ‘in the guts’ of the place for nine wonderful years, in Observatory Hill/Millers Point. As a local when it does rain up there it can be sub-tropical in its intensity, it absolutely chucks it down in Cairns like fashion, as it did during the ‘Farms opening meeting- all of it.

Making like a duck in Kevin Drage’s opening shot is Derek Jolly, the wealthy Penfolds Wines heir’s equipe of Jaguar XK 140 Coupe and ex-works Lotus 15 Climax is behind him. Not sure how he fared in the Sportscar events, click hear for a feature I wrote about him and the Lotus a little while back;

https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

(K Drage)

The photo above in the form-up area is #9 Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2, #21 Doug Whiteford’s Bib Stillwell owned Cooper T51 FPF 2 litre, then Stillwell’s red Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.5 and Austin Miller’s yellow Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2. Bill didn’t start the ‘Warwick Farm Trophy’ feature race so this is the lineup for the preliminary or before the Victorian Holden dealer pulled the pin.

The ‘Warwick Farm Trophy’ was watched by 12,020 soggy spectators and was won by Bib Stillwell’s T51 2.5 from John Youl’s 2.2 litre variant, then Austin Miller and Lex Davison’s big-bellowing six-cylinder Aston Martin DBR4/250 3 litre. In the following four years, when held in glorious weather, Warwick Farm attracted between 23,000 and 36,021 (1962) to its annual International Meetings- strong numbers to see the F1 stars of the day. It was most unfortunate to have such poor weather for the circuits first big meeting but it was not at all a portent of what was to come for ‘Gods Little Acre of Motor Racing’ for the next thirteen years.

Stillwell’s Rice Trailer behind Lex, the ‘Ringwood’ Rice is Patto’s (K Drage)

Lex’ Aston, chassis DBR4/250 number ‘4’ was powered by a 3 litre Aston DBR1 sportscar engine- Astons won the 1959 Le Mans and Manufacturers Championship with these wonderful cars.

Lex popped the front-engined car on pole- he came sooo close to winning the 1960 Australian Grand Prix at Lowood in it from Alec Mildren’s terribly clever Cooper T51 Maserati in June. Then Davo ‘crossed the fence to the dark side’ and raced a Cooper T51 to a somewhat lucky win in the ’61 AGP at Mallala.

Must get around to doing an article about these Aston’s in Australia, were there two or three?…

(J Ellacott)

John Ellacott’s grid shot above comprises Patterson, Davison and Whiteford (red), then Miller and Stillwell (red) . On row three is John Youl Cooper T51 FPF 2.2, Stan Jones blue Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.3 and Jon Leighton Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre (this side) A row further back Arnold Glass sits on his lonesome in a Cooper T51 Maserati 250S 2.5 then there is John Roxburgh Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Noel Hall Cooper T51 Climax FPF 2.2 and Jack Robinson’s Jaguar Spl XK120 3.4 litre and at the rear Alwyn Rose in the Dalro Jaguar 2 XK120 3.4 litre. As I said earlier the results I have say Patterson did not start so perhaps we lost him on the warm-up lap

David McKay’s Morgan Plus 4 #71 in the Sportscar race which he wins…

(J Ellacott)

Love this anecdote sent to me by journalist Ray Bell- ‘The first race ever at Warwick Farm was for sportscars and you have that pic of the Austin Healey leading McKay in the Morgan off the grid.

McKay dogged the Healey driven by Bob Cutler, until Cutler spun. McKay won, Cutler came in second. Later in the pits McKay went up to him and said, “You were never going to win that race, boy!”. And Cutler asked why.

“See his here” McKay said, pointing to the tiny service sticker on the window of the Healey (you know the ones, oil change due at x miles, with the oil brand or the servo name on it), “That’s advertising, I would have protested!”

Some people’.

For international readers, advertising as it also was in Europe, was banned on racing cars at the time.

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott

Special Thanks…

Ray Bell

Tailpiece…I don’t wanna get my feet wet! Derek Jolly, Lotus 15 Climax and ‘plug box contemplating a day for the ducks, and a damp practice session…

(K Drage)

Finito…

 

(L Richards)

A motorsport event in Kew, Melbourne even in 1954 is a new one on me?!…

Its a rather nice, leafy, green suburb through which the Yarra River flows 5 Km from Melbourne’s CBD- ‘stockbroker belt’ stuff with some of Melbourne’s ‘better’ private schools contained therein. There is plenty of wealth in the area, then and now. So how come the good citizens of Kew allowed a motor sport event to take place on their turf prey tell?!

Stan Jones’ Cooper Mk4 JAP and a motor-cyclist are about to ‘blast off’ along the Kew Boulevard at Studley Park by the look of it. The flag-man is Reg Robbins, long-time member of Stanley’s racing equipe.

It’s a stretch of road we have all done lap records upon before the long arm of the law toned things down somewhat. A ribbon of bitumen that commands respect as a fair proportion of it is open and high speed despite changes to slow things down.

I have it on good authority that the number of 911’s which go in backwards is not that much different now to the 1980’s when there were plenty of wallies with loads of money not reflected in commensurate levels of driving talent. Many an insurance tale of woe was born on this stretch of blacktop.

(L Richards)

In any event, what is going on here, some of you are Kew locals, we are all intrigued to know?

Stan has his ‘Maybach’ helmet on , it was a good year for him, he had just won the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore in perhaps Australia’s most famous special, the Charlie Dean/Repco built and prepared Maybach on 9 January. No wonder he has a big smile upon his face.

For Jones it was an easy event logistically. He lived in Balwyn, an adjoining suburb and his ‘fettler’ Ern Seeliger’s garage was in Baker Street, Richmond, also a couple of kays from The Boulevard on the other side of the river.

I am intrigued. Do tell folks!?. Maybe its a promotion and i’m getting excited about absolutely nothing…

An idea of the Kew Boulevard in 1958- not much different now, leafy green and lots of curves. This is the finish of a ‘car trial’ treasure hunt social event (L Richards)

Photo Credits…

Laurie Richards, State Library of Victoria, David Zeunert

Tailpiece: Stan and Cooper JAP, Templestowe Hillclimb circa 1952…

(SLV)

Templestowe Hillclimb was not too far from Kew, where the shots above are taken, so here is a snap of the man in action there. I’ve no idea of the date in the event that one of you were there to sort that point. Jones hustled a car along, he was a physical, press on kinda driver who pushed hard, not lacking finesse mind you, but you could always see him trying to get the best from his mount.

Just as he is here, using all of the available road…

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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.

port w

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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/

patta brands

(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

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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…

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JB again @ Altona in 1954 (SLV)