Posts Tagged ‘Tornado 2 Chev’

(P Jones)

Alec Mildren’s new, fifth-placed Cooper T43 Climax FPF 1.5 during the February 23, 1958 Gold Star weekend.

Stan Jones won the 28 lap, 50 mile ‘Victorian Trophy’ race in his Maserati 250F from Arnold Glass’ Ferrari 555 Super Squalo and Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S sportscar.

Many thanks to Melbourne enthusiast Peter Jones for sharing his photographs taken during a number of Fishos’ race meetings in the mid-fifties when he was in his mid to late teens. Thanks to Stephen Dalton for painstaking research post-publication to nail all the meeting dates.

Don’t Peter’s marvellous colour shots bring a drab airfield circuit to life? Many of the photographs were taken at this Victorian Trophy weekend, the second of nine Gold Star rounds, the title won by Stan Jones that year.

‘Patons Brake Replacements’ were omni-present at the time, a major trade supporter of our sport, they were ultimately absorbed within the Repco Ltd automotive manufacturing conglomerate. See this piece about the inner-suburban Melbourne airfield track; https://primotipo.com/2016/04/15/fishermans-bend-melbourne/

October 1957 (P Jones)

Tornado 2 Chev, the most successful form of the Lou Abrahams/Ted Gray/Jack and Bill Mayberry two racers. Bill and Lou are at far left.

Ted led the race early and was running in the top 4 when he pitted to address throttle linkage problems on lap 10. He rejoined and was third by lap 20 but the engine lost its edge, finally retiring after 26 laps.

Tornado won the Longford Trophy the following weekend. It was without doubt one of the fastest-if not the fastest car of 1958 together with Jones 250F, Ern Seeliger’s  Maybach 4 Chev and Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 when it raced. It was not the most reliable though.

October 1957 (P Jones)

As regular readers will know I am a huge fan of everything and everyone to do with the Tornados. See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/ . Oh yep, a shorter one here too; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/20/teds-tornado-and-lens-cooper/

October 1956 (P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Sabina Motors entered, Reg Nutt driven Cisitalia D46 Fiat 1,100, October 1957 meeting. Bailey’s Talbot-Lago T26C alongside.

This car was imported by Melbourne’s Dale Brothers in the early fifties but seems never to have been raced ‘really intensively’ in period. I recall it appearing at Sandown in the mid-seventies in one of the historic events which supported the annual taxi-enduro. At that stage it was part of the Leech Brothers Collection in Brighton, Melbourne. Long since departed our shores.

Such significant cars. Doug Nye credits Dante Giacosa’s 1946 design for Piero Dusio as the first modern customer spaceframe. ‘The production racing car trendsetter for an entire generation of designers’. Little bit about it here at the start of this Cooper Bristol piece; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/24/the-cooper-t23-its-bristolbmw-engine-and-spaceframe-chassis/

Reg Nutt is a story himself, he was a riding mechanic in the Phillip Island twenties GP years and then a racer of note.

(P Jones)

David McKay, Aston Martin DB3S during the February 1958 meeting.

David chose not to race in the Formula Libre Gold Star round, how did he do in the sportscar races folks?

This ex-works car, chassis ‘DB3S-9’ is the second of his two Aston Martin DB3S. Perhaps its biggest Oz win, in a field of some depth was the Australian Tourist Trophy at Mount Panorama that October. The customer ‘Kangaroo Stable’ machine was ‘DB3S-102’. See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/09/28/david-mckays-aston-martin-db3ss/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2017/10/31/yes-frank-i-love-it-magnificent-in-fact/

(P Jones)

Owen Bailey’s ex-works-Whiteford Talbot-Lago T26C from ace racer-engineer Otto Stone, MG K3.

The French machine won AGPs for ‘Dicer-Doug’ in 1952 and 1953 at Mount Panorama and Albert Park before it was replaced by an older and supposedly quicker machine.

Owen Bailey lined up for the start but transmission failure meant his race ended before it started. He did not have a great deal of luck racing this car.

See articles about T-Ls here; https://primotipo.com/2019/03/16/1953-australian-grand-prix-albert-park/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/06/09/fill-her-up-matey-lago-talbot-t26c-melbourne-1957/

(P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Bib Stillwell’s Jaguar D Type.

The car first raced at the 1956 March Moomba meetings at Albert Park. Meeting date 13/14 October 1956, Jack Davey was the next owner in early 1957. See this feature for a full history of ‘XKD520’; https://primotipo.com/2020/04/17/stillwells-d-type/

(P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Terry McGrath advises the XK120 #45 above is Murray Carter’s car.

(P Jones)

Poor Arnold Glass is stuck in the intake of his glorious ex-works-Reg Parnell Ferrari 555 Super Squalo ‘555-2’ during the ’58 Gold Star weekend. ‘It’s arrived not long ago from New Zealand, still has the NZ rego #495795 on the nose’ said Dalton.

Glass was second behind Jones’ 250F and in front of Whiteford’s 300S.

Australia’s ‘Big Red Car’ era ran from the arrival of Reg Hunt’s 2.5-litre Maserati A6GCM in 1954 and ended, say, after Stan Jones AGP win at Longford in March 1959. The little marauding Coopers were well on the march by then but not yet dominant.

The fans were excited by Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, the 250Fs of Hunt, Jones, Bib Stillwell and Glass, the 300S of Doug Whiteford and Bob Jane and this car raced by Glass. It wasn’t the quickest thing around, he got on better with his ex-Hunt-Stillwell 250F but it was still a fast, spectacular car the very successful motor dealer drove capably.

See here; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2020/10/10/squalo-squadron/

October 1957 (P Jones)

Bib Stillwell discusses progress with a mechanic, ex-Hunt Maserati 250F chassis ‘2516’.

He ran well in the first couple of laps with Stan Jones but then pulled over at Matchless Corner with bent valves. Bib raced with his usual race number 6, these shots of the car the October 1957 Fishermans Bend meeting.

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

Stillwell’s preparation and presentation was five-star, it is intriguing why he has not re-painted Reg Hunts luvverly Rice Trailer in his own colours. Make and model of the American car folks?

Reg Hunt tested and acquired the machine at Modena in December 1955, first racing it in Australia at Gnoo Blas. He won the South Pacific Championship in it and ‘was the class of 1956’ behind it’s wood-rimmed wheel. Who can fault his choice of early retirement to focus on his growing dealership empire but our grids were robbed of a great competitor. See here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/19/reg-hunt-australian-ace-of-the-1950s/

October 1957 (P Jones)

By this stage of his career Stillwell’s Kew Holden dealership and related enterprises were spitting off serious wads of cash, the quality of his racing cars reflected this.

An arch enthusiast, as well as an elite level racer- no driver other than Bob Jane had so many sensational racing cars ‘in period’ and later in his life when he returned to racing ‘historics’ globally.

(P Jones)

With a keen eye on the growing speed of Coopers, Bib bought the T43 Climax (above) Jack Brabham raced in the 1958 New Zealand Internationals and South Pacific Championship race at Gnoo Blas in January. Jack won the Levin International and the Soupac Championship in the 2.2-litre Climax FPF engined machine.

Bib practiced both the Cooper and Maserati at Fishos, he elected to race the 250F.

He entered the Cooper in the Bathurst Easter meeting where the 1.7-litre FPF engined car (presumably Jack took the 2.2 back to England) was very fast. In a 3 lap preliminary Bib started from pole but his new Cooper jumped out of gear. He quickly plucked it and set off amongst the mid-field bunch but touched wheels with Alec Mildren’s similar car (our opening shot machine) in the first turn- Hell Corner. The car somersaulted several times before landing back on its wheels. Bib was ok with facial cuts and abrasions but the Cooper was a tad worse for wear. After repair it was sold to Bill Patterson who raced it for the first time at Lowood in August.

Stillwell raced the 250F throughout the rest of 1958 and sold it to Arnold Glass in early 1959 after a good run to sixth in the Ardmore NZ GP. Carroll Shelby’s 250F was the best placed front-engined car that afternoon, two laps adrift of Stirling Moss winning 2-litre Cooper T45. It was very much time to sell, Arnold did very well with it in 1959-1960 all the same!

October 1956 (P Jones)

Paul England and Bill Hickey’s Ausca Holden-Repco is one of the sexiest and quickest of Australian sportscars of the period.

Ya can’t go wrong with styling nicked from the Maserati A6GCS! The ladder-frame chassis machine was built after-hours by Paul and Bill at Repco Research in Sydney Road Brunswick. It used a Holden front-end, rear axle and engine. It was the rolling test bed for the Repco Hi-Power Holden Grey-Six engine developments.

England’s skill at twiddling a wheel did the rest. Happy to have this little baby in my garage. Not sure of the meeting date.

October 1956 (P Jones)

 

October 1956 (P Jones)

Hedley Thompson’s Edelbrock Special.

Thompson, a highly skilled welder/fabricator employed by Trans-Australian Airlines operated from a workshop behind his home in Melbourne’s inner-eastern Deepdene. The car used a ladder frame chassis and Ford V8 with lots of Vic Edelbrock bits within- hence the name. The gearbox was also Ford, the rear end incorporated a quick-change Halibrand diff. A Delage donated the brake-drums which used Holden cylinders and Holden worm and roller steering.

The car made its debut sans-bodywork at Hepburn Springs in 1956 and later passed to Barry Stilo who made it sing. It exists today, a quite stunning car.

(P Jones)

Ern Seeliger’s Maybach 4 Chev in the ’58 Fishermans Bend paddock.

This thing was still quick in 1959, Stan Jones won the Port Wakefield Gold Star round in it.

Seeliger did a mighty fine job replacing the Maybach SOHC-six with a Chev Corvette V8. Additionally, considerable changes were made to the rear suspension and other refinements- Maybach 3 became Maybach 4.

Ern was like a rocket at the Bend! He hassled Stan early then passed he and Glass for the lead. The look on the face of the cars owner- Stan Jones would have been priceless! But it was not to be. Ern started the race with worn tyres, he was black-flagged when the stewards caught sight of white breaker-strips on the hard worn tyres!

See here; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/09/stan-ernie-and-maybach-4-chev/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2020/07/14/john-comber-collection/

October 1957 (P Jones)

Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S was one of the best prepared and presented racing cars- all of the work done by the three-times Australian Grand Prix winner himself.

Here is the ex-works Jean Behra 1956 Australian Tourist Trophy meeting car during the February 1958 meeting. Doug finished third in a typically speedy, reliable run. See 300S feature here; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

February 1958 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

 

October 1957 (P Jones)

Bill Patterson’s Cooper T39 Climax, wouldn’t it have made an ideal road-car.

Patterson’s outer-east Melbourne Ringwood Holden dealership was not too far from Templestowe and Rob Roy hillclimbs, close enough for a bit of lunchtime practice or failing that a romp through the Dandenongs.

The plucky racer was one of the very fastest of his day, a Cooper man throughput after his formative MG stage. See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/02/02/patto-and-his-coopers/ Stephen reckons the side view of the car alongside the T39 above is Brian Sampson’s Morris Special- ‘Sambo’, was very close to the start of a long, diverse and successful career which was only finished by a road accident not so long ago.

He won the Gold Star in 1961 aboard a Cooper T51 Climax, the machine below is the T43 Climax FPF ex-Brabham-Stillwell #5 referred to above, perhaps in 1959.

(P Jones)

Note John Roxburgh standing at right and what looks a bit like Bib Stillwell in the cream jumper? Holden Ute and wonderful colour gives us a perspective on male fashion of the coolish day- October 1958 or February 1959 meeting.

(P Jones)

Len Lukey’s Cooper T23 Bristol, probably, ace Cooper historian Stephen Dalton thinks, during the October 1957 Fishos meeting where the car carried #33.

He surmises, based on AMS magazine reports, that Len’s team fitted the longer nose in an attempt to make the car more slippery before the Commonwealth Oil Refinery (C.O.R. later BP) sponsored speed-trials held at Coonabarabran, New South Wales in September 1957.

Two years hence Len would be aboard an ex-Brabham Cooper T45 Climax at the start of the longest Gold Star season. A successful one too, he won the Gold Star; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/26/len-lukey-australian-gold-star-champion/

Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F below, it is chassis #2516 featured above, bodied as it was when Reg first imported it in early 1956, this probably the October 1956 meeting.

(P Jones)

 

Peter with a modern Yamaha, above leading Eric Debenham and Eric Hindle at Oran Park on the TR500 in 1970. With ‘mo’ after a win on the TR500 in 1970 (Old Bike Australasia)

After completing the piece to this point via to-and-fro emails I gave photographer Peter Jones a call to thank him and find out a bit about him. To my pleasant surprise I learned he was an Australian champion motor-cyclist in the sixties and seventies, so lets have a look at his career! What a fascinating journey Peter’s has been.

Born in 1942, he was raised in Melbourne’s Kew and then Beaumaris. Qualified as a fitter and turner he commenced his racing career aboard a a Yamaha YDS2 jumping in right at the deep end- his first meeting was at Bathurst in Easter 1964, third in the 250cc Production race was a good start on this most daunting of circuits!

He progressed through an Aermacchi Ala d’Oro 250 pushrod single as below. ‘Built 1963 or 1964, I bought it second hand from the distributor. It was a toss-up between this and a Yamaha TD1-A and I went with this. Great handling and brakes but in my ownership it was lacking in reliability, which in hindsight was a combination of me and the bike.’

‘The battery has a Yamaha logo on it, I knew the Yamahah importers well and had owned two Yamaha 250cc road bikes so when I needed batteries I went there. Back of the photo says Calder February 1965. That’s my Holden FC Ute behind.’

(P Jones)

 

(P Jones)

Peter then bought a Yamaha TD1-B which allowed him to demonstrate his talent and progress to B-Grade, the bike is shown exiting Griffins Bend at Mount Panorama in 1966 above.

‘I enjoyed this bike a lot, had some success with it while still learning my way. I had a very experienced racing mechanic, Les Gates of Murrumbeena, looking after me so reliability was not a problem. A great weekend was 4 or 5 riders working on our bikes in his backyard with us doing the simple things and Les the more complex. The machine was painted in standard Yamaha colours of white with a red stripe. My Cromwell jet-helmet was white, I painted it blue on each side. The emblem on the front of the helmet is the Sandringham Motorcycle Club- spoked wheel with wings, the club still exists today.’

Graham Laing at Melbourne Motorcycles invited him to assemble a batch of Suzukis which had arrived in December 1965. This led to a full-time gig and the offer to race a Suzuki TR250 production-racer in 1966, I looked after this bike. After a lot of work to improve the performance of the bike Peter hit the big time at the Bathurst  Easter meeting. He finished second to Bryan Hindle’s Yamaha TDC-1 in the B-Grade Junior and then second to Eric Debenham’s big Vincent in the B-Grade Unlimited. He was second behind Ron Toombs’ Yamaha in the Junior GP. Better still, a slow-starting Toombs gave Jones the break he needed to win the Lightweight GP in 1969.

The Auto Cycle Union of Victoria provided a grant for Peter to represent the state in the Australian Championships at Surfers Paradise- he was nominated in the 250, 350, and 500 races, all aboard the TR250. The young rider won the 250 and 350, and then the 500 as well. Ron Toombs led on the latter aboard his Matchless but then DNF’d.

(P Jones)

‘The shot above is my first meeting aboard the Suzuki TR250 at Mallala in January 1966. It must be during practice as the engine mounts cracked so I didn’t start. It’s the left-hander after the hairpin, the bike in front is a Kawasaki 250 production racer.’

Peter built up a 500 from a road-going T500 on which he won the Jack Ahearn Trophy at Amaroo Park. A promised TR500 which was due for early in 1970 finally arrived late in the year but without the rear wheel assembly including Ceriani rear brake. Suzuki sent it anyway! and Peter completed it with road parts.

Determined to race in Europe in 1971, Graham Laing agreed that Jones could take the TR500 with him. En-route to the UK Jones ordered and bought a TR250 from Ron Grant (which turned out to be a very poor replica which brings a twitch to my left eye when i think about it!) who was racing at Daytona. He also took his T20 roadie on which he learned the Isle of Man course in the week before the race!

Jones was awarded a Bronze Replica for his performance on the 250 and a Silver on the 500 but admitted, ‘for me, the races were sort of fast touring’. He also rode a Suzuki GB entered T350 in the Production Race.

Later in the season Peter and very-good British rider Keith Martin, aided by Australian mechanic Dave Hall rode the same machine to seventh in the 24 Hour classic at Montjuich Park, Barcelona. ‘Dave Hall was touring the UK and Europe on his BMW. We first met up at the IOM but he assisted in the meetings I raced including manning our Barcelona pit for the full 24-hours, an amazing effort. He later worked for the Suzuki GP team and sponsored riders on a 250cc production bike when he returned to Australia.’ Other non-championship internationals were at Hengalo, Holland and the Southern 100 at Brands Hatch.

In 500s ‘The only works team at the time was Ago and the MV’s, but even that was just a van and some mechanics. The biggest team was the Dutch Van Kreidler team in the 50cc class.’

‘On the 500’s the guys chasing Ago were Keith Turner, Robert Brom and Jack Findlay on his TR500 engined bike. I did the TT, the Swedish GP in torrential rain and the Spanish GP at Jarama where i got seventh in the 500 GP for four world-championship points. The shot below is at the Isle of Man in 1971 aboard my 1970 Suzuki TR500, it was a great bike, easy to ride, I enjoyed it a lot.’

(P Jones)

Back at home with new wife Lyn early in 1972 with the overseas racing bug out of the system, the TR250 and 500 were converted to run on methanol in an attempt to keep them competitive. Later a water-cooled TR500 was little better.

Peter contested the Amaroo Park Castrol 6-Hours in 1970 and 1972 but lap scoring which left a lot to be desired was no incentive to maintain his interest. Peter won the 1973 ‘King of The Weir’ at, you guessed it, Hume Weir.

Peter’s waning interest was piqued with the purchase of a fabulous Suzuki RG500 square-four in time for the infamous Laverton RAAF base February 1976 Australian Tourist Trophy meeting. This was headlined by Giacomo Agostini’s works MV Agusta 500-four.

Jones qualified second behind Ken Blake’s RG500, ahead of Ago on the 5.3km circuit. In the race he muffed the start and finished fourth behind the victorious Blake, then Agostini with Greg Johnson on another RG500 in third.

‘Below is the RG500, now that was a racing bike! Square-four, great power delivery and handling, everything you could ask for. Here braking for Laverton’s far-hairpin, we did a U-turn around the hay-bales and then back up the other side. My last racing motorcycle as I retired during 1976.’

(P Jones)

It was time to hang up the helmet for the Service Manager role at Melbourne Motorcycles. Senior executive roles followed at Suzuki Australia, Yamaha’s Milledge Brothers and Yamaha Motor Australia where Jones had a support role in the early 2000’s with the companies’ Australian Superbike and Moto GP rounds.

Retired in Sidmouth, Tasmania, Peter has his TR250 and air-cooled TR500 to restore and in more recent times has been carefully sorting rather a nice collection of his photographs…

Photo and other Credits…

Peter Jones- many thanks for sharing your story and photographs with us

Peter Jones Old Bike Australasia article by Jim Scaysbrook, Stephen Dalton, Terry McGrath

Tailpiece…

(P Jones)

‘I obviously like the colour of it’ Peter quipped, there were quite a few shots of the same car. N Ronalds, MGA, during the October 1956 meeting.

Finito…

 

(J Comber)

Ern Seeliger jumps aboard the magnificent Maybach 4 Chev at Fishermans Bend in March 1958…

One of the Covid 19 phenomena, the only good one I might add, is the incredible number of enthusiasts who have been using time released from normal outdoor activities to doing stuff inside including finding and sorting old racing images, Melbourne enthusiast, John Comber is one such fella.

In addition to the shots he also wrote a piece about his work experience as a fifteen year old in Seeliger’s workshop at 52 Baker Street, Richmond, Melbourne way back in 1958- Seeliger didn’t frighten him off either, he commenced his career as a panel beater shortly thereafter.

Of course i have written about the Maybachs before, here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

A big blow up of the one remaining Maybach six cylinder engine at Gnoo Blas littered the bitumen with expensive metallic debris in early 1956 and resulted in Stan Jones decision to acquire a Maserati 250F, the Maybach was handed over to Seeliger, long time friend and preparer of some of his cars to further develop and race, although Stan did have the occasional drive too.

Maybach 3 was styled along the lines of the Mercedes Benz W196, its chassis was built up from two 4 inch diameter steel tubes, the cars front suspension was by upper wishbones and a lower transverse leaf spring and radius rods, drum brakes were by PBR and the gearbox a four-speed manual.

Seeliger’s evolution of Maybach 3 to 4 essentially involved the insertion of a Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 into the space once occupied by the German 3.8 litre SOHC injected six, changes to accomodate it and better put its power to the road.

Maybach 3 in the Gnoo Blas, Orange paddock on the fateful early 1956 when its beautiful, fuel injected SOHC six lunched itself bigtime for the last time-who is at the wheel? (B Caldersmith)

John Comber’s time in the Seeliger shop coincided with some of these modifications, lets look at his work experience now.

‘…My second job was also with a neighbour, Mr Seeliger, who had a small automotive engineering business in Richmond…The arrangements were for me and my friend Trevor to be at the Seeliger’s house at 7.30 am Monday morning, do a days work and see how we liked it.’

‘On the Monday, with a  packed lunch and wearing our best “old clothes” we arrived at 7.30 just as Mr Seeliger was starting the engine of his utility. “Jump in boys” he said and we took off straight away, heading for Richmond (from Blackburn).’

‘I still remember quite clearly his opening comments, “Well i have the right job for you two bastards today, you can clean some car parts with kero, “That’ll keep you busy”.

‘The thought of cleaning the car parts with kerosene didn’t faze me but the language had caused me something of a jolt. To me this was school-yard  language and i wasn’t used to adults swearing, certainly not from my parents or relatives, or family friends.’

‘Well the rest of the day turned out fine, Trevor and i set-to with a can of kerosene cleaning mechanical parts and some body parts as well. This was quite an easy job and allowed us to look around and take in the surroundings. Mr Seeliger’s workshop  was converted from some old run-down stables with cobblestones between the sheds and an overhead loft used for storage. The yard was quite large with grass growing between some old cars and car trailers adding to the overall run-down appearance of the place.’

‘This must have been too much for Trevor as he didn’t come any more but i was there each day for the next fortnight, working amongst the cars was perfect for me…’

The core of Mr Seeliger’s business was tuning and maintaining racing cars, he was a qualified aircraft engineer and understood high performance engines and was also a racing driver himself. One of the racing cars he worked on had a V8 engine and was a potential race-winner. I learned later that this car was known as the “Maybach” and had a long history of success. He had spent several days working on the rear of the car making some modifications. Finally with it all finished i can still visualise him standing on the back of the car, making it bounce up and down and saying “That’ll keep me ahead of those bloody Ferraris.”

‘There were only three on staff, Mr Seeliger, a mechanic and Roy, the apprentice. Although Roy was only a year or two older than me he was quite friendly and helpful. To quote an old mechanic’s saying “he knew his way around a toolbox”, sometimes i helped with jobs on customer cars- simple jobs…’

‘Working conditions can best be described as matching the already mentioned surroundings: primitive might sum it up. There was no lunch-room, morning tea break was around the car being worked on and discussing the progress of the job while sipping tea or coffee. Lunch break was a little better though with a couple of old car seats to sit on…There was no heating of any sort, the area between the main sheds being open to the elements. The toilet was basic and the only tap available for hand washing was also used for filling radiators and washing cars etc.’

‘Despite these poor working conditions, which by twenty-first century standards would be deemed illegal, i thoroughly enjoyed myself working with cars and receiving five pounds each week. Now i was even more eager to finish school and begin an apprenticeship as a panel beater’, John Comber concluded in a wonderful personal account of what it was like ‘in the day’.

Tom Hawkes’ Cooper T23 Holden-Repco and Ron Phillips’ Cooper T38 Jaguar (J Comber)

 

Seeliger, above, with his mount at Bathurst during the 1958 Australian Grand Prix weekend- and a successful meeting too, second behind Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 3 litre.

 

(J Comber)

In fact the modifications to the car John alluded to included the design and construction of a de Dion rear axle to better put the greater power and torque of the bigger, heavier cast-iron V8 to the road. The previous quarter-elliptic springs were replaced with a transverse leaf, the rear track widened by an inch, the chassis lengthened a bit and at the front an anti-roll bar was fitted which incorporated brake torque rods. A larger 30 gallon tank was made to feed the thirsty Chevy.

American hot-up parts were quickly produced for this engine (in large numbers continuously for about seventy years so far!) the first of the ‘small-blocks’- the modifications to the motor used in Maybach involved fitment of two 4-barrel Carter carbs, porting and polishing the heads, bigger valves, stronger springs, lightened flywheel, oilways modified for greater flow and dry-sumping- 274bhp @ 3500rpm and 300lb/ft at 3500rpm was the result. Seeliger designed and made the clutch and a bell-housing to adapt the American engine to German Maybach ‘box whilst the diff was the same unit used in ‘3’ but with shorter axles and stronger cv’s bolted and mated to the new de Dion.

Ern made the cars debut in this form at Fishermans Bend in March 1958, John Comber’s first shot at this articles outset and some others below were taken on that very weekend.

His bid for victory came to an end with stripped tyres, John recalls ‘We watched the races from a large furniture van…after a few laps of the main race the rear tyres showed white strips around their perimeter and those on the van became quite worried the tyres might blow- fortunately Seeliger saw the problem and retired from the race….Back in the van there were many commiserations and i distinctly remember asking him “Would he be suing Dunlop because the tyres let him down”? He laughingly said “Oh no, they were just some old tyres anyway”- and indeed if you look closely at the first photograph the rears are well worn.

Importantly, the car was quick right out of the box though, Seeliger was a mighty fine design and development engineer.

Stan Jones was stiff not to win the 1958 AGP at Bathurst aboard his 250F- as was Ted Gray unlucky to dip out in Tornado 2 Chev, but Seeliger finished second in Maybach 4 with Lex Davison, always a lucky AGP competitor, the winner.

Be in no doubt my friends Maybach 4 Chev in Jone’s hands was a front row car had he felt so inclined in 1958 but he was busy winning the Gold Star aboard the 250F in any event. John believes he took the second #69 shot about two years later at a Fishermans Bend Sprint Meeting- it would be great to hear from anyone who can date it.

Into 1959 Maybach 4 was still competitive in Ern’s hands, and Stan took a win in the ‘South Australian Trophy’ Gold Star event at Port Wakefield in late March and third place in the Lowood Trophy race in Queensland but his performances that year were not enough to win him the Gold Star again despite his Longford 250F AGP win at the season’s outset.

The reign of the ‘Red Cars’ was quickly coming to an end In Australia but lets never forget the dark blue Tornado 2 shown in the Albert Park paddock below in late 1958, and the silver/blue Maybach 4- both Chev V8 powered locally designed and engineered devices very much as quick as the more sophisticated, twin-cam, exotic, expensive factory cars from Italy’s north.

Click here for a feature on the Tornados; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Tornado with the Derek Jolly Lotus 15 Climax in profile behind, Albert Park 1958 (J Comber)

 

(J Comber)

In fact that is a beautiful segue to Comber’s second 1958 Albert Park, Melbourne Grand Prix shot above of Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker entered Cooper T45 Climax being pushed through the paddock by Tim Wall.

Just look at the relative size and packaging of Tornado 2 Chev, together with Maybach 4, Stan Jones Maserati 250F and Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 the fastest cars in Australia in 1958 and the tiny, light, nimble 2 litre Cooper.

At the season’s outset, before the Fishermans Bend meeting in March when Seeliger debuted Maybach 4, Stirling Moss won the first World Championship Formula 1 race taken by a mid-engined car by receiving the chequered flag in the Argentinian Grand Prix in a Walker T45- i am not sure if he used the same chassis to defeat Jack Brabham in another T45 that Melbourne summer afternoon- sadly the last use of Albert Park as a race venue until the modern era.

That day in Argentina reset the paradigm for Grand Prix and Sports-Racer design, the last World Championships for front engined cars were won in 1958- Vanwall took the constructors title and Mike Hawthorn the drivers award in a Ferrari Dino 246.

It was the same, in a fashion in Australia, the last front-engined Gold Star win was Jones 1958 award aboard his Maserati 250F, the first mid-engined one went to Len Lukey who raced the same Cooper T45 Brabham ran at Albert Park in late 1958 to Gold Star victory in 1959.

No wonder Comber’s camera was drawn to the little Cooper at Albert Park.

See here for Moss at ‘The Park’; https://primotipo.com/2016/12/27/moss-at-albert-park/

 

(J Comber)

Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax has been well covered, here the car is at rest with Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder alongside- Ern Tadgell raced the car that weekend.

Before the end of a weekend the Lotus’ good health was ruined comprehensively- a rear suspension failure pitched the car into the trees late in the Melbourne GP race and resulted in some acrimonious discussions between Colin Chapman and Jolly about the quality of its build- a Le Mans drive and new chassis was the net result- see here for a feature article on the Derek’s Deccas and Lotuses; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/09/dereks-deccas-and-lotus-15s/

 

(J Comber)

David McKay’s Jaguar Mk1 is another car which has been well covered in these pages, here at Albert Park it has not been in the country long at all. See here; https://primotipo.com/2014/08/05/gnoo-who-gnoo-blas-circuit-jaguar-xkc-type-xkc037/

The Sydneysider had a great carnival winning the Touring Car Scratch Race on both weekends with the eternal Bob Holden, and Clem Smith Holdens second and third on both occasions- Holden raced an FE and Smith a ‘Humpy’.

(J Comber)

Doug Whiteford was as close to a professional driver Australia had at the time, albeit his St Kilda and Hawthorn garages and dealerships were an inextricable part of his business mix- above is his Dodge Custom Royal and Rice Trailer contained within is his famous, long raced and much lusted over Maserati 300S- Fisherman’s Bend February or March 1958.

This piece is about the Maserati 300S; https://primotipo.com/2015/05/15/bob-jane-maserati-300s-albert-park-1958/

(J Comber)

Len Lukey made his name in Ford Customlines before adding single seaters to the mix and winning a Gold Star aboard a Cooper T45 Climax in 1959.

He famously towed his Cooper Bristol to a Caversham Gold Star round with a Customline and then contested the Touring Car races with said tow-car, note the tow-bar in this ‘Fishos shot.

All about Len here; https://primotipo.com/2019/12/26/len-lukey-australian-gold-star-champion/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/20/teds-tornado-and-lens-cooper/

(J Comber)

Another two Fishermans Bend tourer contestants are this #69 Hillman raced by Harry Firth and Esquire Motors entered Wolseley driven by 1936 Australian Grand Prix winner, Les Murphy, towards the end of a very long racing career- 22/23 February 1958 weekend. The shot below is Bob Holden’s FE Holden.

(J Comber)

Otto Stone and crewman push the great engineer, and very handy steerers MG K3 through the paddock- I think it is fair to say that Stan Jones Maserati 250F fortunes changed for the better when Otto took over the preparation of chassis ‘2520’.

(J Comber)

Other Photographs…

(J Comber)

Two of the cars featured above in period in more recent times- the late eighties during an Eastern Beach, Ritchie Boulevard, Geelong Sprint meeting.

These days Maybach 4 I think is owned by Peter Briggs’ York Motor Museum in West Australia and Tornado 2 Chev by Frank Moore in Queensland- both are such significant cars it would be great to see them out and about more often.

(J Comber)

 

(J Comber)

A series of three photographs at Sandown to finish off- the first is again Tornado 2 Chev, this time during the 1978 ‘Fangio Meeting’ with, if memory serves, one of its ‘in period’ drivers John McDonald at the wheel, perhaps someone with a  program to hand can check that.

John has framed his shot brilliantly by avoiding modern advertising hoardings, this is the run along Pit Straight, close to Peters/Torana Corner.

Stan Jones is one of my all-time faves so i’ve saved the best till last!

And what a cracker of a shot it is, a beautiful pan of Jones’ Maserati 250F on the run away from Dandy Road towards The Causeway with the tree and blurred background giving the place a feel of a time five or so years before it actually opened.

(J Comber)

John believes this is probably the ‘St Vincents’ Historic Meeting’ in November 1963. By this stage Stan’s financial fortunes are not what they were, the Maser is for sale so my guess is that this is probably his last drive of a car which was perhaps kinder to him than any other- Maybach 1 made his reputation but the Maserati ‘brought home the bacon’.

It would have been with a heavy heart he backed off the throttle alongside the grandstand to lose speed and pulled into pit lane and the dusty paddock to switch off the peachy, punchy straight-six for one last time.

The crop of the same shot below reveals Stan’s usual race attire inclusive of five year old helmet and T-Shirt- just magic, I can hear the bellowing six and snickety-snick changes executed with expert familiarity…

(J Comber)

Photos/References…

John Comber’s words and pictures, as he quipped ‘Not bad for a 15 year old equipped with a Box-Brownie!’- who can argue with that, a mighty fine, evocative job indeed.

David Zeunert Collection, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation Archives, Brian Caldersmith Collection

Stephen Dalton for vehicle identification and additional research

Tailpiece: Ern Seeliger, Stan Jones and Superior Motors salesman Doug Roberts aboard Jones’ HRG, Baker Street, Richmond, 1950…

(D Zeunert Collection)

David Zeunert observes ‘Stan’s second hand car emporium “Superior Motors” in Victoria Street was only five minutes away from Ern’s garage, very handy for both guys who used one another’s wits on many race projects.’

Stephen Dalton chips in, ‘The photo would have been taken in the first week of October 1950,  just before or after the October 1950 Bathurst meeting that Stan Jones ran as car number 34. Mr Medley has Stan spinning in his Bathurst tome for that chapter- by the following weekend the car was carrying #7 at Woodside, South Australia.’

(D Zeunert Collection)

Finito…

 

Front wishbone and lever arm shock and lower transverse leaf spring. Chev Corvette 283 cid V8 topped by 2 Carter 4 barrel carbs, note how the engine and drivetrain are offset to the right with the driver sitting nice and low to the left rather than above the prop-shaft. Bob Burnett built this body as he did the other Maybachs. Handsome brute (Q Miles)

Stan Jones, Maybach 4 Chev in the Lowood, Queensland paddock, June 1959…

I love Quentin Miles wonderful clear period photo of the fun of the fair and especially the business end of the last car built in the most famous range of Australian Specials- not that the ‘Special’ descriptor does justice to the quality of the design and construction of the Maybachs under Charlie Dean’s leadership at Repco Research in Sydney Road, Brunswick, in Melbourne’s inner north.

In essence my article about Stan Jones is also a piece about Maybach- it together with the 1954 Southport Australian Grand Prix feature provide plenty of background on the cars and their progressive evolution from Maybach 1- the 1954 NZ GP winner, the shortlived Maybach 2 which should have won the ’54 AGP but instead died a violent death during that race, and the replacement Mercedes Benz W154 inspired Maybach 3- the final iteration of the Maybach 6-cylinder engined machines. Maybach 3 became Maybach 4 when Ern Seeliger skilfully re-engineered aspects of the car to accept the new, lightish Chev, 283 cid ‘small-block’, cast-iron, pushrod OHV V8. Click here for Stan and Maybach;

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

and here for the ’54 AGP;

https://primotipo.com/2018/03/01/1954-australian-grand-prix-southport-qld/

Jones’ forceful speed and the ongoing evolution of the Maybachs kept the cars at the forefront of Australian single-seater racing into 1955 but game-changers were the arrival of modern ‘red cars’- Lex Davison’s acquisition of Tony Gaze’ Ferrari 500/625, Reg Hunt’s Maser 250F powered A6GCM and his subsequent 250F to name two.

Stan gave up the unequal struggle and acquired a 250F, ultimately doing very well with it- winning the ’58 Gold Star and the ’59 AGP at Longford, thank goodness he finally won the race in which he had deserved to triumph for the best part of a decade.

Even though the Maser was his front line tool he was not averse to giving Maybach a gallop, as here on the Queensland airfield circuit.

Jones at speed on the Lowood airfield circuit, Maybach 4 Chev, June 1959 (Q Miles)

As Stanley focussed on the Maserati, Maybach 3 languished in a corner of Ern Seeliger’s workshop in Baker Street, Richmond. Ern was a successful racer, engineer/preparer and a close friend of Jones. With a view to selling it Stan handed Seeliger the car telling him to ‘do what he liked with it’.

The essential elements of Maybach 3 were a chassis built up from two 4 inch diameter steel tubes, the Maybach 3.8 litre, 260 bhp, SOHC 6 cylinder engine fitted with a Charlie Dean/Phil Irving designed and carefully cobbled together fuel injection system, the engine laid down at an angle of about 60 degrees to the left to lower the bonnet line, like the W196- the car was also styled along the lines of that Benz. The cars front suspension comprised upper wishbones and a lower transverse leaf spring and at the rear utilised quarter elliptic leaf springs and radius rods. Brakes were PBR drums and the gearbox a 4 speed manual.

Towards the end of its life the limiting factor of Maybach 3’s performance was the end of Charlie Dean’s supply of Maybach engines, no more power could be squeezed from them- and there were none left in any event!

In addition there were now plenty of competitive well sorted cars. The only locally built racer capable of running with Hunt, Davison and Jones was the Lou Abrahams owned and built, Ted Gray driven Tornado Ford V8- and from late September 1957, Tornado Chev V8. There is little doubt that Ern looked long and hard at a machine that was prepared only 1.5 Km from his own ‘shop for inspiration. Click here for the Tornado story;

https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

Pretty soon a 283 Chev was on its way to Australia, Seeliger modified the 4.6 litre V8 by fitment of two Carter 4-barrel carbs, the cylinder heads and valve gear were ported, polished and lightened, with the oilways modified and the unit dry-sumped. The motor produced about 274 bhp @ 6000 rpm and had a truckload of torque- around 300 lb feet of it at 3500 rpm. Ern and his band of merry men did not just plonk the engine into the space formerly occupied by the German straight-six however.

Seeliger thoroughly overhauled the machine, lengthening the chassis to accept the de Dion rear end he designed to better put the cars power and torque to the road. A transverse leaf spring was installed instead of the quarter elliptics and an anti-roll bar used at the front incorporating brake torque rods. The rear track was widened by an inch and a larger 30 gallon fuel tank fitted to feed the thirsty Chevy.

Seeliger designed and built a multi-plate clutch which used the existing Maybach 4 speed ‘box and diff albeit modified with shortened axles and cv joints to mate with the de Dion tube.

Stan Jones and Alec Mildren at Port Wakefield in 1959. Maybach 4 Chev and Cooper T45 Climax (K Drage)

Ern made the cars debut in this form at Fishermans Bend in March 1958, his bid for victory came to an end with stripped tyres- the car was quick right out of the box, Seeliger a mighty fine design and development engineer.

Whilst a very good driver he was not in Stan’s league- Jones was stiff not to win the ’58 AGP at Bathurst aboard his 250F- as was Ted Gray unlucky to dip out in Tornado 2 Chev, but Seeliger finished 2nd in the Maybach with Lex Davison, always a lucky AGP competitor, the winner. Be in no doubt my friends Maybach 4 Chev in Jones hands was a winning car- had he felt so inclined in 1958 but he was busy winning the Gold Star aboard the 250F in any event.

Into 1959 Maybach 4 was still competitive in Ern’s hands, and Stanley took a win in the Gold Star, South Australian Trophy event at Port Wakefield in late March and 3rd place in the Lowood Trophy race as pictured in this article behind the Cooper Climaxes of Alec Mildren and Bill Patterson. Before too long Stan would show his speed in a Cooper T51.

The reign of the ‘Red Cars’ was quickly coming to an end In Australia but lets never forget the dark blue Tornado 2 and silver/blue Maybach 4- Chev V8 engined locally engineered devices very much as quick as the more sophisticated, twin-cam, exotic, expensive factory cars from Italy’s north…

Etcetera…

Seeliger, above, with his mount at Bathurst during the 1958 Australian Grand Prix weekend- and a successful meeting too, second behind Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 3 litre.

In June 2020 i was contacted by Melbourne enthusiast John Comber who had done a weeks work experience as a fifteen year old at Seeliger’s Baker Street, Richmond workshop in 1958.

On the strength of that he embarked on a Panel Beating career- his recollections recorded in a creative writing class not so long ago are a wonderful step back in time as a youth’s perspective of Ern’s workshop.

‘…My second job was also with a neighbour, Mr Seeliger, who had a small automotive engineering business in Richmond…The arrangements were for me and my friend Trevor to be at the Seeliger’s house at 7.30 am Monday morning, do a days work and see how we liked it.’

‘On the Monday, with a  packed lunch and wearing our best “old clothes” we arrived at 7.30 just as Mr Seeliger was starting the engine of his utility. “Jump in boys” he said and we took off straight away, heading for Richmond (from Blackburn).’

‘I still remember quite clearly his opening comments, “Well i have the right job for you two bastards today, you can clean some car parts with kero, “That’ll keep you busy”.

‘The thought of cleaning the car parts with kerosene didn’t faze me but the language had caused me something of a jolt. To me this was school-yard  language and i wasn’t used to adults swearing, certainly not from my parents or relatives, or family friends.’

‘Well the rest of the day turned out fine, Trevor and i set-to with a can of kerosene cleaning mechanical parts and some body parts as well. This was quite an easy job and allowed us to look around and take in the surroundings. Mr Seeliger’s workshop  was converted from some old run-down stables with cobblestones between the sheds and an overhead loft used for storage. The yard was quite large with grass growing between some old cars and car trailers adding to the overall run-down appearance of the place.’

‘This must have been too much for Trevor as he didn’t come any more but i was there each day for the next fortnight, working amongst the cars was perfect for me…’

The nose of Tom Hawkes’ Cooper T23 Holden-Repco and Ron Phillip’s Cooper T38 Jaguar in the Seeliger workshop in 1958 (J Comber)

‘The core of Mr Seeliger’s business was tuning and maintaining racing cars, he was a qualified aircraft engineer and understood high performance engines and was also a racing driver himself. One of the racing cars he worked on had a V8 engine and was a potential race-winner. I learned later that this car was known as the “Maybach” and had a long history of success. He had spent several days working on the rear of the car making some modifications. Finally with it all finished i can still visualise him standing on the back of the car, making it bounce up and down and saying “That’ll keep me ahead of those bloody Ferraris.”

‘There were only three on staff, Mr Seeliger, a mechanic, and Roy, the apprentice. Although Roy was only a year or two older than me he was quite friendly and helpful. To quote an old mechanic’s saying “he knew his way around a toolbox”, sometimes i helped with jobs on customer cars- simple jobs…’

‘Working conditions can best be described as matching the already mentioned surroundings: primitive might sum it up. There was no lunch-room, morning tea break was around the car being worked on and discussing the progress of the job while sipping tea or coffee. Lunch break was a little better though with a couple of old car seats to sit on…There was no heating of any sort, the area between the main sheds being open to the elements. The toilet was basic and the only tap available for hand washing was also used for filling radiators and washing cars etc.’

‘Despite these poor working conditions, which by twenty-first century standards, would be deemed illegal, i thoroughly enjoyed myself working with cars and receiving five pounds each week. Now i was even more eager to finish school and begin an apprenticeship as a panel beater’, John Comber concluded in a wonderful personal account of what it was like ‘in the day’.

Seeliger and Stan Jones with Stan’s HRG at Baker Street- guy in the cockpit? (D Zeunert Collection)

 

Australian Motor Sports ad 1955

Photos/References…

Quentin Miles, Australian Motor Sports Review 1959 & 1960, Australian Motor Heritage Foundation Archives, John Comber article and photograph, David Zeunert Collection 

Tailpiece: Winners are Grinners: Stan, Maybach 4, Port Wakefield 1959…

(K Drage)

Finito…