Posts Tagged ‘Tornado Ford’

(oldracephotos/DKeep)

John Goss, Tornado Ford, Ross Ambrose, Rennmax Climax and Alan Hamilton, Porsche 906 during the 1967 Tasmanian Sportscar Championship at Symmons Plains on 12 March…

It could only be Australia with that backdrop? Love Don Elliott’s transporter providing the spectator vantage point, devoid of Ford Mustang it makes a mighty fine mini-grandstand. Jaguar Mk1, stark eucalypt tree and the topography of the northern Tasmanian midlands circuit.

The cars are well known too, albeit Hamilton is about to lap the other two cars. Oh, and the drivers are prominent too, Goss and Hamilton Australian Champions- in Ambrose’ case perhaps he is known as much as the father of touring car ace Marcos Ambrose and ‘co-father’ with Ralph Firman of Van Diemen racing cars. No prizes for guessing who suggested the name of that great marque.

I’ve written articles about the John Goss built Tornado, Hamilton’s 906 and tangentially about Ross Ambrose’s car which started life as the Bob Britton built – he of Rennmax fame- Mildren Maserati sportscar driven by Ralph Sach, Frank Gardner and Kevin Bartlett. It then morphed into the ‘Rennmax Climax’. When sold by Alec Mildren to Ross Ambrose he fitted a Coventry Climax 2.2 litre four cylinder FPF engine in place of the Maserati Birdcage T61 motor which blew big-time whilst driven by Frank Gardner in the 1965 Australian Tourist Trophy at Lakeside, the chassis was re-named by Ross with Alecs consent.

This article was inspired by David Keep’s opening shot, it was only when I sought Rob Barthlomaeus’ help with a race report that he pointed out this was a tragic meeting as one of the contestants, Melbourne’s Wally Mitchell later died as a result of a collision in this event.

Many of the Symmons competitors contested support events during the Longford Tasman round a week before with the fields depleted by the likes of Noel Hurd’s Elfin 400 Ford due to an accident seven days earlier- Hamilton’s 906 made its debut race at Longford and was race favourite with the non-appearance of the powerful Elfin.

Alan was having a good day in the office with a Symmons preliminary win from Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23B Ford and Wally Mitchell’s RM1 Ford. The grid for the 30 lap, 45 mile championship race was derived from the lap times achieved during the earlier event.

Tas sportscar c’ship grid- L>R Mitchell RM1 Chev, Scott Lotus 23B Ford and Hamilton, Porsche 906 (oldracephotos/DKeep)

Hamilton started from pole with Scott and Mitchell alongside with Bruce Ling Lotus 23B Ford and Bob Holden in a Morris Cooper Lwt on row two.

Scott led initially from Hamilton with Mitchell’s circa 350 bhp Chev V8 engined, spaceframe chassis car- built by he and St Kilda, Melbourne engineer/constructor Bill Reynolds, Bill’s cars were named Wren (R-Reynolds M-Mitchell) comprised a mixture of ex-Lex Davison Estate Brabham BT4/Cooper T62 and Wren components- passed by almost the entire field.

After 5 laps Hamilton had a sixty yard lead over Scott and had already lapped tailenders Mawdesley, Lotus Super 7 and Truscott’s Honda.

By lap 7 Hamilton led from Scott, Ling (who later lost 3rd gear) and Bob Wright’s Tasma Climax FPF 2 litre and was continuing to lap the slower cars.

An arcane but interesting sidebar to Bill Reynolds/Wren enthusiasts, and there are quite a few of us in the Australian Formula Ford ranks given the number of FF Wrens Bill constructed, is that the Tasma Climax was initially built by Reynolds as the ANF1/Tasman Formula Wren Climax single-seater- it too fitted with an ex-Davison Estate 2.5 FPF but was only raced several times as such by Brendan Tapp and Wright before Wright widened the chassis and created the Tasma sports-racer. There is a story about both the RM1 and Wren Climax but that is for another time.

Goss spun Tornado at The Hairpin allowing Bob Holden and Kerry Cox’ Jaguar Spl through, the order at this point of the 30 lap journey was Hamilton, Scott, plugging along and hopeful in second, Ling unable to do much with third gear absent without leave, Holden, Cox, Goss, Mitchell, still with a misfiring motor and then the rest.

Wally Mitchell’s car finally chimed onto eight-cylinders and proceeded to make up lost ground over the slower cars hand over fist, he was up to third by lap 15 having passed Ling.

Mitchell’s RM1 Chev in front of Hamilton’s 906, a lap ahead, one lap before Mitchell’s tragic accident. He wore a seat belt, a big tick in 1967 as they were not mandated but it seems his fireproofs were sub-optimal and no balaclava, again, not mandated or universally used at the time (oldracephotos/DKeep)

Tragically at half distance, on that lap, Mitchell lost control of the probably not fully sorted RM1- it was originally fitted with a lightweight aluminium Coventry Climax FPF engine where the 5 litre cast iron Chev by then rested- over Bessant Hump, went onto the grass, slammed into the fence tail first at TNT Corner, then bounced back onto the track. The cars two fuel tanks ruptured with both the car and unfortunate driver engulfed in flames. The badly burned Mitchell released his seat belt eventually and jumped clear but not before suffering burns to eighty-percent of his body.

Whilst poor Wally was attended to ‘The race was restarted at lap 16 as…the gutted RM1 still cast a pall of smoke over the pits’. In the final laps Ambrose passed Ling, and Hamilton had a rod let go in the 906 on lap 26, the car expired at the Hairpin giving the win to Scott from Ling’s similar Lotus 23B Ford and Ambrose in the Rennmax Climax.

The sad aftermath of the accident is that the popular East Burwood based Wally died of his burns and related complications of pneumonia on 18 April in a Melbourne hospital.

Mitchell and the RM1 Chev at Symmons 12 March 1967. Nice looking car, I wonder what Wally and Bill took the fibreglass body flop off? Or was it bespoke? (E French)

Related Articles…

Goss Tornado; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/19/john-goss-tornado-ford-longford-1968/

Hamilton 906; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/20/alan-hamilton-his-porsche-9048-and-two-906s/

Ambrose Rennmax/Mildren; https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Credits…

oldracephotos.com.au- David Keep, Ellis French, Rob Bartholomaeus Collection- Racing Car News & Australian Auto Sportsman April 1967 issues, The Nostalgia Forum- Wally Mitchell thread

Tailpiece: Start of the ’67 Tassie Championship from the rear of the grid…

(oldracephotos/DKeep)

That’s Gossy to the right and the Peter Truscott Honda whilst up front it’s Hamilton’s white 906 sandwiched by two Lotus 23 Fords and then the Ambrose Rennmax and Mitchell RM1.

Finito…

(oldracephotos/DKeep)

John Goss’ Tornado Ford leads a gaggle of sportscars on the drop between the Water Tower and The Viaduct, Longford, Saturday 2 March 1968…

I wrote this piece a while back and now seems a good time to post it given one of Tasmania’s finest, Gossy himself was awarded an Order of Australia for services to motor sports in last weekend-and-a-bit’s Queens Birthday Honours announcements. Off the back of that achievement Terry Sullivan started a The Nostalgia Forum thread which now contains some marvellous Goss photos, many from Lindsay Ross’ oldracephotos.com.au archive which have never seen the light of day before- check TNF out;

https://forums.autosport.com/topic/209938-john-goss-on-queens-honours-list/

Back to Longford- it’s the Saturday race day, the Monday Labour Day holiday was Tasman Cup day, that year the feature race was won by Piers Courage’ McLaren M4A FVA F2 car in a notoriously wet, perilous day of motor-racing. Sadly it was the last in Longford’s relatively short but very sweet period as a road racing track. Click here for my article on the 1968 Longford Tasman;

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/20/longford-tasman-south-pacific-trophy-4-march-1968-and-piers-courage/

Goss, future Bathurst and Australian Grand Prix winner is leading Kerry Cox’s Paramount Jaguar, three-times Australian Grand Prix winner Doug Whiteford’s works Datsun Fairlady, Bert Howard’s Lola Mk1 Climax, the partially obscured Lotus 23 Ford of Alan Ling and then Peter Mawdesley in a Lotus Super 7. Out front out of shot is the ex-works Scuderia Veloce Ferrari P4/350 Can Am driven by Chris Amon from Ian Cook’s Bob Jane Racing Elfin 400 Repco, Peter Macrow in the Argo Chev, Lionel Ayers MRC Ford and Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23 Ford. The opening shot shown is the second group of cars.

I wrote an article a while back about John Goss including a bit on the Tornado, click on the link to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/03/john-goss-bathurst-1000-and-australian-grand-prix-winner/

The following shot is of Gossy losing Tornado on his turn-in to The Viaduct, I wonder if its the same lap! I think not, the track looks wet, which makes it the Monday. Amon’s Ferrari was pushed off the grid with a flat battery- he started the 10 lapper with 2 laps down and finished third- and did 178 mph in the wet conditions on The Flying Mile. Peter Macrow won in Tony Osborne’s Argo Chev from Glynn Scott’s Lotus 23 Ford.

(oldracephotos/DKeep)

Credits…

David Keep/oldracephotos.com, Lindsay Ross Collection, Rob Bartholomaeus

Etcetera: Autosportsman article on the Tornado Ford, courtesy Lindsay Ross’ Collection…

Tailpiece: Amon’s 480bhp Ferrari P4/Can-Am 350 monstering Gossy’s 200bhp Tornado Ford out of Newry, Longford 1968…

(oldracephotos/DKeep)

During the dry Sports Car Scratch race on the Saturday Chris won from Ian Cook in Bob Jane’s Elfin 400 Repco V8 and Peter Macrow in the Argo Chev.

Amon, awfully comfortable in the P4/CanAm 350- in addition to his Ferrari F1 commitments he raced the cars in both the 1967 endurance races and some Can Am rounds, set an all-time Longford lap record of 2:16.2 undercutting Jim Clark’s Lotus 49 Ford DFW time of 2:13.0 earlier in the day. Mighty quick. Mind you, that summer Frank Matich beat Chris’ Ferrari in the Matich SR3 Repco in the other Australian Tasman round sportscar support events. But FM did not cross Bass Straight to do Longford- sad! Those battles on that circuit would really have been something to see!

Finito…

image

(oldracephotos.com)

John Goss races his new Matich A53 Repco for the very first time, the ‘Oran Park 100’ Gold Star round on 4 August 1974…

‘007’ was the last and best F5000 the Matich team built, arguably it’s the best F5000 built in Oz. The story of Frank Matich and his cars I chronicled in a long treatise a while back, have a read if you haven’t seen it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Goss extended himself, buying the car and some spares. Later he also bought A51 ‘005’ which he converted to A53 spec, racing both cars for years inclusive of the ’76 AGP win at Sandown, check this article out on Gossy;

John Goss: Bathurst 1000 and Australian Grand Prix Winner…

This short piece is inspired by these photos posted on social media for the first time this month. They are ‘mouth-watering’ for me as i’ve always loved this car especially in its Matich original ‘mellow yellow’ Repco livery. Its just the nicest, oh-so-fast bit of beautifully integrated kit.

image

Grant O’Neill at the back, he looked after John’s cars right thru from this point ex-Matich as he was. Peter Hughes in red and Repco’s Ken Symes at the right. John Davison in Matich A50 ‘004’ behind Oran Park, Gold Star, August 1974 (Neil Stratton)

To have seen FM race it in the US L&M Series in ’74 would have been really something, A53 showed it could run and beat the best of the Lola T330/2’s in Goss’ hands in Oz. Frank would definitely have given a few folks some curry with all of the teams learnings from its unsuccessful 1973 American campaign.

image

John Goss, Tornado Ford at Catalina Park, Katoomba in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, 1970 (oldracephotos.com)

As a young enthusiast I thought F5000 a big step up for JG, a mere ‘touring car driver’ in my mind, I was ignorant of his pedigree in real cars tho. Whilst he started in tourers he quickly progressed to a largely self built, potent Falcon in-line 6 cylinder mid-engined sportscar, the ‘Tornado Ford’. It was in that he made his name in his adopted Tasmania and later when he moved to the big smoke, Sydney and Ford Falcon GTHO ‘Series Production’ fame…

In F5000 Gossy was ‘on it’ from the start, giving the established aces plenty he was as ‘quick as his mouth’, legend that he was for saying so little in so many, many words!

What a driver and what a car…

image

Goss in the McLeod Ford, Falcon GTHO Ph3 at Amaroo Park 1972 (oldracephotos.com)

Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Neil Stratton

Tailpiece: Goss at Oran Park again in ‘007’, this time the ’75 Tasman round in February 1975, DNF with electrical problems. The first of many livery and body ‘evolutions’ over the years John raced the two A51/3 cars…

image

 

bib

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

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

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

Introduction…

As usual photo’s have stimulated the article, this time a great series of shots Lindsay Ross of oldracephotos.com posted on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ of the Tasmanian event. The fact that Tornado won this and other races makes the car one of the great Australian Specials up there with the Charlie Dean/Stan Jones/Repco Maybach and the crazy-innovative Chamberlain brothers built Chamberlain 8.

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

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

stns car fettled

(Walkem Collection)

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

glass

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

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

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

miller and patterson

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

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

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

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

doug and arnold

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

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

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

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

The 1958 Longford Trophy…

tornado

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

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

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

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

jones 2

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

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

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

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

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

tornado AMS PW

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

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

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

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

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

gray

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

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

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

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

Gray set FTD at an early postwar Greensborough Hillclimb.

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

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

gray alta

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

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

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

gray 2

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

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

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

ted gray bathurst

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

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

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

lou abrahams

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

fishos start

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

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

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

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

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

tornado front end

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

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

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

tornado rear sus 2

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

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

tornado engine

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

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

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

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

tornado engine

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

Ted Gray and Tornado 1 Ford at Gnoo Blas, January 1955 (K Devine)

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

Pedals are pendant the brake master cylinders mounted into a beefy ‘top hat section arch’ under the scuttle. Instruments comprised tach, oil and fuel pressure, oil and water temperature and a push-pull switch for the magneto. Fuel was carried in three tanks, one in the tail and one either side of the driver.

tornado orange debut

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

When completed Tornado 1 Ford made its debut, painted white at Gnoo Blas, Orange in January 1955 where its potential was clear despite various teething problems. Back in Victoria in February the car retired from the 50 Mile Victoria Trophy held at Fishermans Bend with grabbing brakes, prophetic as things turned out, Lex Davison took the win in his HWM Jaguar. At Albert Park for the Argus Trophy in March, the big V8 placed 3rd in a heat and 5th in the final, Doug Whiteford the winner in his Lago Talbot T26.

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

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

tornado bathurst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gray albert park

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

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

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

tornado chev engine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1958 Gold Star Season…

tornado

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

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

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

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

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

1958 Season/Gold Star Series…

gnoo blas

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

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

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

tornado fishos

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

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

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

fishos first lap

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

Longford Trophy, Tasmania 3 March.

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

fishos 3

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

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

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

tornado lowood

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

Queensland Road Racing Championship, Lowood, Queensland 15 June.

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

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

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

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

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

Lowood Trophy Race, Queensland 31 August.

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

vrrc 1

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

Victorian Road Racing Championships, Fishermans Bend 18 October.

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

vrrc 2

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

agp grid

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

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

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

bathurst nose to tail

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was one of the greatest AGP’s ever.

tornado melbourne

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

Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, Victoria 23 November.

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

Philip Island Trophy Race, Victoria 26 December.

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

1959 and Beyond…

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

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

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

bz gp

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

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

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

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

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

tornado cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tornado agp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Gray the review had this to say;

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

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

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

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

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

tornado crew

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

Bibliography…

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

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

Photo Credits…

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

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

stan bathurst

(AMS Annual)

john goss

John Goss and pit crew 1974, Amaroo Park. Aunger Wheels, a Goss sponsor photo shoot. Car is Ford Falcon XA GT351 Coupe ‘Sports Sedan’.(unattributed)

Australia has had quite a few drivers who have been stars in both open-wheelers and touring cars at the elite level; Kevin Bartlett, John Bowe, Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes and John Goss spring to mind…

Gossy left his adopted Tasmania with guts, determination, self built Tornado Ford sportscar and made his way to Sydney. Before long his speed and ‘gift of the gab’ secured support from Rockdale, Ford dealer Max McLeod. This took him all the way to the top of Australian motor racing, he and Kevin Bartlett won the Bathurst 1000 in 1974 in a Ford Falcon XA GT. Goss also won the F5000 Australian Grand Prix at Sandown in 1976.

He is the only man to have won both events.

davies matich sandown 1975

John Goss, Matich A53 Repco, Sandown Tasman 1975 . Goss won the race from John McCormack Elfin MR6 Holden and Max Stewart Lola T330 Chev. Fencing behind destroyed by the lap 1 crash of John Walkers Lola T332. (Robert Davies)

Three Vignettes of John Goss, all at Sandown Park stick in my mind…

The first was at the Sandown Tasman meeting, my very first motor race in January 1972. I was there for the F5000’s the ‘Taxis’ of no great interest to me but i happened upon John Goss near his Falcon GTHO Series Production car in the paddock, he was holding fort with a group of supporters or sponsors.

They were enthralled by his experiences. At 14 i was  amazed at the atrocities he performed on the Queens English, it would have been impossible to use more words to describe the simplest of things, all delivered with the most nasal-‘strine accent. Imagine Paul Hogan on steroids, but more nasal and you have nailed the Gossy accent! As one wag put it after a JG Bathurst win; his victory speech was longer than the race itself!

He won the South Pacific Touring Car Championship, the touring car series support of the 1972 Australian Tasman Rounds, the plucky privateer beat the works teams. Takeouts; he was quick and gifted on the commercial side of the sport.

goss ho

Goss doing his thing in the Phase 3 ‘XY’ Falcon GTHO with its brand new for Bathurst 1972 ‘Globe’ alloy wheels. Oran Park 1972. No front spoiler. (Vic Hughes)

The second was at the same meeting the following year when he blazed a trail with the Ford Falcon XA GT ‘Superbird’ or 2 door coupe variant of Fords new series of cars.

Pretty much everyone else stuck with the previous model, ‘XY’ Falcon GTHO’s for one more year, including the Broadmeadows factory until the Manufacturers Championship in the second half of the year. Ford and Holden, the latter with their Torana V8 SLR5000 and L34, had big oil surge problems with their engines; a function of greater grip with the wider tyres allowed and inadequate wet sump arrangements. (dry sumps stupidly not allowed by the regs).

Goss’ big yellow fat tyred car looked and sounded sensational. He was showing the way with it and getting lots of publicity, but he and long-suffering mechanics were up to their armpits in alligators with mechanical mayhem. Takeouts; he was prepared to make his own calls and not follow ‘the herd’ and had good developmental and mechanical skills.

The final impression was of his absolute competitiveness as a driver, his win in the 1976 AGP at Sandown.

I was one of 38000 people enthralled by his battle with Vern Schuppan in Garrie Cooper’s latest Elfin MR8 Chev. Vern broke a valve spring early in the race, John was in one of two Matich’s he acquired when Frank Matich retired from the sport in 1974. John’s A53 was actually the older of the two cars he bought, an updated A51 chassis # ‘005’, the car Lella Lombardi raced in two Gold Star rounds in 1974, Goss acquired it in 1975.

The car wasn’t in the first flush of youth by then, Goss drove superbly to take the win by half a second from Schuppan, then a driver of world class. In my mind Vern’s slightly down on power engine was compensation of JG not having the latest of equipment.

goss '76 agp

Goss in his Matich A51/53 ‘005’ Repco during his wonderful 1976 AGP winning drive at Sandown. He is turning into ‘Dandenong Road’, Marlboro Hill in the background. (unattributed)

Many saw Goss, born in the South Eastern Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris on 2 May 1943 as a Touring car driver. Whilst he started his career after qualifying as a mechanical engineer, in the Island state, he moved to Tasmania whilst a child, in a Holden FJ and Ford Customline he soon progressed to the self built Tornado Ford sportscar.

The car was powered by a Ford Falcon 170cid 6 cylinder engine which was harnessed via a VW gearbox. oldracephotos Lindsay Ross recalls ‘A Falcon XL sedan provided the motor, triple Webers were fitted in 1967, the steering wheel was fashioned out of a yacht centreboard. The Lotus 32B wheels were purchased from the Sternbergs who ran the ex Clark car in Tasmania in 68-69’.

goss tornado baskerville 1966 (david keep oldracephotos)

John Goss makes the race debut of his Tornado Ford, Baskerville, Tasmania 1966. Car sans the attractive body which came later, Ford straight 6 on single carb, steel wheels. Natty race-suit doubled as post race pub attire! (David Keep/oldracephotos.com)

‘First outing for the Tornado was at Baskerville in 1966. One of my first motorsport memories is a handicap race there in 1967 which only had 2 cars start. Goss in the Tornado off scratch and Lyn Archer in the Elfin Catalina 1.5 pushrod. Both drivers absolutely flat stick from the start over 6 laps and less than half a car length across the line at the finish with Goss just ahead. Great stuff from two very good drivers.’

goss longford 1968

John Goss in his Tornado Ford, Longford 1968. Proudly Tasmanian by the look of the decal on the cars rear…despite being born in Melbourne! Probably the Monday and coming down from the Water Tower. (Stephen Dalton Collection)

Hoping to progress in racing Goss took the Tornado to Sydney, with some success scoring points in the Australian Sports Car Championship in 1969 and 1970 (10th in both years).

He sought support from various sponsors Max Mcleod initially provided some money to help run the Tornado, Goss convinced McLeod to enter Series Production racing in 1969, this class exploding in public consciousness at the time with some phenomenal road cars built by Holden, Ford and Chrysler.

Goss made his Bathurst 500 debut in 1969 driving a Ford Falcon GTHO, co-driver Dennis Cribbin crashed the Falcon at Forrest Elbow. In 1970 Goss set the fastest lap during the event in his XW Falcon GTHO Phase II.

The following year he won two rounds of the Toby Lee Series at Oran Park against strong opposition such as Colin Bond and Fred Gibson.

goss bathurst 1973

Goss exiting Murray’s Corner Bathurst 500 1973. His Ford Falcon XA GT, shared with Kevin Bartlett is about to swallow the Leo Leonard/Gary Sprague Valiant Charger. (Vic Hughes)

John gained open-wheeler experience in 1971 at the wheel of the very first Birrana. Tony Alcock returned from a stint in Europe and designed and built the first Birrana, the F71 Formula Ford in Sydney and enlisted John’s help to develop and race the car.

Later Alcock moved to Adelaide and built over 25 cars in partnership with Malcolm Ramsay which won multiple championships in FF and F2, a story for another time.

29

John Goss in the very first Birrana, the F71 FF ahead of 2 Bowin P4a FF’s, Oran Park 1971. (lyntonh)

Goss won the 1972 South Pacific Touring Car Series and the 1972 Sandown 250 endurance race, both in Series Production Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III’s. He also put his Falcon on the front row of the grid at the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500, qualifying second fastest behind the Works GTHO of Allan Moffat. Engine failure after splashing around for 24 wet laps ended his race

1972BATHURSTJOHNGOSSETALHELLCORNER

Goss in his Ford Falcon XY GTHO Ph3, Hell Corner Bathurst 1972. Peter Brock won that year in a Holden Torana LJ XU-1. (Rod MacKenzie)

The Series Production class was replaced by Group C for 1973, it allowed greater modifications than before. Commercially, Goss had ongoing sponsorship from Shell, Max McLeod as well as factory assistance from Ford Australia who provided purpose-built XA racing chassis’.

As noted above, Goss was the first to race the XA Hardtop in the 1973 ATCC, before the Works team who used a modified Phase III GTHO during the Australian Touring Car Championship which Allan Moffat won for them. They switched to the Hardtop for the Endurance races, the ‘Manufacturers Championship’ later in the year.

Goss and open-wheeler/touring car ace Kevin Bartlett teamed up for the 1973 Bathurst and qualified on pole. Goss started and built up a good lead which was kept until he was involved in a crash, not of his making, at The Cutting, damaging the front end and causing radiator damage which finished their race.

The pair returned to Bathurst for the 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 in the same car, repainted blue after losing Shell sponsorship winning a race marred by driving rain. To celebrate the victory, Ford Australia released a limited edition XB Falcon Hardtop in 1975 called the ‘John Goss Special’. Around 250 cars were built.

goss bartlett

Goss/Kevin Bartlett victorious Ford Falcon XA GT. Bathurst 1974. (unattributed)

Goss surprised the racing world when he snaffled the best of Frank Matich’s F5000 equipe when he retired at the end of the 1974 Tasman Series. FM had been badly hurt in a boating incident in which he was electrocuted, he decided it was time to quit to focus on his family and business interests which then comprised the distribution of Goodyear race tyres and Bell helmets in Australia. His cars were advertised in the May edition of ‘Racing Car News’.

Goss gained some support from ‘Scotch’ brand adhesives and was immediately competitive in the Matich A53 Repco, the last and best of Matich’s world class designs. His first race was at the Oran Park 1974 Gold Star round on 4 August.

Over the coming years Goss, chief mechanic Grant O’Neill and their small team continued to develop the two chassis ‘A51 005’ and ‘A53 007’ remaining competitive against the best the world had to offer in the F5000 categories peak period.

1976 agp

1976 AGP finish at Sandown. Goss from Vern Schuppan by 5/10 second. Matich A51/53 Repco and Elfin MR8 Chev. (Graham ‘Howard History of The Australian GP’)

1974 Gold Star Series…

The first series Goss contested was the domestic single seater championship the then very prestigious ‘Gold Star’.

For most of its life the Championship lacked quantity but not quality. The costs of fielding an ANF1 car, whatever the formula has been, has always been high. Australia’s obsession with Touring Cars has meant that funds have generally not been flush in open-wheeler racing, the early years of Formula Pacific, 1981-2 arguably the exception.

In 1974 Gossy faced Australian Champions Kevin Bartlett, Max Stewart and John McCormack in Lola T332, T330 and Elfin MR5 respectively. Later champions John Walker and Warwick Brown also contested the series in their Lola T332’s albeit Warwick took in some races in the US in his Pat Burke owned car, the very first production T332.

Frank Matich, whose last and best car Goss owned had retired. This created an opportunity for the rest of the field as Matich was arguably the ‘first among equals’ as a driver and the best funded, courtesy of Repco and Goodyear. I always figured ‘Cranky Franky’ had an actual and psychological advantage over the competition; he pounded around Warwick Farm getting his cars to a fine pitch and was always well prepared whenever he arrived at a meeting, his actual advantage. The psychological advantage was the fact his fellow competitors knew that he was well prepared! Whereas they, without similar fiscal support were not as much so.

Brittle things F5000’s; the Hewland DG300 box was originally designed for Gurney’s 400bhp F1 Eagle, not a 500bhp Chev. Crown wheel and pinions needed to be in the full flush of youth to be problem free. Engines too, with all drivers chasing the edge, were far from reliable especially if the engine-builders maintenance cycles were not followed, a temptation if you were not flush with cash. Despite the big corporate names which adorned the Matich cockpit over the years JG was not well-funded, in common with most of his fellow local competitors.

John’s first meeting was at one of his home tracks, Oran Park on 4 August, finishing 4th for the weekend. He was 9th at Surfers, 4th in the first heat and had an accident in the second. He didn’t contest the Calder and Sandown rounds in Victoria but was back for the AGP at Oran Park although by this stage Max Stewart had the ‘Gold Star’ in the bag. John had his tail up, he and Kevin Bartlett won the Bathurst 1000 in October the pair driving brilliantly to win the race held in difficult conditions that year.

The AGP field was buoyed by the addition of Internationals Graeme Lawrence, the former Tasman Champ Lola T332 mounted and Signorina Lella Lombardi. ‘A Sheila in a F5000’ got the tabloids interested in the race, which was good as only nine cars started, she drove a Matich A51 (the car Goss was to later acquire as noted above) very well, scoring equal second fastest race lap, despite the unfamiliar car. The car she drove in Europe which brought her to the local promoters attention, her Lola T330 (HU18) is owned by Peter Brennan in Australia, it’s restoration well covered in primotipo.

Gossy ran a bearing so didn’t start the race, Brown cantered off into the distance, quickly mastering Oran Park’s new layout, Stewart took the win when Warwick retired on lap 49 with a harmonic balancer kaput.

goss op

Goss in his Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. Oran park during practice for the opening 1975 Australian Tasman round, the ‘Oran Park 100’. Car just painted but devoid of sponsors decals. Jon Davison looking for divine inspiration in the background, his car an earlier Matich A50 Repco ‘004’. Warwick Brown won the race in his Lola T332 Chev, Goss DNF with electrical maladies. (Andrew Lynch)

The 1975 Tasman Series started in New Zealand on January 5 at Levin but John’s funding didn’t allow him to contest the four Kiwi rounds, he was up against opposition which had already had four consecutive weekends to get their cars to a fine pitch.

In addition to the leading drivers covered above, other frontliners in the series that year were Kiwis Graham McRae in his McRae GM2 and Chris Amon in the Talon MR1, an identical car to the GM2, the design acquired from GM by American Jack McCormack, the cars built in the ‘States. Another Kiwi was Ken Smith in an ex-Brian Redman Lola T332.

goss and bartlett

Oran Park Handling Lesson; Goss’ mildly understeering Matich A53 Repco being given a bit of hurry up by Kevin Bartlett’s new and somewhat recalcitrant, grass cutting oversteering Lola T400 Chev. (unattributed)

He had a DNF the at Oran Park with electrical failure, was 3rd the following weekend at Surfers, had another DNF at Adelaide, a water hose came loose on lap 3 and then things all came together at Sandown in the final round.

I have covered this meeting in another story, click on the link here;

https://primotipo.com/2015/03/12/the-mother-and-father-of-lucky-escapes-john-walker-sandown-tasman-1975/

Suffice it to say, depending upon results, any of Lola drivers, Brown, Lawrence or Walker could take the title…Walker crashed on lap 1, Lawrence retired with fuel metering unit failure late in the race, Brown got the necessary point and Goss won the race in a fast, controlled drive. A strong win against opposition of depth.

matich sandown

Goss eases his Matich A53 ‘007’ through Torana Corner Sandown on the way to his first F5000 victory in the Tasman round ‘Sandown Park Cup’ on 23 February 1975. (unattributed)

By the time Goss commenced his 1975 Gold Star campaign he also owned the earlier Matich A51 Repco which was updated to later A53 specs.

JG continued his good form in the ‘Toby Lee’ sponsored F5000 Series held over 6 rounds, 5 at Oran Park and 1 at Sandown. Max Stewart won the series in his new for Tasman ’75, Lola T400. Goss took 4 of the 12 heats which comprised the series before being ‘pinged’ by CAMS for a black flag incident which almost cost him his AGP start.

Bruce Allison also starred in the Series, the 22 year old jumped out of his Birrana 274 F2 car and took to the ex-Bartlett Lola T332, prepared and guided by the very experienced Peter Molloy, like a ‘duck to water’.

And ducks they needed to be at Surfers Paradise Gold Star season opener held in torrential conditions. The AGP was the first round of the Gold Star that year, Goss matched local boy, Bruce Allison’s pole time but withdrew from the race early with a rough engine and visibility problems. Max Stewart had a lucky win when John Leffler, leading well and as comfortably as you can be devoid of vision!, in the radical, under-developed,tricky to drive but utterly wonderful Bowin P8 Chev, slowed with drowning electrics.

At Sandown he was 6th and then didn’t start at Oran Park, Calder and Phillip Island.

By 1976 the Tasman Series was over, the Kiwis had the ‘Peter Stuyvesant Series’ and we ‘Skips’ the ‘Rothmans Series’, still 4 rounds each. Internationals for the Australian Rounds were Aussie Vern Schuppan and the UK’s David Purley, Lola’s T332/T330 mounted and American John Cannon adding some interest with a March 73A/751 Chev.

At the ‘Oran Park 100′ Goss was 5th, in Adelaide he crashed, at Sandown he was 3rd in the race won by Cannons’ March, the final round at Surfers was washed out. As in the circuit was under the flooded Nerang River, Schuppan took the trophy, the presentation in waist deep water, the promoters gaining a shot for the tabloids despite the lack of a race!

agp 76 start

Ian Smith’s great shot of the start of the 1976 AGP at Sandown. Taken from the outside of Shell Corner, turn 1. L>R; Max Stewart Lola T400 Chev, Vern Schuppan Elfin MR8 Chev and Goss to the right, Matich A5153 Repco. (Ian Smith)

Goss’ domestic 1976 Gold Star campaign started well with his AGP win at Sandown in September, he didn’t finish at Oran Park with gearbox failure, at Calder he had an exhaust problem and didn’t contest the one off ‘Rose City 10000’ at Winton nor the final Phillip Island Gold Star round. John Leffler took the title in a new Lola T400 Chev, consistent finishes but no wins bagged the Championship.

agp 77

There was nothing quite like seeing F5000’s raced by top line Pro’s and look at the Oran Park 1977 AGP crowd! Front running group; Goss, Gethin, Schuppan and Bartlett. Matich A51/3 Repco ‘005’, Chevron B37 Chev, Elfin MR8 Chev and Lola T332 Chev. (‘History of the AGP’)

The 1977 Rothmans International Series of 4 races in Australia had good prizemoney, Count Rudy Van der Straten’s Team made a welcome return to Australia with a Lola T430 and Chevron B37 for Warwick Brown and Peter Gethin respectively, nuts from a spares point of view but both interesting cars, and critically not more Lola T332’s, wonderful devices that they are.

Alan Jones returned to Oz, to race a Teddy Yip, Theodore Racing Lola T332C, he was ‘on the rise’ well and truly by this stage, he drove for the Surtees F1 team in ’76, and took his first F1 win in Austria later in the year.

The development of the Lola T332 was ongoing, the T430 and Chevron B37 were new designs, Garrie Cooper’s Elfin MR8 was also the state of the art. In that context John Goss’ grid place (4th) and strong race performance in the season opening AGP at Oran Park, he ran in 2nd and 3rd for much of the race, in a car which dated to 1974 and an engine which had no development, Repco having withdrawn from racing in 1974, very creditable.

Jones jumped the start, depriving the spectators a duel at the front but all eyes were on him as he sought to make up the 1 minute penalty incurred. Brown won the race with teammate Gethin 2nd and Goss 3rd.

surfers 77

‘Surfers Paradise 100’ Rothmans Series 1977. L>R In the distance Alan Jones in Kevin Bartlett’s loaned Lola T332 Chev, Jones boofed his in practice. Warwick Brown Lola T430 Chev, Peter Gethin in the lead, Chevron B37 Chev, John Leffler in the white Lola T400 Chev and on the outside Goss, Matich A53 Repco. Finishing order, Brown, Gethin, Leffler and Goss. (Bill Forsyth)

Brown and Gethin repeated the performance at Surfers the following weekend, Goss 4th. Max Stewart won in his Lola T400 at Sandown, his last race win before his tragic death at Calder in the one off Kleber 40000 race at Calder. Goss DNF with engine failure.

goss sandown 77

‘Sandown Park Cup’ February 1977. Goss leads from Garrie Cooper Elfin MR8 Chev 3rd and Alf Costanzo Lola T332 Chev 2nd. Goss had an engine failure, the race was won by Max Stewart’s Lola T400 Chev. (Ian Smith)

In Adelaide, the last Series Round he was 4th and lapped as was the rest of the field, Jones dominant in his Lola T332. Brown took the Series win in the VDS Lola T430 Chev, both T430 chassis’ owned by VDS were sold to Alan Hamilton at the series end and would be an important part of the F5000 scene going forward in both Hamilton’s and especially Alfredo Costanzo’s hands.

mat ford

Gossy having his mirrors fitted in the clearly just finished Matich A53/55 Ford ‘007’. Thats Grant O’Neill doing the adjusting, Sandown paddock, 1978. Ford engine of note! (Ian Smith)

Goss’ had been developing a Ford F5000 engine based on the 302, cross bolted ‘Boss’ block, fitted to his newer Matich chassis ‘007’ it was entered in the first 3 Rothmans rounds but failed to appear in any of them.

Development of the Ford engine made sense given his Ford connections and whilst there were some Ford engines in the category in its formative years, he and his small team were giving away decades of development to the small block Chev. A smarter move, hindsight a brilliant thing, would have been a more up to date chassis…and a strong Chev engine.

The Matich Ford, the engine comprised a 4 main bearing bolt Windsor ‘Boss’ block with Cleveland heads, the latter to address the shortcomings of the Windsors ports, was tested but it does not appear to have ever been raced. He qualified the Ford car at the Sandown 1978 Rothmans with a 64.6 second lap but raced the Repco chassis. At Oran Park he practiced the Ford engined chassis on Friday and Saturday but again elected to race ‘old faithful’ A51/53 Repco ‘005’.

During this period the team were developing the Ford engine, Goss raced his other, earlier chassis with Repco power; A51/53 ‘005’, the chassis he used to win the AGP.

sandown maticj ford

Chris Jewell’s shot of the Matich A53/55 Ford ‘007’ at Sandown 1978. Car practiced but not raced. Same tub as 1974, in fact the chassis were to the same 1971 design for all 6 chassis’ built. (Chris Jewell)

Goss didn’t contest the 1977 Gold Star Series but ran Bathurst Teammate Henri Pescarolo in the one off ‘Kleber 40000’ event referred to above on 20 March, Alf Costanzo won the 2 heat event.

henri

Henri Pescarolo cruising the Calder paddock in Goss’ Matich A51/3 Repco ‘005’ during the February 1977 ‘Kleber 40000’ meeting. (oldracephotos.com)

JG reappeared in the Matich for the 1978 Rothmans, Warwick Brown was dominant winning all 4 rounds of the series in his Lola T333/332.

Goss was 6th at Sandown and in Adelaide and 5th at Oran Park. He tested the Ford engined chassis ‘007’ at Oran Park but chose to race his usual Repco engined car ‘005’.

matich ford

Goss testing his Matich A53/55 Ford at Oran Park during the Rothmans series in February 1978. Neat evolution of the A53 ‘007’ tub. Ferrari 312T-esque front wing, neat deformable structure and rear ‘flush’ mounted’ radiators, no airbox. Neat. (Doug Eagar)

At Surfers he failed to finish with oil scavenge pump problems.

With the costs of F5000 rising, and the Formula Pacific push for ANF1 underway Goss wound down his F5000 activities and sold both cars; the much raced A51/53 ‘005’ to touring car star Jim Richards who contested the ’79 Rothmans Series in it and A53 ‘007’ to Mel McEwin who converted it back to Repco form, and raced it towards the end of the category in Australia. Both cars still exist.

sandown 1978

John Cannon 3rd ahead of John Goss 6th ,1978 ‘Sandown Park Cup’. March 73A/751 Chev and Matich A51/53 Repco. (Anthony Loxley)

Formula 1 Ensign MN05 Ford Cosworth…

With interest in F5000 waning in the late 1970’s the ‘Rothmans Series’ rules were changed to allow F1 cars to compete in the 1979 Internationals. The F1’s were ‘brought back to the field’ by the hard Goodyears they were mandated to run. All the same the cars were great to watch, for many of us the first modern GP cars we had seen and heard.

Goss was keen to have a drive, Theodore Racing had 3 cars; 2 Wolf WR4 Ford’s  and an Ensign MN05 raced by Scot David Kennedy and Brit, Geoff Lees. Keen to run a car at Oran Park, Goss wasn’t so happy to stump up the $10K for the weekend but late on the Saturday the team gave him a run in the Ensign anyway.

He did 7 laps, brushed the wall on the out lap keeping out of the way of another car which moved over on him, he managed a 1:10.4 compared with Warwick Browns Lola T332 Chev pole of 1:5.4. It was not enough time for John to find the limits of the car , sadly he didnt race it. An interesting ‘mighta been’ had he raced the car.

john goss ensign mn05 oran park

John Goss, Oran Park 1979. Theodore Racing F1 Ensign MN05 Ford. A few laps in practice, no race sadly. (Dick Simpson)

In 1980 Goss began campaigning a V12 Jaguar XJS at Bathurst. His 3 previous Bathurst starts with Henri Pescarolo in Falcons were all DNF’s.

He started essentially a standard Jag from 58th on the grid, but lasted only 14 laps before retiring with gearbox failure. In 1981, he teamed with 1965 winner Barry Seton and after an improved qualifying effort (19th), they weren’t classified as finishers of the crash shortened race.

Goss returned with a better prepared effort in 1982, sharing the drive with American IMSA Jaguar sports car driver/team owner Bob Tullius who also assisted with technical info for the car and engine. Goss qualified 14th but after a strong run, once again the big cat failed to finish following suspension failure on lap 119.

Goss missed the 1983 James Hardie 1000, but returned in 1984 for the last year of Australia’s Group C racing sharing a drive with Tom Walkinshaw. Walkinshaw ran three factory backed Group A XJS’ in the ETCC, won that title in 1984, and added a lot of technical assistance to Goss’ team with revised suspension and the use of one of TWR’s V12 engines.

Despite trouble in qualifying with no suitable rear tyres arriving in time to use, the Scot qualified the car 8th before falling to 10th in the Hardies Heroes top ten run-off . Walkinshaw also started the race but never left the line.

The Jags clutch had gone leaving Walkinshaw stranded with his arm out the window warning other drivers he was stationary. Unfortunately in the dust kicked up off the start, the Kevin Bartlett owned Chevrolet Camaro of John Tesoriero was coming through at speed and could not avoid the Jag, a multiple crash ensued.

Goss-Jaguar

Goss/ Armin Hahne Jaguar XJS. Bathurst winner in 1985. (unattributed)

Australian Touring Car racing changed to International Group A rules in 1985, and Goss scored his second and last outright Bathurst win with West German co-driver Armin Hahne in one of a three-car assault by Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR team using the 1984 ETCC-winning V12 Jaguar XJS’

Goss, installed by Walkinshaw as lead driver of the team’s third car, qualified fastest going into Hardies Heroes, giving lie to those who believed he was past his best as a driver. He ended up 6th in the Top Ten run-off after mistakes on both laps.

Goss made a good start and for the opening laps was in a dice for 2nd with Allan Grice (Commodore), Robbie Francevic (Volvo), Dick Johnson (Ford Mustang), Jim Richards (BMW 635 CSi) and Peter Brock (Commodore). First Francevic, then Goss, broke free of the dice. Goss chased down the Volvo in less than 10 laps, giving Jaguar a 1-2 on the road for the first time since the early laps before the team’s second car driven by Jeff Allam retired with engine failure. From then on, the Goss/Hahne Jaguar was in second place for most of the race behind the Walkinshaw/Win Percy car.

Goss and Hahne’s job was made more difficult by the driver’s seat of their car having completely broken at the base of the back. The car took the lead on about lap 120 following a split oil line on the Walkinshaw/Percy car with both Peter Brock and Roberto Ravaglia (BMW) closing the gap to within 30 seconds.

The chase effectively ended with Brock’s engine allowing Goss to back off over the last 3 laps. Walkinshaw finished third with Win Percy, the pair crossing the finish line together.

After Jaguar Rover Australia declined to help fund a return effort by TWR in 1986 Goss returned with his own privately entered XJ-S backed by Citibank Australia and co-driven by veteran Bob Muir. Electrical troubles in the race resulting in a flat battery saw them complete 140 laps and finish 24th outright.

Goss missed the 1987 World Touring Car Championship round as well as the 1988 race but returned to drive for Glenn Seton Racing in 1989 in a Ford Sierra RS500. He paired with Seton for a fourth placed finish at the Sandown 500. At Bathurst Goss was teamed with Tony Noske in the second car, they were joined during the race by Seton after his own car failed. After a troubled run the trio went finished 20th outright.

Goss’ final Bathurst 1000 came in 1990 when he paired with fellow Sydney based veteran Phil Ward in Ward’s Mercedes-Benz 190E to finish 12th outright and a Division 2 class win after starting 38th.

Where Does Goss fit in the Pantheon of Australian Drivers…

Former Racing Car News journalist, Ray Bell saw most of Goss’ big races and had this to say on ‘The Nostalgia Forum some years back…’But to return to the main question, the reality of his ability, let’s just look at his AGP win, which was one of very few wins he had in F5000.

He diced through that race with Vern Schuppan, who was acknowledged as a F5000 pilot world wide at that time. John drove the three year old Matich A53, based on the 5 year old A50. Vern was in the almost new MR8. John’s car was no longer a ‘work in progress’, its designer had retired. Vern’s was under the care of Garrie Cooper who raced that model himself.

I think you would have to say that he demonstrated in that race all the qualities that are necessary, the skill to do the job; the determination to be there, overcoming whatever hurdles might have been put in his way along the path he followed; the recognition of openwheelers as the pinnacle, despite having already won the biggest race in Australia. And Sandown was never a place for the limp of wrist or small of heart in these cars…’

In retirement Goss is a businessman and maintains a couple of yachts for wealthy owners…

Etcetera…

The following images are from Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, and describe Frank Matich’s F5000 cars generally and John Goss’ pair specifically.

mat 1

mat 2

mat 3

mat 4

mc leod ford ad

Bibliography…

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix, Wikipedia for touring car stuff, The Nostalgia Forum, Facebook Australian F5000 Group, Stephen Dalton Collection

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com, David Keep, Lyntonh, Dick Simpson, Rod MacKenzie, Robert Davies, Vic Hughes, Andrew Lynch, Ian Smith, Bill Forsyth, Chris Jewell, Doug Eagar, Anthony Loxley

Finito…