Posts Tagged ‘Vauxhall 30/98’

(SLSA)

A group of cars await the start of the New Years Day 1926 Light Car event at Sellicks Beach, 55 km from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is a photograph but almost painting like in its softness…

Many thanks to reader ‘hoodoog53’ for helping to identify the cars, drivers and date.

Competitors from the left are the #8 NA Goodman Ceirano N150, also in the shot below, then the PM Pederson Amilcar and HH Young, Amilcar Grand Sport’s, F Beasley’s Gwynne and D Dunstan, Austin 7.

‘Pederson, Young and Bowman made regular appearances on the sand at Sellicks and also on the local speedway tracks in the 1920’s. Pederson also broke the Broken Hill to Adelaide Speed Record in May 1925 using an earlier Grand Sport Amilcar.’

(Jennison)

Doug Gordon writes ‘I’m pretty sure this photo was taken on the same day in 1926- H Young racing the Grand Sport Amilcar with a small Amilcar roadster and motorcycle spectating on the sand’

The ever reliable Adelaide newspapers consistently provided the best local coverage of early Australian motorsport events in their state right into the post WW2 period in my opinion.

Adelaide’s ‘The Register’ reported the Twenty Mile Light Car Handicap- ‘Young won by about a mile. F Beasley’s Gwynne had a front tyre blow out at the north end of the beach, and the car skidded and overturned in the sea. The passenger (Miss Watt) was severely shaken and suffered a few bruises, while the driver was not injured. Miss Watt, when asked about how she felt, showed a sporting spirit by saying that her injuries did not matter if the car were all right.’

H Young Amilcar 1074cc, off 90 seconds, won the race from P Pederson Amilcar 1074cc off 50 seconds, then D Dunstan Austin 7 748cc, off 240 seconds. Other starters were F Beasley, Gwynne, 130 seconds and NA Goodman, Ceirano 1460cc off scratch.

‘Percy Pederson was the Service Manager and did the car demonstrations to customers at Drummonds, who held the Amilcar franchise in Adelaide’ wrote Amilcar GS owner and enthusiast Doug Gordon. ‘He was called upon to prepare Amilcars for competition and drive them for sales promotions. He used the same car in May 1925 to set a Broken Hill to Adelaide speed record. Anecdotally Pederson had these cars running at ridiculous compression ratios and burning methanol like the mororcycles- his job was to win, high demand for such cars was created by events such as these.’

Motorcycle racing or hill climbing first took place in the area on the rough road above the Victory Hotel on Sellicks Hill, in the early 1900’s but the activity was banned in 1913 as the sport was interfering with what was then the main arterial road from Adelaide to Cape Jervis.

The Victory Hotel is a mighty fine place for a meal by the way- and affords wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coast towards Aldinga Beach and beyond. Whilst being tour guide, and its all coming back to me, do suss the ‘Star of Greece’ at Willunga Beach, an Adelaide standard and make a day of it- you can have some fine food and wine at a McLaren Vale winery and within 20 minutes hit the beach at Aldinga or Sellicks for a swim. Not many places in the world you can do that, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Western Australia’s Margaret River regions duly noted.

The intrepid South Australian motorcyclists then turned their attention to the wide, hard expanses of the Sellicks Beach sand, the location was used either on the January Australia Day, Christmas and October Labour Day long weekends for time trials and racing continuously from 1913 to 1953 on a very simple ‘up and back’ circa 3 km course around drums at each end of the course.

During the 1930’s light aircraft also used the beach during raceday to provide joy flights for spectators- now that would have been something, to see the racing from the air!

Unknown and undated bike racer but the twenties feels good as an approximation (Advertiser)

 

Racing paraphernalia and truck at Sellicks, date unknown (K Ragless)

Sellicks attracted international attention for record breaking in 1925 when American rider Paul Anderson topped 125 mph over a half-mile aboard an eight-valve Indian taking ‘Australia’s One Way Speed Record’, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin reported in November 1925.

Whilst many of the Sellick’s bike meetings included an event or two for ‘Light Cars’ (read small cars), ‘…that trend started at the Gawler racetrack in April 1925, this comprised a demonstration or match race between the Pederson Amilcar and an Austin 7. The first Grand Sport Amilcars arrived by ship in Adelaide in October 1924, the bodywork on this car appears to have been hastily prepared for the Gawler match race, with the rear tail not yet painted. By the start of the beach racing season in 1926 Pederson had a new GS Amilcar ready to go with a beautiful, locally made polished aluminium body. The Austin 7 was driven by Jack Moyle who was better known for his exploits on an AJS 350 at the Isle of Man, so he had a lot of track experience. The Austin won but the lead changed a number of times and the spectators loved it’ said Gordon.

Percy Pederson Amilcar and Jack Moyle Austin 7, Gawler April 1925 (D Gordon)

‘As with Jack Moyle’s move from the AJS to the Austin from time to time, so it was to become a trend for ageing speedway motorcyclists to gradually transition to light-car racing with Fergusson, McGillvray and McLeod being others who moved from two to four wheels- in the case of these three riders to Amilcars.’

‘Amilcars were popular on dirt tracks and on beaches because they had no differential- just a locked rear axle that didn’t lose traction on loose surfaces. It is for this reason that Jack Brabham built his first speedcar using Amilcar axles, he wasn’t the only one to do it in the early development of Australian speedway midgets’ said Doug Gordon.

‘The trend to include light-cars at motorcycle events continued from that Gawler day with fields gradually increasing over the years- this led directly to cars racing at Sellicks.’

The first meeting exclusively for cars was organised by the Sporting Car Club of South Australia and took place on 10 October 1934.

Billed as the ‘Grand Opening Speed Meeting’ over the Labour Day long weekend the entry list included Ron Uffindell who later successfully contested the 1938 Australian Grand Prix at Mount Panorama, Bathurst- he finished the handicap event eighth in his Austin 7 Special- and drove the little car to Bathurst and back from his home in Adelaide.

Other stars of the day entered that pioneering weekend- it was actually the very first speed meeting organised by the wonderful SCCSA, included Ash Moulden, Tony Ohlmeyer, John Dutton, Judy Rackham, Ron Kennedy with Cec Warren making the long trip from Melbourne in his supercharged MG.

The ‘Bryant Special’ at the SCCSA’s Buckland Park Beach meeting in January 1935- it ran with engine troubles but still did good times and in one race lapped the course at more than 70 mph. If anyone has a clearer picture of this car it would be gratefully received (Advertiser)

The ‘Adelaide Advertiser’ estimated the crowd at 10,000 people, the largest ever to a Sellicks meeting at that point. Niggles included a late start due to a breakdown of the electrical timing gear and as a consequence a rising tide!

Whilst Ron Uffindell won the 20 Mile Handicap feature race, the sensation of the meeting was the twin-engined Essex Special which owner-driver Peter Hawker, variously named the ‘Bryant Special’, after its builder, or more fondly, the ‘Bungaree Bastard’- Bungaree being the name of his family’s sheep station (farm) first established in the north of South Australia by Hawker’s forebears in 1840.

Despite conceding 7 minutes 20 seconds to Uffindell, Hawker finished second only a few yards behind Ron’s little Austin 7. The Advertiser reported that ‘…whilst the beach only permitted a 2 mile straight, and in consequence (Hawker) had to negotiate nine hairpin turns in the race, he averaged more than 73 mph for the distance…reaching about 100 mph on the straights.’

‘The big car scared spectators badly when it developed severe front wheel patter…for a moment it appeared the car would get out of control as the front see-sawed rapidly, making the wheels wobble and lift six inches off the ground in quick succession…slowing down cured the problem with A Moulden coming third, within a hundred yards of the winner.’

This extraordinary special was built by Max Bryant at Clare together with Hawker in 1934 and had two Essex ‘L’ or ‘F’ head 2371cc/2930cc four-cylinder engines- both of which were rated at 55 bhp.

The car was raced by both Bryant and Hawker at Buckland Park Beach, Sellicks and the SCCSA’s first hillclimb at Newland Hill’s Waitpinga in 1935 (another great but dangerous beach not too far from Victor Harbor) before being sold to the incredible Eldred Norman who was very competitive in it. This intuitive engineer, racer, specials-builder and raconteur was to be a mainstay of Sellicks throughout the venues long existence.

(Norman)

Norman is shown above in his stripped 1920’s Lancia Dilambda- 4 litres of OHC V8 power at Sellicks in the mid-thirties- what became of it I wonder? Its said Eldred got his passion for V8 grunt from this machine.

In a February 1935 record breaking exercise for cars saw three members of the Adelaide Establishment tackle the Sellicks sand.

John Dutton achieved 92.34 mph in his Vauxhall 30/98 ‘Bloody Mary’, so named for its blood red duco.

It was a car which achieved local fame and notoriety in February 1936 when the young, wealthy racer was forced off the road whilst returning to his home by an oncoming drunk driver. The Vauxhall plunged 60 feet into the icy waters of Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake whilst the intrepid pilot watched his beloved car gurgle downwards from above- he had been thrown clear of it and clung to a tree on a cliff until rescued. Lets return to that amazing story towards the end of this article.

Warren Bonython extracted 76.49 mph from his little 748cc MG J2, ‘the first MG sportscar in South Australia’ whilst the ‘Bungaree Bastard’ topped 110 mph before a broken piston put an early end to Peter Hawker’s day.

Warren, John and Kym Bonython preparing for Warren’s record run at Sellicks in 1935- MG J2 (SCCSA)

I’m not sure how many meetings involving ‘bikes and cars took place down the decades but Rob Bartholomaeus’ research at the Sporting Car Club of South Australia library uncovered many programs and the newspaper reports are extensive for the best part of fifty years.

Rob recalls seeing Jack Brabham listed amongst the entrants for one of the early fifties meetings but a trawl through ‘Trove’ has not yielded any evidence that the great man actually raced at the venue in one of his Speedway Midgets or Coopers.

(B Buckle)

 

(B Buckle)

Two photographs above of MG T Types during a meeting in 1947- it’s summer, check out the people swimming in the shallows beyond the cars, not everyone was there for the racing! Bill Buckle, MG TA is in car #17.

The course was not without its challenges, whilst start times were of course programmed by the organising club, ultimately the elements determined things.

Officials arrived early in the morning and asessed the likely conditions for the day with the vagaries of the tide sometimes bringing an early end to proceedings- the position of the mile or more long course itself changed dependent upon the prevailing sand and other conditions, weather forecasting being not quite as sophisticated as it is today!

(D Gordon)

 

(D Gordon)

Proceedings were not as serious as today either, ‘…it appears to be have been very much a picnic atmosphere with wives and girlfriends in attendance showing off the ‘fashions of the field’ almost like a Melbourne Cup day. The article above focuses almost entirely on the girls fashions and nothing to do with the racing!’ Doug Gordon observes.

‘The casual drivers attire gives an idea that it was nothing like the professional racing we see today, certainly not in the sportscar ranks anyway. The group shot on the back of Don Cant’s MG TC is typical of a group of friends out for a fun picnic on the beach with racing to add a bit of excitement to the day.’

Don Cant in helmet and racing shorts, no socks and tennis shoes, Don Shinners in old school cap, Molly Foale on the tank, Jill Cant and Max Foale in togs ready for a dip (D Gordon)

 

(unattributed)

The photograph above appears to be during the 1950’s given the spectators cars, the panoramic view looking towards Myponga Beach gives us a bit of an idea of a spectators view back in the day.

(A Wright)

Harry Neale, above, during the Easter Monday meeting in 1950 driving Eldred Norman’s formidable Double Eight Special.

This extraordinary twin Ford sidevalve 239 cid Mercury V8 powered beastie based on a Dodge weapons carrier chassis must have been mighty quick out of the stop-go type corners with its prodigious 7800 cc of torque and 200 bhp’ish pushing it along the two straight bits. Putting the power to the ground even on the hard sand cannot have been easy, to say the least.

Click here for some information on this car;

https://primotipo.com/2015/07/10/1950-australian-grand-prix-nuriootpa-south-australia/

In an interesting tangent it seems that the Bryant Special’s sale by Hawker to Norman in 1936/7 was precipitated by poor Peter contracting cancer, from which he died way too young shortly thereafter. Clearly Eldred Norman’s thinking in concepting the post-war Double Eight was influenced by the Bryant/Hawker machine he owned and raced earlier.

At this Easter Monday 1950 meeting the Double Eight was driven by speedway legend Harry Neale who was well in front of the pack when he lost control. Albert Ludgate wrote in ‘Cars’ magazine, ‘Before the crowd realised what was happening, the Ford was out of control and with a mighty splash charged into the sea. Such was the force of the water that the body was ripped off the chassis, leaving Harry sitting on the chassis, unhurt, but very wet.’

Turning to Eldred Norman, he was a larger than life character in every respect.

He once retrieved the telephone cables laid out for communication between officials at each end of the beach by fitting a bare wheel rim to the Double Eight’s rear axle, jacked up the car, fired it up, cracked open the throttle and post-haste reeled in a mile or so of line. The sheer efficiency of the process is to be admired even if modern O,H & S folks would be aghast at the dangers!

Hang on Harry. Neale in, or more particularly on the Double Eight at the South Australian Woodside road circuit in 1949. Look at that way back driving position- two engines to package of course! Note the big, heavy truck wheels and tyres (unattributed)

 

(D Cant)

Don Cant #7 and Steve Tillet In MG TC Spls with Eldred Norman just ahead, lapping them no doubt, in the Double Eight, 1952. In the later Sellicks years Norman also raced his Maserati 6CM and a Singer 1500 production tourer there, often with success.

During the same October 1952 meeting Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins’ Lancia Special leads Greg McEwin’s HRG around a drum which marks one of the two hairpin bends in the photo below.

(Advertiser)

All good things come to an end of course.

Mixed car and bike meetings were run until the local Willunga Council cried enough in 1953.

Sellicks was a long way from Adelaide in 1915 but a ‘lot closer’ by 1950 with the cities burgeoning population and mobility of its populace as car ownership grew exponentially post war- and most of those motorists wanted to use the beach for traditional aquatic pursuits not have them interrupted by motorsport.

The sport was changing more broadly in South Australia as well.

The state had a great tradition of road racing on closed public roads at Victor Harbor, Lobethal, Nuriootpa and Woodside but the death of a rider and spectator at Woodside in 1949 was a catalyst for the State Government banning road racing until the relevant act was repealed or amended to allow the Adelaide Grand Prix to be conducted on the city streets in the eighties.

In short, South Australia needed a permanent circuit, a role Sellicks could never of course fulfil. Initial work on putting this in place began with the incorporation of a company named Brooklyn Speedway (SA) Pty Ltd in August 1952.

Local racing heavyweights involved in the venture were determined not to let the sport die in South Australia included Steve Tillet, RF Angas, ES Wells, Keith Rilstone, TC Burford and of course Eldred Norman.

They soon secured a lease on 468 acres of flat salt-bush scrubby land at Port Wakefield on the Balaklava Road, 100 km from Adelaide.

Plans for a 1.3 mile circuit were drafted by Burford and circulated to the SCCSA and amongst drivers with the plans then modified and a circuit and support infrastructure built

The tracks first meeting was held on New Years Day 1953, star attractions included Melburnians Stan Jones in Maybach 1 and Lex Davison who brought over his Grand Prix Alfa Romeo P3. Lex rolled the car without injury only days before he and Jones jetted off to join Tony Gaze in Europe to contest the Monte Carlo Rally in a Holden 48-215.

Significantly, the circuit was the first permanent race-track constructed in Australia putting aside Speedways and appropriated airfields. South Australia had a new home for motor racing, hosting the 1955 AGP which was won by Jack Brabham’s self-built Cooper T40 Bristol ‘Bobtail’.

In more recent times their have been several ‘bike Sellicks re-enactments, the first in 1986 attracted over 40,000 spectators! and involved some racers who had run at the beach in period.

Eric Cossiche provided these photos from the February 2017 Levi Motorcycle Club run at Sellicks and commented that it was a bad move ‘salt and sand took forever to get sorted’ from the car, but fun no doubt!

Car is Eric Cossiche’s wonderful 1954 Wolseley Flying W Special (E Cossiche)

Postscript…

A couple of days after uploading this article Adelaide enthusiast/racer/historian Doug Gordon got in touch with some more photos and information which I have reproduced below- many thanks to him.

‘I have a particular interest in these early SA venues – Sellicks, Smithfield Speedway, Gawler Speedway (Racetrack), Lobethal, Woodside, Nuriootpa, Victor Harbor, Glen Ewin Hill Climb, etc.
Some are very hard to find information about – especially Smithfield Speedway (from October 1926- built and run by the Motor Cycle Club of SA) which was also one of the earliest speedway venues in the country and the first purpose built, but usually overlooked.
I have a couple of Grand Sport Amilcars and also own Don Cant’s MGTC from the photos you have. Don placed fourth on handicap in the AGP at Nuriootpa in 1950 and was also at Sellicks in October 1952, along with my Amilcar (driven by Max Foale).

(D Gordon)

The other interesting SA beach racing venue (for motorcycles) was Hardwicke Bay, about which I have found very little, except for speaking to the old locals (we have a place there) and a couple of photos from the community centre. I have a 1924 Douglas and have made contact with the Yorke Peninsula V & V Motorcycle Club and hope to find out more about Hardwicke in future – one of my buddies over there is trying to track down some more photos before the old fellows die out!
Hardwicke Bay racing – both official and “UN-official” (both on and OFF the beach, apparently – not too many cars on the roads back then- boys will be boys, went on for years, whilst the better-known venue at Sellicks was still going in Adelaide.
This was on a beautiful stretch of hard white sand stretching from Longbottoms Beach to Flahertys Beach (named after local landowners) for about 4 kilometers. I’m not exactly sure where the track layout was, but in many ways it was better than Sellicks and the boys from all over Yorkes would come down for it, along with the Adelaide mob. Possibly more a clubby arrangement with very little publicity!

Ready for the off at Hardwicke Bay (D Gordon)

Jake Cook at Hardwicke Bay in the 1930’s (D Gordon)

Boys looking pretty casual and ready for the off at Hardwicke Bay (D Gordon)

It is also widely known that not ALL the racing on Sellicks Beach was “officially sanctioned” events, but motorcycles pre-dated cars there by more than a decade. The early motor-cycle clubs invited “Light-Cars” in the mid-1920s, but the Sporting Car Club of SA did not invite motor-cycles after they started their car meetings in 1934.
The precedent for this was set at Gawler racetrack in April 1925, when the motor-cycle speedway invited an Austin-7 and an Amilcar to a match race on the turf track there. After this, Light Cars often appeared at motor-cycle racing events and speedway – principally at Sellicks and Smithfield, along with a few night trials and reliability trails. So these early venues were a critical link in the formation of motor sport in this SA as well as Australia as a whole.

(D Gordon)

Its also interesting that the Harley-Davidson MCC had their club-rooms high on the Sellicks cliffs overlooking the beach in the 1920s – known colloquially as “The ‘Arley ‘Ut”.
Note that both the Sellicks and Hardwicke venues were only used in the early months of summer from late October to February, owing to the tides going out further at these times to keep the sand exposed for most of the days. If tides came in too far, the racing had to be abandoned.
Eldred Norman was said to ease the big Double-V8 into very shallow water at times to cool off the brakes in the spray after serious fading following some panic stops at the hairpin bends at the end of each long straight! Later he fitted windscreen washer spray jets with push-button control to squirt the brakes when needed to provide the same effect in long road-races.
Sellicks IS a very special venue and it has been packed for the modern re-enactments run by the Levis Motorcycle club in recent times – bikes and riders come from every state. It’s huge and you have to get tickets pre-booked and paid through Venutix etc- there are only a limited number available and are sold-out in days! These events are now fully backed by local councils and environmentalists are (sort-of) OK with it, because no damage has been proven to result – Sellicks has a unique layer of pebbles just under the sand to keep the surface very stable, which is why it lasted so long and even into the present day.’

Etcetera: Sellicks…

(unattributed)

 

Bill Buckle’s MG TA during the 1947 meeting, the racer/businessman made the long trip from Sydney for the event, casual nature of the beach clear from this shot as is the importance of MG’s to Australian motor racing- and not just at Sellicks Beach.

 

(Levis)

 

Harry Cossiche getting ready to boogie in the 1930’s (E Cossiche)

 

(D Gordon)

The Don Cant and Steve Tillet MG TC’s hard at it during 1952. By the look of the soft sand in the foreground one needed to not stray too far up the beach- or down it.

Cars on beaches is a strongly entrenched Adelaide tradition- parking ones car on the beach before popping up the beach umbrella and knocking back a couple of tinnies continues to this day on some of their coastline, a practice very strange to we east-coasters.

 

(Norman)

Eldred Norman’s much modified Maserati 6CM chasing Tom Hawkes’ Allard J2 above at the first all-car Sellicks meeting post-war in October 1952.

Norman had a dim view of this car which was never very fast and had an insatiable appetite for pistons, inclusive of this race meeting!

 

(Jennison)

Etcetera: Mystery ‘Sellicks’ car…

John Alfred Jennison built this racer at his garage in Salisbury, South Australia, which sold and serviced Chevs in the twenties. The clever Engineer was later a pioneer of caravan construction in Australia.

The car raced at Sellicks in the late twenties but I can find nothing about its mechanical specification, in period race record or its ultimate fate.

It would be great to hear from any of you who may know something about it. Neat isn’t it?

(Jennison)

 

(ABC)

Etcetera: ‘Bloody Marys’ 300 foot Blue Lake plunge…

The story of John Dutton’s lucky escape from the seeming death of his Vauxhall in February 1936 is too good to leave alone and is well told by Kate Hill in this ABC South East’s ‘Friday Rewind’ published on 7 November 2014.

‘Wealthy young racing driver John Dutton owned a property on the outskirts of Mount Gambier when he purchased one of the last Vauxhalls produced in 1927, nicknamed ‘Bloody Mary’ for it’s blood red duco and known for its speed and racing pedigree.

In fact, Dutton and the Vauxhall landed the Australian National RC Speed Record over one mile on Sellicks Beach in February 1935 and he was booked to compete in the 1936 Australian Grand Prix with another car, a supercharged MG (he finished tenth)

The Mount Gambier resident used his cars for both competition and daily transport, frequently spotted at hill climbs and tearing the cars around country roads.

On the Blue Lake Aquifer Tours website, Linton Morris, who purchased the Vauxhall in 1993 obtained what he calls the most ‘accurate version of the incident’ in a letter from John Dutton’s younger brother Geoffrey.

Sometime after 2am one wet February morning, Dutton was driving the Vauxhall around the lake home, when a drunk man came around the tight bend on the wrong side of the road.

The Vauxhall was forced through a fence and tipped over the edge but luckily the seriously injured Dutton had been thrown out, landing some way down the cliff before his fall was stopped short by a tree.

Watching his beloved car plunge past him into the depths of the Blue Lake, John later told his brother Geoffrey how the car spun around in the water with the headlights still on, ‘leaving an eerie lemon light’ cutting through the murky water.

Dutton, clinging to life with severe internal injuries, was stretchered back up the cliff in a dangerous night operation by police and rescue services and taken to Mount Gambier Hospital.

(ABC)

 

The restored ex-Dutton Vauxhall 30/98 at its point of entry into the Blue Lake crater in 1958. Armco barrier more substantial than the 1936 variant and doubtless it is even more substantial now (SLSA-Arthur Studio)

There are varying reports of whether Mr AC MacMillan, the veterinary surgeon who caused the crash, drove straight to the Mount Gambier police station to report the crash, or as a later report suggests, simply drove into town and had another few beers at the Jens Hotel.

The Border Watch newspaper reported the sensational crash with the front page of next edition screaming: Racing car drives 300ft into Blue Lake – Driver’s miraculous escape from death.

With Dutton recovering in an Adelaide hospital, the city’s council was left with a problem – how to salvage the car from the city’s famous ‘bottomless’ water supply.

In fact it would be over 13 months before a plan of action was put into place, including construction of a pontoon to support the vehicle at the lake’s surface and a 10-tonne road roller to haul the car to the top.

A steel cable was attached to the rear springs of the car, which had been stripped of its wheels and bolted to wooden cross bars to stabilise the vehicle.

A huge crowd gathered around to watch the spectacle, which was not without incident.

A workman’s fingers were crushed after he was distracted by the crowds and his hand drawn under the steel rollers.

When the car reached the top, onlookers noted the clock inside had stopped at 2.40am, probably the exact time of the accident.

The Vauxhall was put on display at local garage May & Davis and became a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Believe it or not, after nearly a year underwater, the car went on to have a further racing career in Victoria and South Australia under a succession of owners.

Bought by Morris in 1993, the famous car that went into the Blue Lake has now been fully restored and lives a quiet life.’

(ABC)

Bibliography…

Adelaide Advertiser 11 October 1934/9 October 1954, Adelaide ‘The Register’ 2 January 1926, article by Tony Parkinson in the Spring 2014 issue of ‘Fleurieu Living’, Rockhampton ‘Morning Bulletin’, ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ Eldred Norman threads, communique from Doug Gordon

Photo and other Credits…

State Library of South Australia, Rob Bartholomaeus, Arnold Wright, Ken Ragless, Sporting Car Club of South Australia, Don Cant Collection, Bill Buckle Collection, Doug Gordon, K Ragless, Jennison Family Collection, Norman Family Collection, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Eric Cossiche, Doug Gordon

Tailpieces: Sellicks Beach fuel depot ‘in period’ and the drivers view in 2019…

(unattributed)

 

(D Gordon)

Finito…

(SLSA Searcy Collection)

A couple of intrepid adventurers, Harold Bowman and Murray Aunger about to set off from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, Prince Henry Vauxhall, Saturday 6 April 1912…

Some shots just blow my tiny mind and this is one of them.

The gelatin or glass plate photograph was taken in King William Street, Adelaide, the cities main drag- the GPO, still there, is in the background.

Just look at the sharpness of the shot and the subtlety of greys and darks, the formaility of all of the blokes- they are ALL fellas as far as i can see. What awaits the drivers is a journey of around 1149 miles on unmade dirt roads including clearing the dreaded 95 miles of the Coorong Desert, as it was called then, not too far from Adelaide.

The South Australian duo are part of an amazing event organised to test the time in which a military despatch could be carried by road from the Adelaide Military Commandant to his Sydney based equivalent.

‘From that aspect it became an event of some public importance, but its utility went further, for it provided an instructive comparative test of the three modes of conveyance which were employed’ the Adelaide Advertiser reported.

Contestants were split into three division- 30 cyclists, 52 motor cyclists and 12 ‘carists’. The Dunlop promoted and supported event was a relay contest, and in the best traditions of Australian motor-sport for the next four decades or so was also a handicap event.

The Dunlop Company handicappers had the cars concede six hours to the motor cycles and thirty hours to the cyclists. When the handicaps were announced there was considerable comment in sporting (betting no doubt) circles that the cyclists had no chance of reaching Sydney first and that they would soon be overhauled by the motorised opposition.

Adelaide Advertiser 11 April 1912

The first two cyclists left Adelaide at 5 am on Friday 5 April with their sealed despatch from Colonel H Mesurier to be delivered to Brigadier General Gordon 1149 miles away in Sydney.

‘Notwithstanding the early hour and already rain, there was an enthusiastic crowd to see the commencement of the most interesting despatch test ever attempted in any country, and amid ringing cheers, the wheelmen set off with all the importance of being on “The King’s business”.

The cycle class was divided into 65 sections varying in length from 10 miles to 28 miles, with two motor cyclists starting at 3am on Saturday morning, they had 25 sections varying in length from 27 to 72 miles.

‘The motor car, the “King of The Road” by virtue of its superior speed, will have four relays only, each running into hundreds of miles, and if the car drivers hope to be in it at the finish they must average a speed of nearly 30 miles an hour…’, the wheelmen will probably average 16-18 mph and the motor cyclists 23 mph The Melbourne Argus reported.

The motor cyclists were thought to be able to do the course in 46 hours with the cars needing to do the event in 40 hours ‘to come up level with the cycling divisions’. The car records at the time from Adelaide to Melbourne and Melbourne to Sydney were 20 hours 6 minutes and 19 hours 47 minutes respectively, a total of 39 hours 53 minutes so the automobilists had no easy task.

The route traversed good and bad roads, hilly to mountainous tracks, plains and sandy desert sections and ‘therefore it will be an interesting trial and from which military authorities may gather useful data respecting the three classes of transit and the most effective means for rapid mobilisation’.

Bowman and Aunger made a cracker of a start for the ‘car team’, setting off from King William Street at 9 am on the Saturday morning, they ‘startled the motoring world, and the event organisers by driving from Adelaide across the Coorong Desert to Kingston (185 miles) in 5 hours 15 minutes.

Such a feat appears incredible to those who know who now the route from Meningie to Kingston, but the fact remains that Messrs Bowman and Aunger averaged 35 miles an hour in the rain along this section of the relay. Leaving Kingston the limestone road got so slippery that fast pace was unsafe, and, in fact impossible, so, by the time Mount Gambier (303 miles from Adelaide) was reached the Vauxhall was 32 minutes behind the time schedule.

A Wiseman and T Bell then took up the running in a Maxwell and had a shocker of a time driving in pouring rain- they managed to lose their way near Glenburnie, devouring an additional hour in the process. Further hazards of the day were three punctures between Ballarat and Melbourne, a distance of about 70 miles. They finally arrived in Melbourne, still raining, at just before 11 am on the Sunday morning and ‘sorry spectacles they were’!

S Day and P Allen in a Vinot and M Smith and R Lane, FN then stepped up to the plate ‘having an unpleasant 200 mile drive against a head wind and heavy rain’, Albury being reached at 7.18 pm Sunday.

Sandford and Scott then took care of the dispatch from Albury north to Sydney but missed the road at Germanton (re-named Holbrook during the War) and went many miles out of their way. The car dispatch finally reached Sydney at 10.14 am on the Monday morning.

The event was not without incident of course, G Fitzgerald who rode the Kingston to Furner leg on a motor cycle fell heavily on the greasy road and fractured his leg.

 

Syd Barber, Bert Backler, Bob Smith and Charles Smith in Kingston, South Australia during the 1912 relay event (SLSA)

Despite bad weather conditions with slush and howling head winds the cyclists covered the 1149 miles in 69 hours 32 minutes averaging 16.5 mph and delivered their despatch to Sydney 6 hours 18 minutes ahead of the motor cyclists and 7 hours 12 minutes before the car despatch was handed over.

The cyclists performance was remarkable in that they’clung tenaciously to schedule hour after hour and were rarely more than 30 minutes either inside or outside of the timetable, while at Sydney they were just 4 minutes within the figures set for them’.

The motor cyclists took 51 hours 50 minutes averaging 22.5 mph whilst the cars recorded 47 hours 46 minutes an average speed of 24 mph.

A Cairns Post review of the event in 1930 mused about how quickly the times would have improved with the improved inetrstate highways of that time- the 2018 times would be interesting too!

‘No doubt the military authorities will be impressed with the reliability and effiiency of the cycles and motor cycles…One lesson to be drawn from the contest is the proved value of the three types of vehicles for military purposes…Given fair roads in this sprasely populated country, the value of the cycle and the motor vehicle in rapidly mobilising units is inestimable.

The motorists and wheelmen demonstrated that high speed can be maintained on very indifferent roads, and even if the pace did not exceed one third of the average in the respective classes, it would be fast enough to serve all purposes for home defence. The Imperial military authorities are making free use of both cycles and motors in the latest defence scheme, and paying the greatest attention to the roads- a most important factor in military operations.’ The Adelaide Advertiser said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nascent motor industry realised one means of proving the worthiness of cars was to demonstrate their reliability of by long distance events.

City to city transcontinental success soon evolved into city to city record breaking- the achievements of the cars and drivers was picked up by the print media of the day and the successes of the cars and their suppliers of fuel, lubricants etc were also promoted.

Before too long drivers such as Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith, Boyd Edkins and AV Turner were household names and drew crowds when they were departing and completing one of their adventures.

In parallel, car organisations/clubs were formed to provide the means for like minded motorists to share information and to tour together- there was safety in numbers if for no other reason than to have a mechanic at hand to keep your conveyance moving in the event if it faltered.

Inevitably the more competitive of motorists wanted to test their steeds in competition so Car Reliability Trials evolved from runs to more competitive events. These comprised trips from the city to the country of a navigational nature with speed events within them which typically comprised timed flying quarter/half mile/mile, acceleration tests, hillclimb(s), and what later became gymkhana type events. Normal roads were used which were closed off to other traffic- which was very limited in volume as the Trials were typically well out of town and the PC Plod’s glare. The more public of these events would have complied with the laws of the day in terms of requisite permits but perhaps not so much the smaller ones…

So, it seemed smart to do an article showing some of the cars used in these very early forms of competition in Australia- there was no permanent ‘circuit’ or ‘speedway’ in Australia in 1911. The City to City Record Breaking Era ended in 1930 when such open road ‘events’ were made illegal.

 

(JOL)

Napier Tourer: Brisbane to Toowoomba, Queensland 1912…

Walter Trevethan drove this 1911 or 1912 6-cylinder Napier from Brisbane to Toowoomba, 127 Km in 3 hours 7 minutes, one puncture and missing the railway gates at Redbank cost him a total of 16 minutes. Walter carried three passengers ‘The record has never been lowered although attempts have been made’, the photo caption says.

 

(S Hood)

Armstrong Whitworth: Sydney 1913…

AP Wright of Angus & Son and passenger, probably John Leys ‘in a stripped down Armstrong Whitworth record-breaking chassis in front of the Art Gallery’.

 

(SLSA Searcy Collection)

Vauxhall ‘Prince Henry’: Adelaide to Melbourne 1913…

Two unknown men in a Vauxhall ‘possibly prepared for an Adelaide to Melbourne record run in 1913. The journey is 735 Km.

 

(JOL)

Motor Sports Carnival: Brisbane, Queensland, 10 October 1914…

We do have State based differences in Australia, perhaps this is one of them, a variation on the trials theme perhaps? I wonder what marque of car she has jumped from?

‘A female athlete competing in the motor sports carnival in Brisbane, Queensland 1914’, most intriguing, i can’t find anything more about this event but am keen to know if any of you are descendants of this pioneering, rather attractive young lady. The caption tells us all we don’t need; ‘A woman athlete wearing a knee length dress and bonnet competing in the motor sports carnival at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds. She appears to be a runner’. No shit Sherlock.

 

 

Essex: Hobart to Launceston and Return, ‘Wizard Smith’ 1923…

Norman ‘Wizard Smith’ acquired his nickname as a result of his speed in all manner of cars but received his label after multiple wins in the Victorian Alpine Trial.

The return trip of 400 Km took 4 hours 19 minutes. Smith left Hobart at 4am, he was at the Launceston GPO at 6.08, and after a minute was heading south again, ‘he arrived at Hobart Post Office at 6.19am, just 4 hours and 19 minutes after he left but in the meantime travelling 244 miles’…’The really remarkable thing about the whole business is that ‘Wizard’ Smith lowered the previous record by 1 hour 18 minutes…Mr Smith stated that his average speed was 56 mph, his maximum speed 101 mph…Our speed visitor holds the record from Brisbane to Sydney…Adelaide to Melbourne…These achievements have all been made on an Essex car’ The Adelaide Register reported.

Its interesting to look at the Essex and its stripped down nature, deviod of running board and mudguards, but fitted with additional wheels and tyres to prepare for punctures which were far more prevalent then than now.

 

(JOL)

Austin Tourer: Reliability Trial, Maleny, Queensland 1924…

Austin Tourer, a 4-cylinder car built between 1921 and 1924 during an RACQ reliability trial. Maleny is in the beautiful countryside inland of the Sunshine Coast about 100 Km north of Brisbane. No doubt quite a testing dive in the twenties.

 

(JOL)

 

Overland ‘Whitey’: Fred Eager in Don Harkness’ famous Overland in 1924…

‘Whitey’ was a stripped down 1914 Overland devoid of mudguards and headlights which broke the interstate, 915 Km speed record from Sydney to Brisbane on public roads. Fred Eagers’ company was the Queensland distributor for Willys-Overland’.

The photo caption goes on to state ‘Interstate speed record breaking was very popular after World War 1 into the 1920’s. Record breaking runs wre usually made with a single, specially prepared car with a driver and mechanic. Official timing was established by motoring clubs in the starting and finishing cities, and a great deal of publicity could flow to drivers, sponsors and manufacturers from the speed record attempts. Increasing speeds on the poor roads of the day led to crashes and serious injuries, so by the mid twenties the police were clamping down on these runs, which were eventually banned in 1930’.

 

(S Hood)

Chrysler: Melbourne to Sydney, ‘Wizard Smith’ 1927/8…

Scrutineers check all is good before Smith heads out of Martin Place and then south for the 875 Km journey.

Wizard is alongside what is now the wonderful GPO-Westin Hotel complex, my favourite Sydney CBD place to stay, the old building behind the car is still there in all of its magnificent, restored glory.

 

(Fairfax)

Citroen: Sydney to Bourke, 5 May 1932…

Arthur Barnes about to embark on his 760 Km trip to Bourke in the Darling River country of New South Wales, well supported by Texaco and Rapson Tyres. The photo caption records the attempt as an unsuccessful one.

Etcetera…

In June 2020 i had a Friday lunch with a group of motoring chaps and bummed a lift part way home with Peter Latreille whom i had met for the first time.

I checked out his quite stunning 1908 Isotta Fraschini FENC Voiturette, after waxing lyrical about that car for a half hour i turned to the Prince Henry Vauxhall sharing the garage and started to rabbit on about this article and this car whereupon Peter’s face lit up as he announced it was the very same car! A short while later we went inside where he has the King William Street shot hung in pride of place.

Vital statistics are as follows.

Car number A11.578, engine number C10.9, date of manufacture 20 December 1911. Today the car is known as ‘Henry IX’ being the ninth of 190 Prince Henrys sold between 1911 and 1915.

‘They were the early versions of the also famous 30-98 Vauxhall of 1913-1926. Nine of these cars, the first sporting cars to be manufactured by the British in series have survived’ wrote Peter.

The car’s first owner was Harold Bowman (in the passenger seat), a grazier from Meningie on Lake Albert on the edge of the inhospitable 90 mile Coorong Desert over which the intrepid pair passed later that day.

Credits…

State Library of South Australia Searcy Collection, State Library of New South Wales- Sam Hood, ‘JOL’- John Oxley Library within the State Library of Queensland, Fairfax, The Adelaide Advertiser, Melbourne Argus and Cairns Post April 1912 and other newspapers via Trove, Peter Latreille

Finito…

 

 

 

 

The Vauxhall 30/98 was an iconic high performance, light touring car despite the relatively small number, circa 596, built.

Such was the build quality and the fact that ’old car people’ saw the intrinsic merit of the Laurence Pomeroy design a large proportion of those constructed between 1923 to 1927 still exist. They were popular in Australia, we have a lot of 30/98’s in Oz in relative terms, the cars are a very welcome and admired part of the historic car scene. This short article is about two Velox bodied fast tourers shipped to Australia in 1924, chassis numbers OE86 and OE100.

In some of my history of Australian motor racing articles i’ve mentioned the grip on the publics imagination transcontinental or city to city record breaking had in the formative motoring years of this great sun-bleached land. Vauxhalls featured heavily in these achievements in the hands of Boyd Edkins and others.

30/98 at the Queensland/Northern Territory border fence (unattributed)

John Balmer was the scion of a well to do Victorian family, his mother acquired 30/98 chassis number OE100 as a gift for him. He competed in various motorsport events with it, and together with co-driver Eddie Scott set the transcontinental Darwin to Adelaide, Fremantle (Perth) to Adelaide, and Adelaide to Melbourne records during 1936 in the car.

OE100 was somewhat bruised by this experience so its core components- 4224cc 112 bhp four cylinder engine, gearbox and front end wheel to wheel were fitted into OE86, another 30/98 owned by RS Robinson, a friend of Balmer’s from their Melbourne University and Citizen Air Force training days.

With sponsorship provided by Shell, Dunlop and Repco, Balmer and Richard Kent established a new 9326 mile circumnavigation of Australia record of 24 days, 11 hours and 58 minutes in 1938. The Repco advertisement at this articles outset recognises that remarkable achievement of grit and endurance.

Crossing the Katherine River in the Northern Territory (unattributed)

John Balmer was killed on a bombing mission over Berlin in 1944 but left his share of the car to Robinson’s wife Janet. The car was retained by the Robinson family in Victoria’s Warrnambool area, little used other than in occasional VSCC events until sold in 2016- and restored by Paul Chaleyer in Blackburn, Victoria.

Bibliography…

ausauto.com, MossGreen auctions

Tailpiece: The transcontinental adventurers, John Balmer and Richard Kent, ‘Boys Own’ stuff isn’t it? Blackall is in central Queensland…