Posts Tagged ‘Wangaratta to Melbourne Speed Record’

(SLNSW)

Its amazing the interesting stuff ya trip over sometimes…

I’ve written abut the racing career of Wangaratta’s Ted Gray favourably but tangentially in two pieces- in one about his Alfa Romeo Ford V8 and the other about the Lou Abrahams owned Tornado V8s- they are here; https://primotipo.com/2018/02/15/mrs-jas-jones-alfa-6c-1750-ss-zagato/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2015/11/27/the-longford-trophy-1958-the-tornados-ted-gray/

The shot above shows him in his ex-Mrs JAS Jones Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Ford V8 in front of Frank Kleinig, Kleinig Hudson Special during the handicap 1946 New South Wales Grand Prix at Bathurst. Ted was fourth and Kleinig DNF in the race won by Alf Najar MG TB Monoposto- article here; https://primotipo.com/2019/11/15/1946-new-south-wales-grand-prix/

I was researching another Wangaratta driver, Ron Phillips when I came upon this gem about Ted’s legendary Wangaratta to Melbourne record breaking run in his race Alfa in a blog by KB Hill…

‘What about the celebrated record attempt, undertaken in the late forties by two Wangaratta personalities, Ted Gray and North Eastern Car Club President, Jack Cox. Here’s a condensed version of the story that Jeff Whitten recounts in one of his publications:

A group of men had been chatting in a local hotel when the conversation turned to how fast a car could travel from Wangaratta to Melbourne (145 miles). Ted Gray drained the last drop of ale from his glass, planted it on the bar and told the small group in a confident tone: “I’ll do it in less than two hours.”

A boast became a bet, and hundreds of pounds changed hands during the next few days. Speculation raged around town. On the day (in April 1946 according to Tony Parkinson) of the attempt Wangaratta’s taxi fleet did a roaring trade, shuttling people to the ‘S’ Bend just south of Glenrowan, for 2 shillings a time. Many spectators thought the Alfa Romeo may fail to negotiate the sharp turn over the railway line. Visions of a wrecked car, hurtling over and over, were probably foremost in the minds of those who were waiting there.

That evening, more than 1,000 people lined Murphy Street as Gray, the Australian Land Speed Record Holder, and his passenger Jack Cox, a Faithfull Street engineer, sat waiting in the Alfa Romeo. The moment the Post Office clock struck 5.30 the Alfa’s engine roared and the pair took off, accompanied by the cheering of the crowd. All along the route, thousands stood in the darkness, shuddering with cold, and expectation.

Telephones ran hot, as people sought updates. In many places the Alfa, with Gray at the wheel, exceeded 110 miles per hour, while Cox hung on for dear life. The car clipped the railing on the sharp bridge over the river at Seymour, but sped on and recorded 112mph over Pretty Sally (Hill).

The railway-gate keeper at Tallarook had been bribed, to make sure that he kept the gates open at a certain time.

With misty rain falling, Gray spent much of the trip peering over the top of the windscreen, ensuring he wouldn’t tangle with cars and transports that hadn’t yet turned on their tail-lights. It enabled him to reach Bell Street, Coburg, in record time.

The trip from Bell Street to the Melbourne GPO took six and a quarter minutes. The pair pulled up in front of the Post Office exactly one hour and 59 minutes after leaving Wangaratta.

Jack Cox climbed out of the car, knees still shaking, while Ted Gray acknowledged the cheers of the crowd…’

Ian Virgo in the Alfa Romeo V8 from Tom Stevens MG TC Spl at Port Wakefield in the mid-fifties , date folks?- the Ford V8 engines Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS Zaato was by this stage was owned by Broken Hill’s Bob Jervies (T Stevens)

 

(J Cox Family)

Postcript…

The power of the internet.

Racer/restorer/historian Tony Parkinson got in touch with the fabulous material below, he wrote ‘I found references to the Alfa Romeo sent to me by John Cox, son of Jack Cox, riding mechanic on the infamous Wangaratta to Melboune run, also shots at Fishermans Bend pus Jack Cox (with blindfold) and Pat O’Keefe, the Alfa front on in Murphy Street Wangaratta, a glorious shot of the Cox & Gray garage and a very young John Cox on a trike in Roy Street Wangaratta with the 6C1750 V8 up the drive.’

Just wonderful stuff, in addition there are various newspaper reports, if anyone can help with the date of the run in April 1946 that would be the candle atop the cake!

(J Cox Family)

Jack Cox and Pat O’Keefe aboard the Alfa Romeo and hamming it up for the local press.

 

(J Cox Family)

The old beast still looked pretty good in 1946 despite a very active competition life from the time it arrived in Australia- here in Murphy Street, Wangaratta with road equipment- well lights anyway!

Late 1950’s report or retrospective on the run probably from the Melbourne ‘Herald’ at a guess (J Cox Family)

 

Big sister looks after John Cox whilst his Dad, Jack Cox and Ted Gray’s big V8 engined racer is at rest up the drive.

Imagine the drives possible from there- Wang to Corryong, Wang to Mansfield via the King Valley, Wang to Echuca and so on…apart from the car’s racing of course.

 

(J Cox Family)

There was obviously plenty of consternation after the veracity of the elapsed time given plenty of money wagered on the outcome- a close run thing it seems!

 

(J Cox Family)

 

(J Cox Family)

The two shots of the Alfa at Fishermans Bend- be great to know the date and have the identities of other cars and drivers.

(J Cox Family)

Credits…

Excerpt of an article by KB Hill ‘A Lifetime Passion for Motor Sport’, December 2019 in kbonreflection.wordpress.com, State Library of New South Wales, Australian Motor Sports Tom Stevens Collection via Tony Parkinson, Jack Cox Family Collection via John Cox and Tony Parkinson

Tailpiece…

(J Cox Family)

Jack Cox and Ted Gray’s ‘Hume Garage’ in Wangaratta.

His pre and post war speedway and road racing career across the country was conducted using Wang as a base- was his move to Melbourne from the time he started to race Tornado 1 Ford with Lou Abrahams circa 1954?

You need luck in motor racing of course, Lex Davison made his own with great preparation of his cars by AF Hollins (and others early on), Ted Gray was keeping Lex’ Ferrari 500/625 and Stan Jones Maserati 250F at bay at Bathurst in October 1958, he really, coulda-shoulda-woulda won the Australian Grand Prix that year, cracked suspension mountings caused his retirement.

An under-rated driver i reckon…

Jones, Gray and Davison, Hell Corner, Mount Panorama during the 1958 AGP (AMS)

Finito…