Wednesday, 24 January 2007 22:32

Mornington Rally 2007

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Text, and photos by Bill Hunter RACV Rally Mornington - January 2007 
 Above: Brian Hussey's 1925 4½ litre Bentley built to the exact specifications
of "Mother Gun" - the prototype of the works Le Mans team of 1927 - 1930.
Mornington is a seaside town a couple of hours of easy motoring south of the central business district of Melbourne.  Most common access is via the Nepean Highway which passes through the bayside suburbs of St Kilda, Brighton and Frankston, giving occasional panoramic views across Port Phillip Bay.Every year the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria sponsors a motoring tour to the Mornington Race Course, attracting hundreds of the State's most treasured rare and exotic cars, from the mundane to the oddball.I paid my $20 entrance money at the turnstiles about an hour before the touring cars arrived. The ticket lady allowed me a $10 concession and also gave me a show guide. Already the racecourse was being transformed into a fairground. Teams from uptown car dealerships were setting up their displays on the lawns. Stationary engine clubs were roping off their enclosures. Fast food vans were lighting up their bottled gas cookers. Magazine sellers, souvenir and model makers were unfolding trestle tables in the betting shed. I was lucky. Standing all alone in the morning sunlight was a real doozy of an old car that had just arrived on a trailer. Its identification plate showed it to be a Detroit model 97, registered in Pennsylvania in 1928. It had old coach-style doors, but didn’t have a radiator or steering wheel. Behind the windscreen was a vase of daffodils. I met Mr Mike Shepherd from Maffra. He had found the Detroit on eBay, and paid US$18,250 for it with Paypal. It arrived in Australia on 18th December 2006. The previous owner had been driving it until August last year, and the car had been his “daily driver” since 1952.  Ill health had forced him to sell it. Mr Shepherd explained the lack of a steering wheel. The car had a fold-away tiller steering device operated by the driver from a backseat. And electric cars don’t have radiators.The tourists began to arrive at 9 o'clock. Some were directed to the concours paddock, others into allocated display areas, and the rest lined up by club or marque.
 Above: Detroit model 97 of 1928  Above: Cooper JAP (wav sound file)  Above: Cooper JAP
 Above: Lola F 5000 (wav sound file)  Above; One of three Lago Talbots ar
present in Australia
 Brian Hussey's 3 litre 1925 Bentley
Near the broadcast rotunda, a rear-engined racing car was rolled into its roller starter and fired up. It was a Mark V Cooper Formula Two with its fierce looking 1100 cc JAP engine flashing in the sun. At 6 000 rpm, that engine, which was specifically designed by by Preswicks for Cooper racing cars, produces 95 bhp when running on methanol. The Bayswater firm, Ten 10ths Engineering, did a ground-up restoration in 1998 to bring the 1951 car back to its original specifications. Alongside the Cooper was a Formula 5000 Lola racing car receiving a last-minute brush and polish by Tom. It was a 1970 T 192 - the first of the long wheelbase Lolas developed by Frank Gardner.  It was purchased by Penske racing on Frank’s recommendation, and went to America in August 1970, where it was raced by Mark Donohue, and was up against competition from Andretti, Stewart, Fittipaldi, Shencken, and others.Bob Harborow bought the car in 1989.  Ian Tate did the engine work, extracting 520 brake horsepower from the small block Chevrolet engine, which propelled the car to 185 mph. Not far away stood a vast and immaculate Bentley owned by Brian Hussey who lives in nearby Flinders, overlooking Bass Strait.  He restored this car with the help of his son, taking  5000 hours of work over four years.  It is a 1925 4½ litre car built to the specifications of Mother Gun - the prototype of the works team that took 4 victories at Le Mans from 1927 to 1930.“Every bracket and every fitting in the car is made to the specifications of Mother Gun.  It is very fast, very accurate, heavy but predictable.  Far less temperamental than Bugatti and good at long-distance racing where Bugatti (reputedly scornful of the 2 ton British car) did not have the same reputation.” Describing himself as a shed-ist, Mr Hussey virtually lives in his workshop, occasionally sleeping there when gale force winds blowing across Bass Strait permit.  
Above: Charlie Besser worked on his
1919 Buick for 8 years. 
 Above: Mass produced Buick of late
1950s reflect changes of customer
taste and requirement
 Above: If the older models don't please
some customers, they just shoehorn
in the bits they like. A 5 litre Holden eng-
ine goes into a 1930s Ford.
 Above: This FX Holden from the early
1950s still has vacuum wipers, 12
volt battery, and has covered 92 850
miles. A one-owner car. Engine work
by Tate Engines.
 Above: The Standard 8 of 1939 was 
typical  of the small British cars that
dominated the Australian motor
market before and after the war.
 Above: The 240Z Datsun puts to rest
any doubt that  mass produced cars
may claim to be 'Classic'. 
 Whilst angling about, trying to get a shot of a spectacular Brooklands Riley, I was greeted by Alex Reid, the car’s current owner, and the well-known owner driver of the Mac Healey, a familiar sight at historic meetings up and down the east coast of Australia.The Brooklands has participated in the Targa Tasmania event and in New South Wales historic race meetings over the years.  As the great Phillip Island classic meeting is due to take place early in March this year, I look forward to catching up again with Alex fairly soon. Lea Francis cars fascinate me more than almost every other classic car.  In the 1950s their reputation was magical for class, speed, and brilliant engineering.  Their engines were used in competition cars from dirt track racing to big league Grand Prix events.  Philip Rogers bought his Lea Francis in 1992 at an auction.  George MacDonald Walker was a previous owner of this 130 mph car in which he had many hill climb and other victories.
 Above: Phillip Rogers' Lea Francis   Above: Alex Reid's Brooklands Riley   Above: 4 Amal carburettors on the
Brooklands Riley
  Above: Aston Martin DB3   Above: Allard 6 cyl Palm Beach  Above: Chris Lowth
 Above: Brush runabout  Above: Citroën Light 15  Above: 1952 Indian Scout - Police
Department, New York
Another brilliant small-run production car was built by Sydney Allard, probably the best known of which was the J2 in which Sydney himself – the designer, builder and driver - drove to take third place outright at Le Mans in 1950.Allard also produced a smaller, less powerful sports car for the American market in the 1950s, which he named the Palm Beach. Chris Lowth is the owner of the red Ford Zephyr-engined Palm Beach that made its appearance at Mornington this year.  He is the administrator of the Allard register in Australia, and is preparing for a rally in New Zealand in February 2008 to be held in conjunction with New Zealand’s Festival of Speed to be held over for weekends on the South Island. He expects that there will be five Allards attending from Australia, a similar number from New Zealand, and eight from America.  Chris will race the Palm Beach there, and is confident, after recent testing, that the car is capable of 120 mph.  The 6 cylinder Ford Zephyr engine is fitted with a Raymond Mays head, and can rev out to 6000 RPM. I had looked at most of the 900 cars in the exhibit, and time was getting away. Before making the 100 km return journey to Sunbury, I felt the need of something to eat.  I searched my pockets for the $10 change given me when I came through the turnstiles a few hours earlier. Alas, apart from the Guidebook, my pockets were empty. I must have dropped the money somewhere.  Nearby, a fat boy eating a Jumbo-sized bucket of chips gazed at my antics with a baleful eye. To locate Mornington on a Google map, click here
Pour trouver Mornington dans une carte Google, cliquez ici -  Merci, Jean-Pierre Bush.    

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