FIRST AUSTRALIAN 500
Doesn’t this photograph have a lovely Australian feel to it, and would it be right to think it might be in Queensland? Must be the trees or the style of hats maybe?*
What is known for certain it that this is Australia’s first competing ‘500’, the Low-Lane Special built by Bill Low and Bob Lane in Melbourne in 1947 with an Ariel Red Hunter engine. Other 500s had been promised or had even unsuccessfully appeared for practice, but the Low-Lane was the first to make it to the finishing line at Rob Roy hill-climb on 21 September of that year in a vaguely stated time of 40s.
The chassis, was a slightly modified ABC, which Australian Motor Sports (October 15, 1947, see below) says was an American-made Austin Seven which was married to a Ford 8/ 10 front axle with a Ford wishbone and transverse leaf spring. The upsweep at the rear of the chassis served to provide a top anchor for coil springs and the drive is by chain to a sprocket in a new banjo housing which is open at the front. The differential was discarded of course. Brakes were ‘modern’ Girling all round and the steering was by a Model T box.
Bill Low ran his MG TC at the September meeting and was tenth fastest in 38.40s so the round 40 seconds quoted by AMS seems not too bad. On November 2 that same year at the Australian Hillclimb Championship he was recorded more precisely in the Low-Lane at a ‘smart’ 42.18s so maybe that 40s was on the hopeful side? The champion for that year was Arthur Wylie in his special at 29.18s.
There doesn’t seem to have been another 500 at Rob Roy until the 1949 championship meeting on 1 November which was won by John Barraclough in the ex-Bira MG K3 in 29.69s. Reg Hunt’s 500 did 31.40s and L Day in the Day 500 was at 38.51s.
Our information is that the Low-Lane was bought by Queenslander Clem Warburton and taken to Queensland in late 1947 and was later run in hillclimbs there by Connie Jordan and Doug Wiles. That’s about all we know for the moment but what is news is that ‘things still turn up’ and Jeff Hodges in Bomaderry, just north of Nowra NSW, has the car for sale at a nominal price of $1000.
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* In fact, it must be Queensland because the car didn’t have a body when it ran in Victoria.