WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…?

Here’s something new to add to our occasional ‘Still things turn up’ theme. Let’s call it, ‘Whatever happened to …’ which is especially relevant to the Coopers that came to Australia, New Zealand and other places such in Asia and Africa and then became something else, often with four cylinders.

The excitement of having a brand new Cooper from England may well have soon rubbed off as local specials could sometimes show a clean pair of heels to Surbiton’s best. If you had a ‘big-twin’ JAP in it rather than a ‘500’, the chances were that its unreliability would get you down.

An obvious solution was to put something else in it and so the Loose Fillings team thought we should have look at things that people did to Coopers engine-wise. The first candidate has been described for us by Andrew Halliday who writes as follows:

Built in 1949 by the Cooper Car Company at Surbiton, Surrey England, car 10-26-49 was powered by a 996cc JAP dry-sump 8/80 V-twin engine and was painted red. The car is the oldest survivor of the first batch of Coopers which was imported to Australia by Keith Martin, the original Australian Cooper agent.  The cars arrived in Melbourne on 25 January 1950 and this one, coloured red, was purchased by Jack Saywell who had raced a monoposto Alfa Romeo before World War 2.

It was the second Cooper to race in Australia, and it made its first race appearance at the Easter car races at Bathurst in 1950 as number 4. It was timed at 190 km/h (118.4 mph) through the flying quarter mile down Conrod Straight.  In the under 1500 cc, 25 mile race, the car finished 5th, winning the handicap with a fastest lap of 3 minutes 10 seconds.

In the October meeting at Bathurst (above) it finished 4th in the 12 lap, 50 mile under 1500cc race, with the fastest lap of 3 minutes 13 seconds and fastest time. At the Easter 1951 Bathurst meeting it became the first car to lap the circuit in 3 minutes; in unofficial practice Saywell crashed into to the fence near Quarry Bend and during the race the car broke a countershaft sprocket.

The 1952 April Bathurst meeting was held as the 17th Australian Grand Prix and the car finished 16th. It raced at Ballarat, Parramatta Park and Mt Druitt winning a few races. The car was maintained at Jack Zeidler’s workshop in Leichardt, Sydney, and the engine was maintained by well-known motorcycle racer Don Bain.  With business commitments to deal with, Jack Saywell parked the Cooper at the end off 1952 and it sat around for five years.

In 1957, Bill Reynolds, a well-known speedcar driver, motorcycle racer and announcer at the Sydney Sportsground Speedway, purchased the car.  At the Easter Bathurst meeting, during the Bathurst 100 of 26 laps, the car caught fire as it exited Forrest’s Elbow and returned to the pits with flames shooting to the sky.  It was found that a float bowl had come loose, spraying fuel onto the exhaust pipes.

Bill raced the car at Mt Druitt (above), winning two scratch races and the NSW Sprint Championship, and he won the 501cc to 1100cc class at Silverdale hillclimb. Doug Chivas raced the car for Bill Reynolds at Mt Druitt, winning an under 1500cc scratch race.

In February 1958 Jack Myers purchased the car for hillclimbing, removing the JAP 8/80 and replaced it with a pair of 650cc twin Triumph twins which were later supercharged (below) .  One of the engines ran in reverse direction and chains served all three drives – primary, final drive and blower.  The final drive was through a Cooper ZF differential. The gearbox was from a 1938 Norton motorcycle.

The car was capable of 120 mph (200 kph) and a standing ¼ mile in 13 seconds and became known as the Tangerine Tornado. Ken Waggott helped engineer the car and would drive it too, only to break crankshafts at Gnoo Blas (Orange), Foley’s Hill at (Mona Vale) and Fishermens Bend (Melbourne ).  Eventually Jack Myers solved the problem at his Maroubra workshop.

Jack’s first outing in the car was at Foley’s Hill. Never having driven the car, he broke the record in practice and in competition bettered his time by 1½ seconds.  His next meeting was at Huntley’s Hill near Wollongong, breaking the course record. This would be the last time the car ran with natural aspiration, it then having a supercharger off a Spitfire fitted.

While on his way to the Bathurst hillclimb, Jack called into Marsden Park airstrip to do some testing and put a hole in a crankcase. He missed practice but knocked ½ a second off the record on his second run. He also won the NSW Hillclimb series smashing all four outright records in all competition events.

In 1960 Jack Myers again won the NSW Hillclimb Championship in the car. He then replaced the Cooper with a chassis built by Ron Tauranac, removing the two Triumph 650cc engines from the Cooper and putting them into the Ralt chassis.  Jack would lose his life in the Ralt at Katoomba’s Catalina Park on 21 January 1962.  In 1961 Peter Williamson had purchased the Cooper using it at Silverdale Hillclimb powered by an Ariel engine and finished third in 50.37 seconds.

The car was next purchased by Bob Joass who rescued it from decay. It was later owned by Peter McCleay until 1976 when Tony Caldersmith acquired it.  In 1990 the car was issued with CAMS first ever Certificate of Description and was displayed in a Parramatta bookshop shop window in Church St in 1993. In 1995 Matt Segafredo, a Formula Ford racer, purchased the car as he liked the look of it and it sat in his lounge room for years until Andrew and David Halliday acquired it for historic racing.

3 thoughts on “”

  1. Nice to read such a well documented & accurate history of this Cooper . Sounds like the car is in good hands ! .

    Like

  2. What was the Jack Myers solution to crankshaft breakage? Perhaps something to do with phasing of the firing order?

    Like

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