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Channel Nine's '20 to 1; Great Aussie Specials' from the '50s and before


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#1 Dick Willis

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 10:46

Watching one of Channel Nine's 20 to 1 series tonight got me thinking we could have a 20 to 1 series of great Aussie specials from the fifties and before. There are some beauties amongst this lot and I have listed some below as a starting point, there will obviously be some I've missed and undoubtedly many of you will want to rearrange the order so here goes ;

20 ; MacHealey
19 ; Day Special
18 ; Black Bess
17 ; Crowfoot Holden
16 ; Mountain Peugeot
15 ; Citroen Special, Wright etc.
14 ; The Prads
13 ; Chamberlain Special
12 ; Myers WM Special
11 ; MM Holden
10 ; Monza Molina
9 ; Patterson/Brydon TC Special
8 ; Kleinig Hudson
7 ; Stewart MG
6 ; Wylie Javelin
5 ; Ausca
4 ; Dalro Jaguar
3 ; Zephyr Special
2 ; Tornado
1 ; Maybachs

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#2 David McKinney

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 11:51

I'd want to see the George Reed specials on the list, plus the Itala-V8 and the Mackellar and the various Ballot-based specials

But can I place my order for the DVD anyway :lol:

#3 bradbury west

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 18:29

Dick, I endorse totally what you say, and that is from a non-Australian. If the TV moguls do not take it up, it would still make for a superb series of pieces in the car magazines. They could easily run a "Something Special" titled article each month and be able to run for ages as they could take cars from all over the place, NZ springs to mind readily. Bearing in mind the Oz readership now for Vintage Racecar, and the excellent job they did on the Warrior, they seem a natural choice - perhaps some of the others do not have the imagination? Over here we get that sort of thing in the VSCC quarterly magazine, well written by chaps who know their subject.

VR has already done a good piece of the Zephyr Spl and the Crowfoot Holden, and Simon Taylor has done good job with a test and history of one of the Maybach derivatives in C&SC this month, as did Mick Walsh IIRC some time back. I am sure the Dalro has been done in recent times, but I also have a piece from T&CC from 1988 with it tested at Amaroo plus history, and Nick Brittan did an article on something like it years ago, in the files here, but currently hiding, a yellow single seater IIRC.
It would be critical to have someone who could do the cars justice, but I am sure that there is the talent to write about them and there is a ready readership, I am also sure, if only as an antidote to the usual potboilers about the same-old-same-old-cars of which we bore so easily, but which give the editors a buzz.
gets off soap box and exits left.
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#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 19:27

Oh dear... could it be contained at just 20?

The Tomlinson MG TA... what about it? How could it be ignored?

I have, of course, some personal favourites and you've already got the Norholfordor and the Tornado on the list. But what of the Ranford Chrysler, that ran the Reed cars hard for their money in its debut race at Narrogin, or the Double 8, that was right in the thick of that battle?

And what about the Rex Law car, the Regal? With a chassis made in 1911, it held the outright lap record at Lowood in 1951, a car with a wonderful history and the typical ignominious end.

#5 David McKinney

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 21:28

Perhaps we need a definition of "special"?

Dick's original list seemed to confined to cars of national significance, either because of their successes or interesting design. When I was thinking of what to add I dismissed the WA cars on the basis that (as far as I can recall off the top of my head) they didn't achieve much outside WA.

The Double 8 would be a worthwhile addition, though - if only for the impact it made abroad

Should we start with a list of 100 and whittle it down? :lol:

#6 Derek Pitt

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 21:37

I certainly wouldnt dispute the first 3 placings, but there-after it becomes hazy where the difficulty of comparing cars from different eras comes into play.

However, two cars that spring readily to mind for inclusion are:

Decca Special - built at a time when the Lotus XI was still current and a very successful car with a factory-like quality and appearance.

Nedloh Special - Wally Russell's very fast little Holden-engined car built, I believe, on an upturned pre-war Riley chassis and was very competitve well into the early 1960's.

Derek

#7 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 22:16

Originally posted by David McKinney
Perhaps we need a definition of "special"?

Dick's original list seemed to confined to cars of national significance, either because of their successes or interesting design. When I was thinking of what to add I dismissed the WA cars on the basis that (as far as I can recall off the top of my head) they didn't achieve much outside WA.....


I think that any car that contested the AGP should be considered, which I admit does really open up the scope of the list. That the Ranford Chrysler, for instance, should run in third place in that race for quite some time shows that it was no mean contender.

I could also argue that Black Bess was a bit ordinary. Jim Gullan, after driving it, was astounded at its poor driveability yet Whiteford achieved great things with it.

When it's all said and done, those early post-war AGPs particularly were loaded down with some very ordinary cars. But some of them rose from the ranks and did very well, can we now deny them a little time in the spotlight?

I mentioned the Rex Law Regal... this car actually led the 1949 AGP for a short distance (I have the colour movie of this, quite incredible) and ultimately finished in fifth place despite having to nurse its tyres. It won some local hillclimbs and races at Lowood and Strathpine and held the Lowood lap record for a couple of years. Its only interstate trip was to Bathurst, where it failed to do much to make an impression.

On the other hand, there was a high level of 'ordinariness' about the George Reed cars. The black car, which IIRC almost won the '48 AGP, was a very ordinary car while the red and white cars that followed were almost the same but from a slightly later era.

In truth, much of what many of these cars achieved was down to the drivers. Black Bess in particular, but others too.

.....Should we start with a list of 100 and whittle it down? :lol:


Maybe that's a good idea... but I would frankly preclude the Decca because of its leanings towards being pretty much a replica of some of the production sports racers from England of the late fifties.

#8 Dick Willis

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 23:28

Oh dear ! What a hornet's nest, so many great cars but we did say at the outset 20 to 1 GREAT Aussie Specials so we should confine our list to the top 20.

The criteria I had in mind for GREATNESS were, success/ excellence of design and construction/longevity so this would rule out some contenders especially those that ran for only one season and as Ray pointed out the "ordinariness" of some, such as some of the V8's would rule them out. Then there are so many good MG specials, which ones are worthy of the inclusion. Probably the top ten are OK but the next ten may need revising.

So does anyone else want to have a go at revising the list.

Roger, maybe Patrick Quinn would think this was a good basis for a future article in Vintage Racecar.

#9 ken devine

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 06:34

This is a great new thread i havenot been on for awhile some great Specials from this side of the country
where the Whitemouse, Plymouth Special,TS Special and BRM Morgan ,and all still running in Historics
although the BRM Morgan is a Sportscar.

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 08:29

As David has pointed out... not many WA Specials did anything outside of WA...

I proposed the Ranford Chrysler, which is notably missing from your list, because of its great showing in the Australian Grand Prix. But it's also much more of an interesting car than the Dwyer Plymouth and the TS, mixing a greater array of mechanicals to achieve the pace it was able to turn on.

#11 Dick Willis

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 09:30

The Cooper MG too is another one worthy of consideration, it too had a long and successful career both in contemporary racing and in Historics.

#12 johnny yuma

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 01:11

If TV could be prodded into interest ,a big factor must be whether the cars still exist and can do some laps.What would the top 20 list look like with this criterion?

The Prads and Ausca,Dalro Jag, various MGs and other specials are still raced in historics and are variously fast and exciting,immaculate or rough as guts,driven well within their limits sometimes,or in regularity.The Sharp Holden was impressive at the last Phillip Island doing 2.03s,the iron headed grey motor tarted up and looking flash!The Ausca did 1.56 and won,the Prad 1.59 with crossflow head.

As well a lot of the original drivers are still hale and hearty for the time being.Now is the time to sit em down and let them tell the camera their stories.If their cars aren't around now then old footage would be found,and the result more coherent than what we have now which is 50% of S.F.A.

#13 David McKinney

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 07:10

I would have thought most of the cars on Dick's original list are still around - maybe re-creations in some cases, but that wouldn't matter for this purpose

#14 Dick Willis

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 09:18

I can confirm that almost all of the cars on my original list are alive and well and in Australia, the exceptions being the Ian Mountain Peugeot which has never been rebuilt after its fatal accident and one of the Prads.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 09:38

I believe Ian Tate is either working on or planning to work on the rebuild of the Ian Mountain Peugeot Special...

In the interim, the supercharger from that car had some further race experience when Peter Brock and Larry Perkins were running the supercharged Torana in Rallycross (and at the odd race meeting), and I think Harry might have used it on his TC Special too.

All the original parts are there, which is the case with a lot of the cars on your list, Dick. Some non-original stuff is on the Kleinig Hudson, it having been rebodied slightly differently to the way Gus McIntyre had it done. And the Dalro has been through a range of manifestations over the years. One of the Maybachs is also a re-creation, I seem to recall.

But all due credit to the people who've done these cars, they are great cars and we wouldn't be able to enjoy their presence today if they hadn't put in the hard yards over the years.

#16 johnny yuma

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 10:20

I Asked Harry Firth 18 months ago if he still had the supercharged MGTC he had driven so well fairly recently,he said no he had to sell it.I asked why,he replied that with him , there is only "full race" once you're out there,and as long as he owned it he was going to take it "out there",but he did have the desire to keep on living, so he had to sell it !! If I spot him at Sandown I'll ask of the supercharger's provenance !

#17 Dick Willis

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 10:44

Ray, I should mention that was a really great story you wrote on the Ian Mountain Peugeot a few years ago in MRA, I have read it many times over. I went to one of the Gnooblas celebrations a few years ago and was quite saddened at the time by the Ian Mountain tragedy and did some research then on the car not realising that Ian Tate owned the remains, I do hope to see it run again as it was an interesting car with a tragic ending to its career.

#18 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:33

I was quite fortunate at the time, Dick...

I found the person who'd been a close helper on the car. And, of course, I spoke to his widow, which was a real eye opener.

It really was a very small car:

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Fishermens Bend, 1954

It had been, though, tested on the Geelong Road:

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Mountain's ability to draw a pit crew was matched by his choice of charming ladies. Locals pitched in to help him at Southport, which was actually his honeymoon... the bride is the classy looking one:

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And here it is with a bunch of other cars, mostly Specials and some of them Dick knows intimately:

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All of these photos have been scanned from the album that Ian Tate acquired with the wreck.

#19 Dick Willis

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 01:53

Some good period cars in that 1954 AGP shot, Ray. Note the one on the apex of the corner, the Whatmore Jaguar no. 4, I have owned it since 2000 and would think that it would NOT qualify in our top 20 to 1, pic of it at Lowood, Qld in 1954.

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#20 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 02:55

I knew you'd zero in on that one, Dick...

What about the TB Special there?

#21 Dick Willis

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 03:15

You mean car no. 14, the Noel Barnes TC, which is still in the hands of his family ( now for well over 50 years ) and appeared at our MG feature at Wakefield Park last year.

#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 03:30

No, the car immediately behind Ian Mountain...

Isn't that the Alf Najar TB?

#23 Dick Willis

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 06:05

It's No. 43, the second placed Curly Brydon TC which is your old friend the Tomlinson car in disguise. I have a good pic of the Najar car which I will post in a while.

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 09:15

Yeah, Dick, I should be ashamed of myself...

If only I could find one of my AGP books I would have known.

Now, Dick, if you have a pic of the Richardson Ford-on-a-Whippet this would be a very good time to post it. Preferably from the early days, when it wasn't as low as it was built up later.

#25 Dick Willis

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 09:54

In the "pits" at the 1954 AGP at Southport where it finished a fine third, the Richardson Ford beside the Whatmore Jag which finished seventh after problems.

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#26 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 10:11

A great pic Dick, really descriptive...

I knew you'd come through. And I guess you have more from the same box of slides?

#27 seldo

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 11:45

Keep 'em coming Dick - magic stuff.... :clap:

#28 bradbury west

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 14:09

Wonderful photographs.
Whilst BB Searching for something else, I came across this thread on Australasian specials.
http://forums.autosp...ghlight=Morrari
Roger Lund.

#29 Dick Willis

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 22:49

My apologies if we are retracing old material with this thread, I was unaware of the thread referred to by Roger, but it's an interesting topic nonetheless.

#30 bradbury west

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 23:28

Dick, by no means am I suggesting that old ground is being re-covered. I felt that the old thread, which I came across looking for something else, as always, was pertinent, and may encourage other TNFers to share our enthusiasm for these old devices. I just love 'em. It is just so good that all of these old photographs still exist and are shared so willingly. There is a whole new audience out here. Of course, beacuse of the change of server or something, all the old photos are now absent from these old threads.
Roger

#31 Mick Arnold

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 14:54

If TV could be prodded into interest ,a big factor must be whether the cars still exist and can do some laps.What would the top 20 list look like with this criterion?

The Prads and Ausca,Dalro Jag, various MGs and other specials are still raced in historics and are variously fast and exciting,immaculate or rough as guts,driven well within their limits sometimes,or in regularity.The Sharp Holden was impressive at the last Phillip Island doing 2.03s,the iron headed grey motor tarted up and looking flash!The Ausca did 1.56 and won,the Prad 1.59 with crossflow head.

As well a lot of the original drivers are still hale and hearty for the time being.Now is the time to sit em down and let them tell the camera their stories.If their cars aren't around now then old footage would be found,and the result more coherent than what we have now which is 50% of S.F.A.



#32 Mick Arnold

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 15:00

If TV could be prodded into interest ,a big factor must be whether the cars still exist and can do some laps.What would the top 20 list look like with this criterion?

The Prads and Ausca,Dalro Jag, various MGs and other specials are still raced in historics and are variously fast and exciting,immaculate or rough as guts,driven well within their limits sometimes,or in regularity.The Sharp Holden was impressive at the last Phillip Island doing 2.03s,the iron headed grey motor tarted up and looking flash!The Ausca did 1.56 and won,the Prad 1.59 with crossflow head.

As well a lot of the original drivers are still hale and hearty for the time being.Now is the time to sit em down and let them tell the camera their stories.If their cars aren't around now then old footage would be found,and the result more coherent than what we have now which is 50% of S.F.A.

Iwonder why the Sharp Holden would not make the 20 - 1

#33 Sharman

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 15:12

I anticipate that a lot of these will be running at Lobethal the first weekend in October. I know it is not a race meeting but it would be interesting, informative and, I hope, exciting to see them running on the public highway as is proper for road racing cars.

#34 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 22:47

Is there much information about that event available at this time?

I hope to be there, but I don't think I could justify it unless AGT is there...

#35 Dick Willis

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 04:40

Good to have you on TNF Mick, Welcome. The Sharp Holden has only been notable since it has been in the hands of its current owner hence its omission, but which car would you drop off the list to include it ? One of its previous owners shown in the pic hadn't done anything of note with it !

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#36 Ray Bell

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Posted 24 September 2009 - 22:06

Originally posted by myself
Is there much information about that event available at this time?

I hope to be there, but I don't think I could justify it unless AGT is there...


I can't be there, which is a real shame...

I believe a full replica of AGT's MG Special will be there, however, I've heard Robbie Rowe's name mentioned among those who've been involved, but probably John Medley is more capable of explaining the whos and whats with all of that.

Instead of meeting up with Allan at Lobethal, I'm spending time with him at his son's place in Melbourne the following week. I've been asked to contribute to a 'living history' project, so that will be happening too. One of my aims is to ensure that Allan is soon set up as a guest at the IMMRC in Watkins Glen, I'm sure he will wow the crowd there, but I will be talking to him in depth about his pre-AGP racing and his views on racing that he saw after his crash.

#37 ellrosso

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Posted 25 September 2009 - 11:48

Firstly, great pic Dick and congrats to you and Mick on some good racing at Baskerville - that Sharp Holden is seriously quick. John Bowe looked like he was enjoying himself in it too. I know everyone is looking at older specials, but how about John Goss' Tornado Ford. Totally home built and very successful, both in Tassy and NSW sporty racing - certainly launched a pretty successful career for JG. Another self built Tassy car was Bob Wright's Tasma Climax which became the Atom Climax in Ken Hasting's hands - very successful in Victoria in the late 60's. Great looking car as was Bob's later Tasma Repco 2.5 V8 (again self built) Or do sports cars not make the cut?
Regards, ellrosso



#38 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 September 2009 - 13:40

Ahhh... the Tornado...

A car not to be forgotten. What other car used Hillman uprights? And was built as a left hand drive car because that meant the rack had to be fitted that way? Or used wheels from a Tasman Lotus? Or, for that matter, stuck a Falcon 6 in the back?

I had the pleasure of racing in it a couple of times. Not a bad thing, but Gossy's victories in NSW racing were had only in carefully selected races.

#39 ellrosso

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Posted 30 September 2009 - 12:04

Well how about Kerry Cox's Paramount Jag Ray? We need at least one Tassy special in that list and 148mph on the Flying MIle isn't to be sneezed at in a car made up of parts from about 50 different makes. Kerry should be on the list in his own right actually - how many times can you spin on Long Bridge without hitting anything and keep going............ Everybody loved the Purple Petrol Eaters!


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#40 Gordon Graham

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 13:27

This is from the same batch of Amaroo shots as that one of the Sharp Holden. probably in the same race. I think it's called the Reid Holden. It was very effective in those early historic days, but does anyone know what success it had when new? I haven't seen it for quite a while - is it still active somewhere?

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#41 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 14:21

I saw that spin on the Long Bridge... and in recent years I've spoken to Kerry on the Sunshine Coast...

But it was such an ugly beast!

As for the Holden Special above, an interesting car. Let me see if I remember all the details:

Peugeot 203/403 front end.

Holden engine with triple SUs... canted over, was it not?

MG TC gearbox on its side with the lever bent up to be in the right spot for the driver's right hand.

Skoda rear end, swing axle arrangement, but with the differential facing rearwards, drive from the very low tail shaft coming in under it and driving through a chain arrangement.

From memory, the car never raced at all 'in period', probably wasn't actually completed.

#42 Dick Willis

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 21:16

Re; The Holden Special which Gordon posted, pretty close Ray, it was called the Read Holden Special and the grey Holden motor was upright but the rest was as you have described it. It was owned in the eighties etc by several good friends of mine and ran frequently in historics then, I don't think it ever did anything in its original period and it seems to have disappeared of late, when last heard of it was owned by Barry Cassell.

I had the opportunity to have a drive of it at a practice day at Amaroo some years ago and it was probably about the second worst racing car I have ever driven although subsequent owners may have managed to improve it. Definitely NOT a candidate for the top 20 !

Maybe the Tomlinson MG is though and I am still waiting for someone to propose a better list than my original in the first post of this thread.

Liked your pics of the "new" Tomlinson car, Ray.

#43 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 21:46

Come to think of it, Dick, perhaps that was a gear drive to the diff?

Otherwise the thing would have run backwards... I think...

#44 Dick Willis

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 21:49

Can't remember exactly Ray, I know there was something unusual under there. When I get a chance I will ring my friend who used to own it.