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Ecurie Australie - A Greek Tragedy


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#1 AlecHawkins

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 10:20

Lex Davison was a household name in the Australia of the 1950's....he created Ecurie Australie  

 

We had our international heroes....Bradman and later, Sedgeman, Hoad, Rosewall, Peter Thomson etc, but motor racing ..wasn't on the radar screen of national endeavor,,hence Ecurie Australie 

 

Lex Davison, old money and conservative, establishment, changed all of that, over time

 

A Four times AGP winner - even though it can be argued that Stan Jones actually won in 1957 and likewise, David  Mckay won in 1961, Davison exemplified the wealthy talented amateur, so typical of Australian motor racing of era.  

 

Davison,  rich beyond our dreams,  houses in Toorak, Portsea and farm at Lilydale ....................was a gentleman and a very talented driver.

 

I can clearly remember the day, Saturday afternoon,. March 1965 , my student financed old Vanguard up on the hoist getting serviced..in Kew

 

The proprietor, walked in,  tears in his eyes, and said "Lex Davison was killed at Sandown this morning?

 

My response was "You are joking"

 

His response was " I wish i was" 

 

What followed was beyond Hollywood.

 

Davison's protégé, Rocky Tresise, killed in the 2.7 Cooper next weekend .

 

Wally Mitchell, buys both wrecks and makes a Cooper Monaco look-a-lke

 

He is killed after a fiery crash at Symonds Plains 

 

Some years later, Paul  Higgins, a regular team member and a renowned journalist, is murdered in his suburban home . 

 

Paradise Cancelled?

 

or a Greek Tragedy 

 

Alec



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#2 DanTra2858

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 20:07

Sometimes things happen in life that are beond belief, yes it was a very sad time in Oz Motor Sport.

#3 Lola5000

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 03:22

Where was the garage in Kew?



#4 AlecHawkins

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 06:15

Where was the garage in Kew?

 

The garage was in Cotham Road, north side, just east of Kew Junction, more or less opposite the former City of Kew municipal offices.

 

An imposing two story building abutting the footpath and with a central entrance - I think it was called "Kirks Motors" - it has been a Funeral Directors' premises for many years. 

 

Most Australian enthusiasts of that era can remember where they were and what they were doing,  when they heard the news.

 

Alec H



#5 wagons46

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 07:07

[quote name="

I can clearly remember the day, Saturday afternoon,. March 1965 , my student financed old Vanguard up on the hoist getting serviced..in Kew

Alec[/quote]

But wasn't it the 20th of February 1965?

#6 Lola5000

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 07:50

The garage was in Cotham Road, north side, just east of Kew Junction, more or less opposite the former City of Kew municipal offices.

 

An imposing two story building abutting the footpath and with a central entrance - I think it was called "Kirks Motors" - it has been a Funeral Directors' premises for many years. 

 

Most Australian enthusiasts of that era can remember where they were and what they were doing,  when they heard the news.

 

Alec H

Ah yes,where perhaps the best mechanic of pre war MG's worked for many years.



#7 cooper997

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 09:28

There is no doubting that the events that took place over the consecutive weekends from Saturday, February 20 through to Monday March 1, 1965 (long weekend in Tasmania) were tragic. But it really has more to do with 'Motor racing is dangerous' and an inexperienced driver of what was a car capable of winning the Australian GP in the hands of Bruce McLaren in November 1962. In that short space of 9 days in early 1965 Lex, Rocky and Robin were all dead.

If you follow Alec's Greek tragedy lead then where do you stop. Do you put it down to a 'curse of the T62' with a major proportion of those involved / owning the car dying prematurely. Do you add Tommy Atkins, Bruce McLaren, my uncle, John Dalton who owned the wreck and started the rebuild of the car. My uncle died of cancer in 2005, but years earlier had on-sold the car to Roger James, who died from ill health too.

With Paul Higgins and his wife's tragedy of being buried in their own garden, that had more to do with a daughter and drug induced boyfriend turning it into a family tragedy over a Porsche 911 from my basic recollections.

I have vague recollections of possibly Road & Track publishing a story on the James Dean Porsche where a similar tragic curse was applied. But ultimately regardless of the era, motor sport and fast cars are a dangerous mix.

Stephen

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 13:30

I wouldn't think the Cooper was a 2.7...

Not that year.

And there's more to the 'Greek Tragedy' than that. There was a bit of Lebanese tragedy too.

#9 AlecHawkins

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 04:29

Ah yes,where perhaps the best mechanic of pre war MG's worked for many years.

 

Did Otto Stone work there Lola?

 

AlecH



#10 Lola5000

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 04:34

Did Otto Stone work there Lola?

 

AlecH

Forgot about Otto,should have said the 2nd best,which would be feather in ones cap (Ray Skewes)



#11 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 08:00

Personally I feel that Lex and Rocky were both true tragedys and Wally Mitchell perpetuated that with his demise. Paul Higgins though was a lot later and as Steven said nothing to do with motorsport.

As a  matter of interest what did happen to the burnt remains of the car.Inc the deuce 97 Chev. It seems most of the 'good' bits went in various directions. Especially the two donor cars.



#12 AlecHawkins

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 08:17

Forgot about Otto,should have said the 2nd best,which would be feather in ones cap (Ray Skewes)

 

Sorry Lola..couldn't resist a bit of sarcasm.

 

It is no disgrace to be second to Otto Stone.

 

AlecH 



#13 ensign14

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 08:19

To be a Greek tragedy, there needs to be hubris followed by nemesis.

 

I don't see any hubris here.  Indeed it makes me wish Lex Davison had followed Jack Brabham et al to Europe so we could see how good he really was.



#14 AlecHawkins

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 10:11

To be a Greek tragedy, there needs to be hubris followed by nemesis.

 

I don't see any hubris here.  Indeed it makes me wish Lex Davison had followed Jack Brabham et al to Europe so we could see how good he really was.

 

The Hubris was the Ecurie Australie presumption, that at a time when even Jones and Whiteford were content to trailer their Maseratis' about, and most Au cars were cobbled up specials, Davison considered that a Latin-named team was appropriate in Au motor sport of the era?.

 

Davison's performances in England in 1961, in what were basically clapped-out, Aston Martin GT cars, were exceptional and were of great credit to him.

 

The point of my original posting however, was commenting on a life-style as perfect as could be imagined, even in a Boys Own Annual, was basically destroyed in a heart-beat and with flow owns.

 

Of course motor racing is dangerous, but did the Jones, Stillwell, Patterson and even the later Davison equipes, ever suffer such total demise as did Ecurie Australie?

 

 

As always.... CAMS is the total nemesis of Australian Motor

 

A Greek Tragedy

 

AlecH



#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 10:21

Still no recognition of the Lebanese connection...

A serious part of the tragedy.

#16 AlecHawkins

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 10:34

Still no recognition of the Lebanese connection...

A serious part of the tragedy.

 

Mr Bell.,

 

I have no idea to what you refer.

 

Perhaps you could  you could be a little less cryptic?

 

Please

 

AlecH



#17 Lola5000

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 10:47

I think Patto,was more in danger to himself and others,when he was smashing up motel rooms.



#18 AlecHawkins

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 11:04

I think Patto,was more in danger to himself and others,when he was smashing up motel rooms.

Lola,

 

Patto was a very fast, Tigerish, driver of F1 Coopers, his private life is of no relevance.



#19 Lola5000

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 11:38

Lola,

 

Patto was a very fast, Tigerish, driver of F1 Coopers, his private life is of no relevance.

Why not?



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#20 cooper997

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 04:48

Lex_Monte.jpg
image hosting over 10mb

 

Delving a little deeper than just the demise of the Davison team. The above image shows the catalyst of the 'Ecurie Australie' name coming into existence. Lex, Stan Jones & Tony Gaze taking the Holden 48/215 to Europe for the Jan 1953 Monte Carlo Rallye. I don't believe the name was used as an entrant for the event. But maybe someone on TNF has access to the official entry listing and can share the official entry details.

 

A brief reference to Graham Howard's excellent tome on Lex, mentions the October 3 & 4, 1953 Fishermen's Bend meeting being the first instance of the 'Ecurie Australie' gathering of Lex, Stan Jones & Bill Patterson under that banner took place. But the entry lists from the programme, certainly don't reveal it. In fairness it doesn't list 'entrants' at all - simply number, name, car & capacity. The same can be said for the March 20 & 21, 1954 Bend meeting where 'A N Davison' is as good as the LCCV/Harley Club obviously felt necessary to type.

 

The November 21, 1953 Albert Park AGP meeting does include the Ecurie though, for Stan & Lex. Then when they ventured across the Tasman for the January 9, 1954 Ardmore NZGP meeting 'Ecurie Australie' is mentioned in that event's programme entries. And again when Lex went back for the January 8, 1955 NZGP meeting.

 

Stephen

 



#21 Lola5000

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 08:52

The book that the Davison family commissioned on Lex about a decade ago,is well worth reading,not only about his racing but,business and family life.

Reading its easy to understand why his death was to hit so many people so hard.

Unlike some of our other hero's of that period,he was a quality person both on and off the track.



#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 09:29

I'm not certain of this, but I believe that a lot of the initial work on the book Graham Howard did was done by Mike Kable...

I remember forty-odd years ago Mike talking about doing the book. It was a very long time in the gestation.

Alec, please don't forget that Robin d'Abrera died in the Longford crash as well.

#23 cooper997

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 10:07

lex_book.jpg
screen shot windows 7

 

I fully agree with you Rob. The 2004 published Davo book is a quality piece in research, production and subject. I need to devote some time to a refresh read of it one day. 

 

I recall a conversation with Chris Davison at his mum's wake. It was in regards whether the Davison archive would still have any information on his dad's Coopers. His response was "All that stuff will be in the boxes Graham Howard went through for the book. Do you have the book?"

 

From the introduction page, Diana writes of contacting Graham to do a book on Lex, after David Rapley had suggested him for the task. Tongue in cheek I dare say Graham was forever grateful to David for that! No doubt there were some large phone bills and sleepless nights during gestation. But the end product is a worthy tribute to Lex & Graham's effort - made that much easier by the Davison's fulll co-operation. Mike Kable is mentioned in having been preparing a Lex book as early as 1964. From the way I read it Graham must of had access to Mike's taped interviews. But I guess Mike quietly filed them away after the tragedy of February & March 1965.

 

Stephen



#24 Lola5000

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 10:17

I'm not certain of this, but I believe that a lot of the initial work on the book Graham Howard did was done by Mike Kable...

I remember forty-odd years ago Mike talking about doing the book. It was a very long time in the gestation.

Alec, please don't forget that Robin d'Abrera died in the Longford crash as well.

 

I'm not certain of this, but I believe that a lot of the initial work on the book Graham Howard did was done by Mike Kable...

I remember forty-odd years ago Mike talking about doing the book. It was a very long time in the gestation.

Alec, please don't forget that Robin d'Abrera died in the Longford crash as well.

Reading the preface Ray,by Graham and Diana,there is no mention of Mike.

Diana mentions she 1st contacted Graham in 1990 and Graham mentions Brique Reed and David Raply and another as sources for the book.



#25 AlecHawkins

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:53

The book is a credit to the late  Graham Howard.

 

Not only does it fully explain the Davison motor racing Psyche, it is an insight to the Melbourne world of the 1950's 

 

A world where motor racing was "not quite right", but where  Repco and within,  people like Charlie Dean and Phil Irving were beginning to emerge to light up our racing.

 

The roots of our motor racing were Melbourne based - Whiteford, Davison, Jones , Patterson , Stillwell et al.

 

Graham's research was meticulous ...he related to me his "interview": with Bib Stillwell....." he talked more about himself than Davo"...I replied  "What did u expect, the man won 4 Gold Stars?" 

 

It is is a pity Stan Jones, Doug Whiteford and even Patto were not available at the time of writing .

 

AlecH

.



#26 Ray Bell

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 13:51

John Youl and David McKay were...

Melbourne didn't have everything.

#27 cooper997

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 21:37

As is the case so often, motor racing only hits the newspaper headlines when somebody dies. Which is exactly what happened when Lex passed.

It would have been 1998 I guess when Rob Saward held a motoring book fair at the historic former Woodend fire station. He waved in front of me a piece he'd just acquired from another trader. It was, if I recall correctly that fateful Saturday in 1965, The Herald - Melbourne's afternoon broadsheet. It showed the wreckage of Lex's Brabham as it came to a holt on the Sandown horse racing infield. But being a broadsheet I only saw the top half.

Stephen

#28 Lola5000

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 01:02

For me its great shame that the likes of Jones,Whiteford,Stillwell ,Glass and Hunt ,that there time in the Maserati cars was never explored.

Mind you Mr Hunt is still very much alive.



#29 Lola5000

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 01:04

It is is a pity Stan Jones, Doug Whiteford and even Patto were not available at the time of writing .

 

AlecH

.   You could have interviewed Patto on his boat down at the St Kilda marina.



#30 275 GTB-4

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Posted 24 July 2014 - 01:34

AlecH

You could have interviewed Patto on his boat down at the St Kilda marina.


and for some other drivers you would need to go to the bottom of the harbour :stoned:



#31 AlecHawkins

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 08:11

I received a "spam" email today showing the end of Conrod  Straight in 1964 and a bunch of shopping trolleys trying to corner..

 

"How we have progressed .."

 

The inference being .."How brave?"

 

 

Conrad Straight ....poor vertical alignment , narrow, surface badly sealed with appallingly maintained crushed rock shoulders and no run-off areas at all.

 

Consider then , in 1961,  Bill Patterson did 169,mph  down there in his F1 Cooper Climax, in what where by today's  standards, motor cycle tyres.

 

Perspective needed

 

AlecH



#32 wagons46

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 08:36

Gee whiz. This sounds like every road in Australia at the time and most roads 50 years later. What an ideal place to match cars that we could purchase off the showroom floor in an endurance competition, and it ran like that for over 20 years.
Now........Radically and permanently altered to cater for cars no one can buy or use . It's like a water slide, where you cannot leave the tube.
To my mind it is now hideous and missing the most vital part of its character...........the challenge.

Edited by wagons46, 26 July 2014 - 10:01.


#33 AlecHawkins

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 09:36

My point is wagon, there were many brave men who drove real racing cars around that magnificent circuit..to their peril

 

The circuit is no more and really who cares what  Taxi cab went quicker than other?



#34 275 GTB-4

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 10:07

Alec, do you have a relative called Stan?



#35 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 10:08

Hi, while the mountain has lost some character it is still a very challenging place. The place was in the past downright dangerous. 

Though streamlining  of the dipper and a couple of other corners have not made the place any safer, just faster. Conrod in the 70s was way too narrow for the speeds and the volume of cars being raced. Not a problem now with only HALF a field of cars competing, or at least in Stupid cars. IF we are lucky there will be 27 cars this year. With a grid density of 55!

I still feel the place is too dangerous for open wheelers but good for any tintop class, and Production Sports too.


Edited by Lee Nicolle, 26 July 2014 - 10:10.


#36 AlecHawkins

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 10:41

Hi, while the mountain has lost some character it is still a very challenging place. The place was in the past downright dangerous. 

Though streamlining  of the dipper and a couple of other corners have not made the place any safer, just faster. Conrod in the 70s was way too narrow for the speeds and the volume of cars being raced. Not a problem now with only HALF a field of cars competing, or at least in Stupid cars. IF we are lucky there will be 27 cars this year. With a grid density of 55!

I still feel the place is too dangerous for open wheelers but good for any tintop class, and Production Sports too.

 

Yea....dangerous

 

Just ask Whiteford,Hunt, Davison, Jones, Patterson, Stillwell,McKay and even Matich about driving a GP car at the"Mountain" ......

 

 

Lee you are saying it is no longer a legit circuit ?

 

A dodgem car track, a speedway, for Clunkers..oops V8 Supercars

 

Surely not

 

It is no more



#37 Ray Bell

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 10:49

David McKay also did the same 169.81mph just a year after Patto, did he not?

However, Patto's time was with a smaller engine and an older car.

#38 Lola5000

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Posted 26 July 2014 - 22:07

Alec, do you have a relative called Stan?

I miss on here Stan Patterson and his postings and love of touring cars and admiration of questionable stars of the 50s/60s.



#39 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 27 July 2014 - 08:56

Yea....dangerous

 

Just ask Whiteford,Hunt, Davison, Jones, Patterson, Stillwell,McKay and even Matich about driving a GP car at the"Mountain" ......

 

 

Lee you are saying it is no longer a legit circuit ?

 

A dodgem car track, a speedway, for Clunkers..oops V8 Supercars

 

Surely not

 

It is no more

WTF. It is a long time since front line open wheelers have run at the mountain. They ran F3 there last year? And as usual had bugger all cars. Though evidently a couple of runners thought it was a bit dangerous. 

The FF have ran there on several occasions, usually with mayhem though I dont think anyone has been  hurt. Quite a few budgets have been though.

KB and somone else did a demo there in the 70s in 5000s. Somewhere on here is Kevins comments of the event.



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#40 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 27 July 2014 - 08:58

I miss on here Stan Patterson and his postings and love of touring cars and admiration of questionable stars of the 50s/60s.

He may be back under another name!



#41 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 July 2014 - 09:47

I miss the thread that was about Ecurie Australie and its tragic ending...

Where did it go?

#42 Martyn Hey

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:30

sBSGzc.jpg

 

Hope this link works; cover of the Herald mentioned earlier, that I obtained from eBay a while back.



#43 Martyn Hey

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:34

TiZa5k.jpg

 

Detail



#44 Martyn Hey

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:41

4H9yXw.jpg



#45 Martyn Hey

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:45

lex_herald_4.jpg



#46 Martyn Hey

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:49

lex_herald_3.jpg



#47 Martyn Hey

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 13:01

lex_herald_4_edit.jpg

 

Crude Photoshop work, but thought the larger text might be easier to read for those interested.



#48 275 GTB-4

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 23:08

WTF. It is a long time since front line open wheelers have run at the mountain. They ran F3 there last year? And as usual had bugger all cars. Though evidently a couple of runners thought it was a bit dangerous. 
The FF have ran there on several occasions, usually with mayhem though I dont think anyone has been  hurt. Quite a few budgets have been though.
KB and somone else did a demo there in the 70s in 5000s. Somewhere on here is Kevins comments of the event.


F3 won't be running in 2014 due to a dispute over track time...back in 2015 though, all things being equal.

#49 cooper997

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 00:48

Well Martyn's effort with The Herald shows that TNF is still capable of coming up with a few surprises when it stays on topic.

When I posted The Herald comment, that I briefly saw around 1998, little did I expect to see it appear here. Graphic as it is, the top half, as shown in Martyn's first post is how I remember it. Not so much the headline, but certainly the crumpled wreckage. Showing poor Lex didn't have a hope after his Repco Brabham went straight ahead through the horse railing.

Thanks for your effort Martyn, can I ask if you have more than just the front page, is there anything else on the back page or rest of the paper?

Stephen

#50 John Ellacott

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 06:58

The newspaper photo which is captioned Lex Davison in his Brabham is wrong, it is him in the Cooper, the car Rocky Tresise was to loose his life a week later.