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1950s racewear - and a fascinating MG at Le Mans story


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#1 Kingsleyrob

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 11:45

Yesterday (Saturday May 9th) I had a very pleasant time at Oulton Park at the launch of a new book documenting the fascinating tale of the 1960 Le Mans class winning twin cam MGA "SRX 210".

The two drivers were Ted Lund and Colin Escott. Of the two, Colin is still with us but unfortunately couldn't join us, while Ted's nephew John Lakey brought along a splendid array of his late Uncle's racing memorabilia.

I was particularly taken by Ted's top and headgear, pictured below. It brought home to me the lack of protection that was prevalent in those days. Ted is the second figure up in the photo, sprinting across to car number 33 in 1959.

That year's effort, with some support from Abingdon, but mainly financed and manned by an enthusiastic group of north west MG enthusiasts, failed to finish, a stray Alsation causing terminal damage on impact along the Mulsanne straight. The following year saw a triumphant first in class and twelfth overall.

George Dutton's book, "Pay-it-Yourself" documents the story in an entertaing scrapbook style and comes complete with some great footage on a DVD, some of which was shown at the excellent Le Mans Film Festival earlier this year. I will at some stage mention it in Pete's book thread - it has already had some very positive reviews in some august publications.

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Posted Image

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Rob :wave:

Edited by Kingsleyrob, 11 May 2009 - 08:05.


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#2 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 12:23

When I started racing in New Zealand in 1962 as a nineteen year old my "race suit" was a pair of white jeans and a blue tee shirt, An English Cromwell Speedway helmet and goggles just like the ones in the photo !! Also I wore a mask like people are wearing now to stop the spread of the flu as a air filter for myself, How things have changed !!

#3 Terry Walker

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 13:05

My mercifully brief race career (basically 1970) saw my kit as an AGV Bell-style helmet, and a set of blue cotton overalls reputedly treated with fire retardant. I had to wear "flame-resistant" woollen combinations. Footwear? I can't recall. The woollen underwear finished up being used as pajamas when I moved to Canberra, famously chilly in winter, but they soon bagged out of shape and vanished into the garbage bin. I haven't the faintest idea what happened to the blue driving suit, I don't have it any more.

But then, why did I need any of that stuff? Nothing was going to happen to me!

#4 David McKinney

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 16:04

When I started racing in New Zealand in 1962 as a nineteen year old my "race suit" was a pair of white jeans and a blue tee shirt, An English Cromwell Speedway helmet and goggles just like the ones in the photo !!

The split-lens RAF goggles were very popular at that time - I even bought a pair myself, before I had anything to wear them in :lol:
Dark blue tee-shirts or polo shirts were also seen a lot, in NZ anyway


#5 Frank S

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 18:26

In 1957-8-9, while I was in the US Air Force I moved what parts of heaven and earth I could, in order to obtain a "flight suit", tight at the ankles and waist, and baggy everywhere else. I was ready. Never got a chance to use it, and passed it on to another MGTD driver after mine was totaled and I reckoned I was out of the racy-car business for life. Little did I know.

One day in 1967 I found myself full tilt in an MGB tourer, nearing the end of the long, long Riverside pre-dogleg straightaway, and noticing the massage that hairs on my bare arms were giving me. The first- or second-generation Bell open-face helmet was the only "racewear" I had acquired by that time.

For the Tijuana Beach road races I bought a cotton "Goodyear" suit and a cardboard can of chemical powder to treat it into flame-resistanceness, from Carroll Shelby's Pacific Beach tire store. (Got a can of his underarm deodorant, called "Pit Stop", too; wonder what happened to that?)

Later on, of course, SCCA regulations came into play when I was running with that organization, and racewear was pretty much standardized at the minimum levels I could afford.

Did I tell about arriving at Willow Springs with a beard/mustache and no balaclava? I split open a woven, unwashed Nomex sock to use as a facemask for my stint in the 3-hour enduro. Not entirely pleasant for the first two or three minutes.


#6 Manfred Cubenoggin

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 00:16

Well, Frank... Necessity is the Mother of Invention! Good one! :)

Excellent thread. Fascinating to see how it was and compare it today's insulated garb.

I recall a race at Mosport many years ago where I was standing at the back of the control tower crewing for a buddy as cars lined up on the mock grid. Suddenly, the scrutineers swooped down on all the cars set ready to go and checked everyone for foot gear according to the GCR's. Proper racing boots preferred or at the very least, leather mocassins...sneakers and plimsoles strictly not allowed! They nabbed one joker who'd apparently borrowed someone else's shoes to pass scrutineering but then put on his Adidas when out of sight. You're outta here, bud!

#7 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 05:56

I think it was interesting in this context to read what was recently posted about a fatal crash...

Right or wrong, I read into it that the driver may well have lived if he hadn't had a very flammable suit on... one that was particularly injurious, like a nylon or something.

Just wish I could remember who it was.

#8 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 09:19

Frank I had the use of a US Navy Flight Suit [ my lips are sealed ] but not for racing as by then I had a Simpson Suit [ made to measure at Simpson ] and under ware


#9 Terry Walker

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 09:41

There was a Western Australian driver c 1960 with an HRG spl who was a rugged individualist, and insisted on racing barefoot. One day the scrutineers finally laid down the law, he had to have footwear, so he stormed off, and came back wearing his wife's bedroom slippers. Pink.



#10 drivers71

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 09:51

Apparently, brothers Miles and Sam Collier, when driving the Cunningham-entered Cadillac Series 61 Coupe at Le Mans in 1950, wore lounge suits and bow ties. I have no photograhic evidence of this (and would welcome some, if anyone has it?). This novelty was compounded when, sprinting (lounging?) across the track at the traditional start, the drivers door of their Cadillac would not open. Luckily, the window was half-open, and access was gained by reaching through and opening the door from the inside.
Makes one almost wish the hapless driver had to run round the other side of the car and gain access via the passenger door!

#11 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 10:30

Apparently, brothers Miles and Sam Collier, when driving the Cunningham-entered Cadillac Series 61 Coupe at Le Mans in 1950, wore lounge suits and bow ties. I have no photograhic evidence of this (and would welcome some, if anyone has it?). This novelty was compounded when, sprinting (lounging?) across the track at the traditional start, the drivers door of their Cadillac would not open. Luckily, the window was half-open, and access was gained by reaching through and opening the door from the inside.
Makes one almost wish the hapless driver had to run round the other side of the car and gain access via the passenger door!

Haven't heard that about the Colliers, but Rob Walker did something similar at Le Mans in 1939 - he wore a lounge suit most of the time, but changed into a dinner jacket for his evening stint. Rob was of course a gentleman: only Americans would be so gauche as to not change for dinner! :)


#12 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 10:41

The Geoghegan brothers started an Armstrong 500 race at Bathurst in a Cortina dressed like that...

Their sponsors provided the suits and they went racing in them. For a while. Of course a couple of years later the rules would prevent them doing so.

#13 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 10:43

The Geoghegan brothers started an Armstrong 500 race at Bathurst in a Cortina dressed like that...

Their sponsors provided the suits and they went racing in them. For a while. Of course a couple of years later the rules would prevent them doing so.

#14 Pat Clarke

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 10:43

Didn't the Geoghegan brothers wear lounge suits and ties in a race at Bathurst one year?
I am sure I saw a picture somewhere. Sponsor promotion as I recall

Pat

Edit

SNAP Ray :rotfl:

Edited by Pat Clarke, 11 May 2009 - 10:44.


#15 Terry Walker

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 11:38

Classic 1950s: Ferrari 500/750 - tee-shirt - pudding basin lid.

Doug Green in the ex-Lex Davison Ferrari, Caversham, circa 1960

Posted Image

#16 Manfred Cubenoggin

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 12:42

In this link...

http://www.astonmart...;product_id=690

...we find a Cobra 289 CID model up for sale as driven back in the day by American sportscar driver, Tom Payne. Tom was famous for driving in a dress jacket, shirt and tie. He was, indeed, referred to as “Gentleman” Tom Payne. In the 6th paragraph down, "A colorful Canadian, Payne earned his nickname by racing his Cobra while clad in a sport coat and tie. At a race at St. Jovite in September 1965, CSX2430 was late to arrive for qualifying. Payne, wearing a red seersucker sport coat and a black tie, simply put on a helmet, jumped in, and drove onto the track to qualify."

99.99% certain that the reference to TP being a Canadian is in error.

Precious little else out there on Tom. :(

Edit: Observe photo offering #9.

Edited by Manfred Cubenoggin, 11 May 2009 - 12:43.


#17 Stephen W

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 12:53

Yesterday (Saturday May 9th) I had a very pleasant time at Oulton Park at the launch of a new book documenting the fascinating tale of the 1960 Le Mans class winning twin cam MGA "SRX 210".

The two drivers were Ted Lund and Colin Escott. Of the two, Colin is still with us but unfortunately couldn't join us, while Ted's nephew John Lakey brought along a splendid array of his late Uncle's racing memorabilia.

I was particularly taken by Ted's top and headgear, pictured below. It brought home to me the lack of protection that was prevalent in those days. Ted is the second figure up in the photo, sprinting across to car number 33 in 1959.

That year's effort, with some support from Abingdon, but mainly financed and manned by an enthusiastic group of north west MG enthusiasts, failed to finish, a stray Alsation causing terminal damage on impact along the Mulsanne straight. The following year saw a triumphant first in class and twelfth overall.

George Dutton's book, "Pay-it-Yourself" documents the story in an entertaing scrapbook style and comes complete with some great footage on a DVD, some of which was shown at the excellent Le Mans Film Festival earlier this year. I will at some stage mention it in Pete's book thread - it has already had some very positive reviews in some august publications.

Rob :wave:


There has just been a short report plus interviews on North West News. For those in the region it might be worth trying either the BBC website or watch the 6:30pm North West news programme for a possible glimpse.

:wave:


#18 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 14:06

There has just been a short report plus interviews on North West News. For those in the region it might be worth trying either the BBC website or watch the 6:30pm North West news programme for a possible glimpse.

:wave:

Those outside the NW could try Sky ch 978 ...


#19 Kingsleyrob

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 17:50

Thanks Steve - I was in the "crowd shot" in my Oulton Park red polo, but sadly my TNF badge was not visible!

A pity that the man behind the book project, George Dutton, didn't get a mention though.

Thanks all for your insights into racewear of the past - I particularly like the smelly sock/balaclave improvisation. Phwoar!

Rob :wave:

Edited by Kingsleyrob, 12 May 2009 - 07:00.


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#20 onelung

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 06:38

Loved the shot of Doug Green's Ferrari Terry .. AND the pink slippers story!
Oh my, how serious it has all become.
Now: why did THIS shot come to mind, I wonder..?
Posted Image
from THIS website - an interesting project indeed.

Edited by onelung, 12 May 2009 - 06:41.


#21 Sharman

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 07:16

There has just been a short report plus interviews on North West News. For those in the region it might be worth trying either the BBC website or watch the 6:30pm North West news programme for a possible glimpse.

:wave:


I saw that, Steve, way down here in the South. The sight of Wendy Roberts that used to be,(Colin's ex wife) made me realise how the years have passed. Instead of being a slim vivacious twenty year old I was somehow rather shocked to see that she was now an elderly matron. That can't be US can it we haven't got THAT old have we?


#22 drivers71

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 09:32

Haven't heard that about the Colliers, but Rob Walker did something similar at Le Mans in 1939 - he wore a lounge suit most of the time, but changed into a dinner jacket for his evening stint. Rob was of course a gentleman: only Americans would be so gauche as to not change for dinner! :)


Now I can better understand the attitude of the establishment that 'welcomed' the hot-rodders from the New World to these shores in those distant days. I never had you down as one of the toffee-nosed, Vitesse!
This impression wasn't helped, of course, when one of them raced here in chicken-farmer overalls :)


#23 Stephen W

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 10:24

This impression wasn't helped, of course, when one of them raced here in chicken-farmer overalls :)


No problem old boy, just so long as they were clean. There would also be the curiousity factor w.r.t. this strange garb.

:wave:




#24 Kingsleyrob

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 10:32

Now: why did THIS shot come to mind, I wonder..?
Posted Image
from THIS website - an interesting project indeed.

Now that takes some balls, especially when they are a slip away from making contact with a salt lake at 150mph, with, let's face it, very little protection. :eek: :eek: :eek:

I note that the intrepid Speedo wearer, Rollie Free, was 48 when he managed this feat, bravo :up:

Rob :wave:


#25 Sharman

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 11:39

Now that takes some balls, especially when they are a slip away from making contact with a salt lake at 150mph, with, let's face it, very little protection. :eek: :eek: :eek:

I note that the intrepid Speedo wearer, Rollie Free, was 48 when he managed this feat, bravo :up:

Rob :wave:

How old would Petoulet be when his disinterred the Bugatti(?) from the chickenshit?

#26 D-Type

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 13:49

How old would Petoulet be when his disinterred the Bugatti(?) from the chickenshit?

Wikipedia says he was born in 1917 so he would have been 29 in 1946.

#27 David McKinney

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 15:37

As he was born in October, the disinterment must have taken place when he was 27, before his first postwar race in September 1945 :)

#28 D-Type

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 16:48

As he was born in October, the disinterment must have taken place when he was 27, before his first postwar race in September 1945 :)

Still a lot younger than 48!

Loved the shot of Doug Green's Ferrari Terry .. AND the pink slippers story!
Oh my, how serious it has all become.
Now: why did THIS shot come to mind, I wonder..?
Posted Image
from THIS website - an interesting project indeed.

Having visited the website I now know that this was a seriouis record attempt. I can appreciate the lying prone to reduce wind resistance but I simply cannot think of any reason why he chose to discard his leathers and wear just a pair of trunks. Can anybody enlighten me please?

#29 Sharman

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 21:03

[quote name='D-Type' date='May 12 2009, 18:48' post='3639474']
Still a lot younger than 48!


:| I was thinking more in terms of Chicken Farmers overalls, presumably Petoulet wore bleus which have more in common with a driving suit than bib and braces


#30 375 Plus

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 21:26

Regarding the photo of Mr. Free on the Vincent:

If memory serves, the bike's owner--Mr. John Edgar--later the noted California sportscar enthusiast and race entrant, was annoyed that, though the 'bike's speedo(not Rollie's, mind)claimed a 150 mph top speed, neither he nor anyone whom he asked to have a go could manage to reach that figure. Eventually, Rollie Free, who had been one of the riders drafted,came up with the idea of stripping to his skivvies, and lying on his belly. The plan was successful, and in turn Vincent benefitted from the publicity generated by the photo which was published in Life Magazine, I believe. Vincent-HRD could also claim to be the manufacturers of the world's fastest production motorbike--150 mph off the showroom floor.

Edited by 375 Plus, 12 May 2009 - 21:28.


#31 MichaelM

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 22:52

So how can we go about ordering a copy of Mr. Dutton's book?

Michael

#32 Kingsleyrob

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 12:08

So how can we go about ordering a copy of Mr. Dutton's book?

Michael

Thanks for your interest Michael. Copies are available from Paul Goodman, 36, Deva Close, Poynton, Stockport, Cheshire, SK12 1HH, pay cheques to "MG Car Club North West Centre LTD".

The books are priced at £25, signed by Colin Escott (limited number, 250 I recall), £22.50 unsigned and £3 p&p to the UK. Postage is £6 to Europe, £10 rest of world.

For any queries Paul's email address is paul.goodman7@ntlworld.com. If you mention TNF in your correspondence it will help Paul and the author George in knowing where the interest has been generated (I am not on conmission, honest!).

Here's another pic to illustrate the scrapbook style...
Posted Image
Rob :wave:

Edited by Kingsleyrob, 13 May 2009 - 13:05.


#33 onelung

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 23:34

Racewear somewhat more homely - no spiffy club badges.

Posted Image

#34 fbarrett

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 00:07

...we find a Cobra 289 CID model up for sale as driven back in the day by American sportscar driver, Tom Payne. Tom was famous for driving in a dress jacket, shirt and tie. He was, indeed, referred to as “Gentleman” Tom Payne. In the 6th paragraph down, "A colorful Canadian, Payne earned his nickname by racing his Cobra while clad in a sport coat and tie. At a race at St. Jovite in September 1965, CSX2430 was late to arrive for qualifying. Payne, wearing a red seersucker sport coat and a black tie, simply put on a helmet, jumped in, and drove onto the track to qualify."

99.99% certain that the reference to TP being a Canadian is in error.

Precious little else out there on Tom.


Manfred:

Tom's Cobra was one of the 28 cars featured in my book Shelby Cars in Detail, published last fall by David Bull Publishing. You are right that he was not Canadian. He and fellow Cobra driver Dan Gerber owned Gerber-Payne Ford in Fremont, Michigan, and raced together. Tom got away with the coat and tie scheme more than once in Canada, to the delight of the crowd, but even back then it would never have flown in the far more rigid world of SCCA. Dan, an accomplished writer, has great stories to tell about Tom and his sense of humor. Sadly, Tom passed away--in 2007, I believe--before I could interview him. There's a famous black and white photo of him in the red 289 suitably attired, but I can't find it on the internet and don't have permission to post it.

Frank