Jump to content


Photo

Geoff Smedley, 1931 - 2021


  • Please log in to reply
40 replies to this topic

#1 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 30 December 2021 - 13:23

Sadly, the day has come to report the passing of TNFer Geoff Smedley...

 

A gentleman of the first order, an outstanding engineer and a man who prepared the very fastest racing cars in Australia in the sixties. I've been in phone contact with Geoff for some years, but in the past few months he's been unable to converse on the phone and I've been keeping in touch (as best I've been able to do) with Sylvia.

 

The stories he has related to me, both in his book and in person, have been many and extremely interesting. Whether for their technical interest or human interest, most memorable.

 

I first met Geoff when he was working for Frank Matich and the Total Racing Team. I still had some words with him when he worked for the Howard and Sons team, but it wasn't until he surfaced on TNF that we were able to develop a close friendship. Despite that, I only once caught up with him in person and that was when Janet and I toured Tasmania in the Winter of 2005.

 

Then I learned he'd been turning his hand to building model steam boats...

 

1221fr05smedsandboat.jpg

 

But Geoff was like that, a man who could turn his hand to anything and make it work. The kind of artisan the world is losing daily, and on this day, December 30, 2021, the world lost one of the best.

 

Vale Henry Geoffrey Smedley

 

And to his family, in particular Sylvia, I convey my most heartfelt condolences.



Advertisement

#2 Tim Murray

Tim Murray
  • Moderator

  • 23,931 posts
  • Joined: May 02

Posted 30 December 2021 - 13:55

Very sorry to read this. He was involved with many fascinating projects in his time, and it was good to be able to read his own accounts of them here on TNF. RIP.

#3 GMiranda

GMiranda
  • Member

  • 777 posts
  • Joined: April 13

Posted 30 December 2021 - 14:47

My deepest condolences



#4 cooper997

cooper997
  • Member

  • 3,374 posts
  • Joined: December 08

Posted 31 December 2021 - 01:19

Australian motor sport has lost a very talented engineer.

 

Here's Geoff hitching a ride on the John Youl Cooper T55 on home turf. It has the SVM shield so very much suspect this is the December 1962 Symmons Plains Examinier 1000. That John won and Geoff has the winner's laurel on.

 

Youl-Cooper-T55-Symmons-TNF.jpg

 

 

My condolences to Geoff's family and friends.

 

 

 

Stephen



#5 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 31 December 2021 - 22:52

Geoff's long and illustrious career was littered with stories which have never been told on TNF...
 
Like this one which followed in the wake of the development of the downdraught cylinder head for 105E-109E (etc) Ford engines:
 

(From Geoff's book)
During practice on the Saturday, things were looking good for the little jigger which broke the class record. In its first race the car was excitingly up there dicing with the bigger cars, but my excitement ended abruptly. The engine dropped a valve and, embarrassingly, came to a stop on the flying mile in a ball of smoke, so that was that.

 

But on the previous lap the little car had set a class speed record (timed on the flying mile) of 140mph/225kmh, which was remarkable for a car of 1100cc, and of course a record that can now never be broken, as the Longford track has been closed. Later back in Sydney we questioned the supplier about what valves may be required to ensure reliability, and I was told they had no idea of the engine revs we would be using.

It was difficult being a spectator at Longford, and Les Howard mentioned in passing that I should spend the rest of the week after the Longford race in Melbourne with them, to take in the huge fireworks display on the weekend following this annual Moomba Festival. This grand display marked the end of the week-long event.

To this day I have never experienced anything like it. Sited on the banks of the Yarra River, work began early on Saturday morning setting up for the display, and I had no idea of the work involved just to let off a few fireworks. The crew consisted of about ten people including Harry, the father, Sid the eldest son, then the workers who I didn’t ,now.

 

To me the star of the show was the grandfather of around 80 years, whose job was to drive the company Holden station wagon that was set up simply to carry their NSW beer – not just a little, but occupying the whole of its rear compartment, which comprised a built-in esky containing booze just for the workers’ consumption.
 
Grandpa Howard had managed to park in a convenient spot right on a grassy slope quite near to the river, and when I met him I was quite surprised how spritely he was for his age. I did notice he was missing an arm, and so too was his son Harry. Both had lost their limbs in fireworks gone wrong.

I sat and watched this remarkable event. Just watching the whole business of the preparations was perhaps more entertaining than the main show scheduled for later that evening. The work finished around 3pm, and then it was into the nearby pub to pass the time until firing time, some five hours away. But as I was staying at a motel fairly close by, rather than miss the forthcoming action I went to rest up and dwell on what I had just witnessed.

 
When telling me this story, Geoff explained that the blokes setting things up would come back to the truck for the fireworks they needed for their next job, simultaneously picking up a bottle of beer. He marvelled that they could do the intricate work involved while drinking so much.
 

Having been supplied with a special pass I returned around 7pm but I couldn’t see any of the crew. So I found a spot near where Grandpa had parked the booze wagon, as I figured they surely couldn’t miss me if I stayed at head office – the refreshment van.
 
I had been there for about 30 minutes when loud familiar voices came near, and although it was still daylight the light was beginning to fade. Surprisingly the lads looked OK and were preparing themselves for the job ahead. Back in 1966 there were no electronic controls like those used today, but each fuse had to be lit with perfect timing, all with hand-held fire-sticks.

When the time was right to start the show all the crew – armed with their flaming torches – moved to the rhythm of music which started blaring loudly, which I realised timed the ignition of the various flares in the intricate show patterns that were lighting up the sky. I’m now perfectly sure that if these clever operators had been sober the show could never have happened.

 

To see these guys running from point to point back and forth and past one another – with flaming sticks barely inches away from fireworks tapers – was truly the most amazing experience. But little did I know I was to witness one of the funniest episodes of my life.

At the end of the show, all was packed up on the company truck and ready to move, when suddenly there was a scraping noise and sounds of a car engine revving. We noticed old Grandpa had driven forward instead of reversing, with the nose of the car now firmly stuck in the Yarra River. Grandpa Howard was having a conversation with God but was now out of the car, and a couple of the boys had tried returning the car to dry land, but to no avail.
 
Now it was fortunate that, it being Moomba, directly opposite and across the road a circus was in full swing, and old Grandpa’s voice was heard saying “Wouldn’t that stuff ya Harry, I know what I’ll do, I’ll go get a bloody elephant!” and sure enough off he went followed by his eldest grandson, Sid, in the direction of the circus.

It must have been some 45 minutes later when across the road came one elephant, his trainer equipped with what looked like a boat-hook, followed by the other two struggling to keep up to the huge stride of the big animal. Sid behind was carrying what appeared to be some type of harness, with of course old Grandpa several paces behind.

With much ado the poor elephant was attached to the rear of the Holden, with the old man at the back checking that the light harness would not damage the wagon, when the old elephant decided to defecate on poor old Grandpa’s leg and boot. This didn’t go down at all well, and swinging around he gave the big animal a severe kick in the back leg followed by an angry “You dirty bastard”.

 

The old elephant took off dragging the stuck vehicle well clear of the water, accompanied by loud scraping sounds from the poor station wagon. By then I had had enough excitement for the night and decided to leave them all to it and go and get some sleep.
 
On the morrow was my long drive taking the race car back home to Sydney, but my day with the Howards at Moomba would be one of the most memorable times for me, though it was possibly just a normal day for them. The Howard boys could see no wrong in consuming a few cans of beer before a race until they received a total ban from Warwick Farm in Sydney, after someone obviously had a word in Mr Sykes, the Manager’s, ear, beginning the downfall of any motor racing career for the two boys.



#6 Ian G

Ian G
  • Member

  • 1,355 posts
  • Joined: July 09

Posted 31 December 2021 - 22:58

Sad news.........RIP.



#7 MarkBisset

MarkBisset
  • Member

  • 592 posts
  • Joined: September 15

Posted 31 December 2021 - 23:38

Thanks Ray,

 

May I add my condolences to Geoff’s family and friends. What a life of achievement!
I was lucky enough to work with Geoff on a piece about his twin-plug Climax 2.5 FPF a few years ago. It says a lot about his innovative approach and engineering skills.

See here; https://primotipo.co...climax-2-5-fpf/

 

8-C90886-F-6420-4-FE7-8-AB6-3377-A44-D0-


Edited by MarkBisset, 31 December 2021 - 23:40.


#8 Lee Nicolle

Lee Nicolle
  • Member

  • 10,561 posts
  • Joined: July 08

Posted 03 January 2022 - 01:53

Very sad, my commiserations to his family and friends. Another of the exceptional  engineering talent we had in Australia in different times lost.



#9 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 03 January 2022 - 09:20

Not to mention his early career as a driver, Lee...

 

Here's an interesting page he put up on the net about nine years ago:

 

http://img1.wsimg.co...r=1620182817922



#10 ellrosso

ellrosso
  • Member

  • 1,479 posts
  • Joined: May 07

Posted 05 January 2022 - 06:21

RIP. Great loss to Australian and Tasmanian motorsport.



#11 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 05 January 2022 - 07:42

The funeral arrangements have been made for Friday this week...

 

Geoff Smedley

Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend the funeral service for Geoffrey Smedley to be held at the C.T. Finney Centre, 34 Nunamina Avenue, Kings Meadows on Friday, 7th January 2022 commencing at 3:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Holman Clinic and/or National Automobile Museum of Tasmania would be appreciated and may be made at the service. Garden flowers welcome.

For those wishing to view the service via livestream please visit:
www.finneyfunerals.com.au/funerals



#12 Paul Newby

Paul Newby
  • Member

  • 503 posts
  • Joined: December 02

Posted 05 January 2022 - 09:32

RIP. I met Geoff at the Longford Revival back in 2015. A lovely guy. I think he was a little taken aback by my knowledge of his time with Matich and and the Youls - probably gleaned from here... He told me a few stories of his time in Singapore that he probably shouldn’t have...

One thing I didn’t realise at the time was that he was a master restorer of many significant vintage and thoroughbred cars.

#13 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 05 January 2022 - 12:28

And linking the Singapore connection with his restorations:
 

It wasn’t long before the body and the chassis were separated, and work on the intricate chassis began, revealing many Rolls-Royce secrets that set this car apart from the norm in terms of high-class engineering practice.

The car’s design represented the top echelon of engineering in 1938. It had a one-shot lubrication system that covered every point of the vehicle, needing just one push of a small pedal by the chauffeur to send oil to all points on the chassis.

During its recent life this car had suffered, and much of the intricate plumbing for the system was no longer there. Driving through open paddocks crashing through stones and tree stumps meant the system was no longer functional, and much of the 5/32” brass tubing that carried the oil to all the crucial parts was missing.

We shopped around for replacements including from Rolls-Royce themselves, but I was told this size of tubing was no longer available, and that I should use polythene to replace the missing brass.

This did not sit well with me and I pondered the matter for some weeks until remembering that when I had worked on PH’s Brabham Climax whose fuel pump had been wrecked, there had been no time to ship one from the UK. I was told I could probably get one from the “Thieves’ Market” in Singapore, and was driven there by one of the workers to discover that this place sold everything in the world and then some.

Within roughly an hour I found the very article I was after. I don’t know even today how it happened but we were racing again in a couple of days. I rang PH in Singapore asking him to go to the Market, if it was still there, and buy me some 5/32” brass tubing which I needed for his car.

Within days I received by airmail a 20 foot roll of the elusive tubing, about which I was more amused than dumbfounded.....



#14 ellrosso

ellrosso
  • Member

  • 1,479 posts
  • Joined: May 07

Posted 06 January 2022 - 01:52

Shot of the Matich crew at Longford 1965. Possibly Geoff on the ground in the thick of it.....

1078-H-Mati-65-TNF.jpg



#15 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 06 January 2022 - 02:33

If you're sure it's not 1964...

 

It looks to me like Frank sitting on the Total drum, Graham Matich (Frank's younger brother) bent down beside him, probably Geoff in the dirtier overalls at the rear of the engine, but I don't know who it would be there with him. The two blokes standing on the right would be Total Oil representatives.



#16 ellrosso

ellrosso
  • Member

  • 1,479 posts
  • Joined: May 07

Posted 06 January 2022 - 09:23

Yeah, I can't check it Ray as I don't have my reference material at the moment, so I have to go with the info provided by the photographer, which is 1965.



#17 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 06 January 2022 - 12:18

There is a photo used on Primotipo and on oldracingcars.com of the car being pushed out onto the circuit...

 

Geoff is at the right rear and a taller bloke, as in this photo, is to his left. It might be Graham steering the car, but I wouldn't confirm that unless I saw the pic enlarged. It's attributed to Pat Smith. If that's right, your pic would be '65, but I have no idea why they have the Hewland on the deck.



#18 ellrosso

ellrosso
  • Member

  • 1,479 posts
  • Joined: May 07

Posted 06 January 2022 - 19:51

I reckon its this shot Ray. And it has 1964 on it. 

6463-A-Matich-64-TNF.jpg



#19 Dale Harvey

Dale Harvey
  • Member

  • 411 posts
  • Joined: January 04

Posted 06 January 2022 - 20:52

The rear wheels look to be Elfin wheels.



Advertisement

#20 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 06 January 2022 - 21:20

Definitely 1965...
 
John Youl was still racing in 1964 and Geoff stayed with him until his second-last race meeting. Geoff's first big 'outing' with Matich was the Lakeside Gold Star meeting in September, 1964, where he again showed his uncanny knack for picking up on problems with a racing car from the sidelines.
 
He had previously prepared the Youl car for this meeting before leaving to go to Matich. In Geoff's words:
 

After all the necessary preparations I found time to wander down to have a few words with John Youl. I was very interested to hear his comments on the new chassis set-up we had devised, and he assured me that the effort had been worthwhile. He said that the car handled so much better than it had done previously, and felt he could go a lot harder if needed.

He was tinkering with the car and I felt as though I should be doing all the fiddling, as this car was so much a part of me after living and playing with it ]for 2½ years. I told him to take it easy during the race and not to worry about Frank, for I knew John’s tactics so well by this time and was sure he would push Matich into trouble. As Frank wasn’t in the running for the Gold Star, a win for John here would clinch his hold on the title.

The flag finally went down and the field got away, with Frank leading off and John half a car’s length behind into the first turn. When the cars appeared again it was still Matich and Youl leaving the rest of the field bunched up behind. The lap times were getting faster and faster, and on the eighth lap Matich held a half second lead from John. But by the tenth lap it was Youl coming through a clear leader, and Frank finally coasted into the pits with transmission failure. The crown-wheel and pinion had let go,cracking the gearbox housing, and so our race was over.

My attention turned to John, who by this time was a comfortable half lap in front of Stillwell, who appeared to be having either handling or brake problems. Youl was driving a comfortable race and his car looked and sounded good, until my attention was drawn to the appearance of oil on his left hand rear wheel.

I immediately rushed to the rear of the pits to watch the car under brakes over the back of the circuit, where braking was heavy for the tight left hand corner, and to my horror I saw the problem. The bridge pipe on the brake caliper had fractured, and a fine spray of brake fluid appeared.

I then rushed over to his pit crew and told them to put out the signal ‘Bridge Pipe’, and John would have had prior warning and possibly conserved his brakes enough to get him through. But unfortunately I was regarded as interfering, and consequently poor John was unaware of the problem, and with only six laps to go he eventually ran out of brakes entirely. He decided to press on at a reduced speed, using his gears to slow him sufficiently. But the canny old Stillwell had got the message about Youl’s problem, and was putting in some quick laps, forcing John into working his gears that little e bit harder.

Finally he over-revved the engine and his oil pressure was dropping, and he too was in the pits with only four laps of the race remaining. A very sad outcome as this was his first ever engine failure, and as he stepped from the car tossing his helmet into the seat, he kicked the tyres and said to me “That’s my last race”.



#21 cooper997

cooper997
  • Member

  • 3,374 posts
  • Joined: December 08

Posted 09 January 2022 - 01:02

Period reference to Geoff joining Frank - 11/64 SCW column.

 

1964-SCW-Nov-TNF.jpg

 

 

Stephen



#22 TerryS

TerryS
  • Member

  • 762 posts
  • Joined: March 16

Posted 09 January 2022 - 01:06

I am wondering why Smedley did not convince Matich to use the twin plug engine?

 

After all Matich was always after the "unfair advantage", to use a Mark Donohue term.



#23 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 09 January 2022 - 02:08

Possiby there was not room in the Brabham chassis for the second magneto?
 
 

Originally posted by cooper997
Period reference to Geoff joining Frank - 11/64 SCW column.
 
00122fr-SDmatichcolumn.jpg
 
 
Stephen



I think he rather hit Geoff below the belt with the comment about not being properly prepared for Lakeside:
 

On arrival at Sydney’s Mascot airport we were met by Frank Matich and taken directly to Berala, a suburb 12miles/20kms from the city centre. There was the new workshop as promised, and with a modern flat above.

Matich was then campaigning two cars – a BT11 (sic) Brabham Climax and a Lotus 19B. The workshop itself was large enough to house about ten cars, and as there were only two, I had so much space I didn’t know what to do with it all. Everything had been moved there in the way of spares, cars, shelving and all necessary gear.

But to my horror I found the Intercontinental Brabham completely stripped down, including engine, which was strewn about the shop, muddled with other engine bits. Frank calmly said “Of course you know we are running at Lakeside with the Brabham next Sunday?” As this was Sunday afternoon I knew then that if the car was to be a starter, I would have to begin work there and then.

So while Sylvia and the boys went upstairs to look over the flat, I was into overalls and started on the long, hard road of trying to sort out enough bits and pieces to make a car. It was much later that night before I even saw the flat in which I was to live for the next two years.

After some hundred hours or so the Brabham was complete, although it wasn’t a car of which I felt proud, for this was a completely different approach to the preparation I had been used to, with the result that I had very little confidence in the finished car.



It does seem, though, that Geoff has forgotten about running at Warwick Farm. The Brabham had a terrible time there with a misfire they couldn't fix all weekend and lap times three seconds slower than Matich had previously done. The Lotus 19B had an easy win.

#24 cooper997

cooper997
  • Member

  • 3,374 posts
  • Joined: December 08

Posted 10 January 2022 - 00:25

A link to Tasmanian newspaper, The Examiner's tribute to Geoff

https://www.examiner...y-dies-aged-90/

 

and from TNF's archive, the thread when Geoff was inducted to the Tasmanian Motor Sport Hall of Fame

https://forums.autos...y-hall-of-fame/

 

 

Stephen



#25 TerryS

TerryS
  • Member

  • 762 posts
  • Joined: March 16

Posted 15 January 2022 - 23:12

Geoff Smedley's book sounds very interesting and informative.

 

Doe anyone know where I can get hold of a copy? I have unsuccessfully tried all the Australian motoring bookshops.



#26 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 16 January 2022 - 00:13

The museum in Launceston, Terry...

 

By the way, about 120 turned out for the funeral despite major concerns about Covid-19 among many of those who might attend.



#27 TerryS

TerryS
  • Member

  • 762 posts
  • Joined: March 16

Posted 16 January 2022 - 02:01

The museum in Launceston, Terry...

 

By the way, about 120 turned out for the funeral despite major concerns about Covid-19 among many of those who might attend.

 

Ray, that was the first place I tried. They replied by email that NO stock, and didn't know where I could get it. 



#28 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 16 January 2022 - 04:16

I will be in touch with Sylvia soon...

 

She might know an alternative source.



#29 cooper997

cooper997
  • Member

  • 3,374 posts
  • Joined: December 08

Posted 16 January 2022 - 08:19

Feb 66 RCN advert

 

Howards-Smedley-advert-TNF.jpg

 

 

Stephen



#30 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 06 February 2022 - 12:13

Originally posted by Ray Bell
I will be in touch with Sylvia soon...
 
She might know an alternative source.


Unfortunately it is all sold out...

And whether or not it's reprinted is a matter for consideration. Sylvia feels it could have been better and had more pictures, but she doesn't know how to go about it.

Obviously the copyright has become hers as part of Geoff's estate, so she has to work her way through things as she tries to settle into her new world.

#31 bradbury west

bradbury west
  • Member

  • 5,994 posts
  • Joined: June 02

Posted 06 February 2022 - 15:52

Ray, I found out early on a while ago that it was all sold out.  I have often wondered  whether a CD Rom version might be easier , or at least an option, a bit like “Round the Houses” in WA, or as an E book if the original manuscript is still available. The CDRom probably  helps to overcome the  issue of numbers to be produced, always a problem with a print run of books in what would/may be a niche market.  Extra photos should not be a problem,  say I, as a tech numpty….  I am up for a copy in any case.

Roger Lund



#32 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 06 February 2022 - 22:04

I will make that suggestion to Sylvia, Roger...

 

She needs a way out and that might give it to her.



#33 MarkBisset

MarkBisset
  • Member

  • 592 posts
  • Joined: September 15

Posted 03 March 2022 - 04:19

2-A766086-464-A-4-E46-85-F1-D5-DB5-C1-EF

 

Graham Smedley has posted some of Geoff’s colour photographs on the Historic Racing Car Club of Tasmania FB page. This one of Bill Patterson and Doug Whiteford at Longford, into Mountford, during the 1958 Gold Star round. Cooper T39 Climax and Maserati 300S 

Photo Credit Geoff Smedley 

 

https://www.facebook...64583890235044/


Edited by MarkBisset, 03 March 2022 - 06:22.


#34 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 03 March 2022 - 06:04

Any chance of a link, Mark?

 

At this stage,  by the way, reprinting the book is on the cards. Sylvia wants more photos in it, I don't know if that will happen.



#35 Tim Murray

Tim Murray
  • Moderator

  • 23,931 posts
  • Joined: May 02

Posted 03 March 2022 - 06:24

https://m.facebook.com/HRCCT/

#36 MarkBisset

MarkBisset
  • Member

  • 592 posts
  • Joined: September 15

Posted 03 March 2022 - 06:24

Done Ray,

 

The HRCCTas page is well worth keeping an eye on

 

m



#37 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 03 March 2022 - 06:56

The problem is that it's Facebook and I don't know how to find the photos...

 

That's why I asked for a link. I meant directly to Geoff's photos.



#38 MarkBisset

MarkBisset
  • Member

  • 592 posts
  • Joined: September 15

Posted 03 March 2022 - 07:15

Go back to my post Ray, I added a link



#39 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 74,825 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 03 March 2022 - 09:11

Thanks, Mark...

 

Just four pics?



Advertisement

#40 bradbury west

bradbury west
  • Member

  • 5,994 posts
  • Joined: June 02

Posted 03 March 2022 - 12:44

Ray, Mark, please make sure one copy has my name on it, hard copy or CDRom.

Thanks

Roger Lund



#41 cooper997

cooper997
  • Member

  • 3,374 posts
  • Joined: December 08

Posted 03 March 2022 - 23:25

The magic Smed photos Graham's added cover 4 successive years.

 

1958 - as already noted for the 9 Patto T39 and 4 Whiteford 300S.

1959 - 26 Whiteford 300S and 7 Glass 250F

1960 - 10 Whiteford 300S

1961 - 14 Brabham T53 and 36 Mahoney Repco Holden

 

 

Stephen