How great it is to see this car going again...
Fast that’s Past – Ian Mountain’s Peugeot Special
Having previously prepared and raced a very nice Ford V8, Ian Mountain built this rapid successor to the finest detail. Little did he know what lay ahead.
BARRY HUDSON well remembers the day he met Ian Mountain. It was in a barber shop in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. He also remembers going to Rob Roy hillclimb and leaving ‘by the back way,’ which included running up the climb itself. “That was about 32 seconds,” said Mountain to his excited passenger after completing the all-important climb.
Barry pursued a trade working in sheet metal as his friendship with Mountain flourished, so he was a good lad to have around as the building of a new car was to become the centre of the life of the energetic car salesman.
While Ian Mountain had done the training to become a Civil Engineer, he had spent time selling Peugeots for Canada Car & Cycle Co. in Melbourne and took on a job which saw him travelling all over Victoria and making handsome commissions as he took orders for a car becoming rapidly more popular.
As he looked over the car, Ian saw some very advanced attributes. Ken Mountain, his brother, recalls him discussing the hemispherical combustion chambers achieved without overhead camshafts, the crossflow head, the lightness of the alloy cylinder head and other points.
This was also a time of change in racing car construction. Formula 1 was going to downsize heavily, 500cc Formula 3 cars were staggeringly fast, more than before were looking beyond the Ford V8 when it came to powering their Specials as the MG TC became the basis of more and more very rapid cars.
So the seeds were sewn for the IKM (Ian Kenneth Mountain) Peugeot Special. It was to take shape in a suburban garage and driveway, based on a simple ladder chassis of light gauge round tube. It would look hefty from it s large (2.75”- 70mm) diameter, but in fact the chassis was quite light. The front suspension was essentially Peugeot 203 and the rear end featured a de Dion suspension as then favoured by the best of the F1 cars overseas.
The Peugeot’s transverse leaf spring was bracketed into the fabricated crossmember in a close approximation of the heavy steel casting in the sturdy little sedans. But instead of the top wishbones being the arms of heavy lever-type dampers, Mountain fabricated tubular wishbones and mounted them on towers of liberally drilled steel sheet. Between the arms lay a similar type of bracketing to mount the top ends of tubular dampers that angled out to the end of the spring.
At the rear there were folded steel towers to mount the short trailing arms that aided the quarter elliptic springs in locating the de Dion tube and its hub carriers. Initially, the lateral location of the rear end was also left to the springs.
Four crossmembers join the main chassis rails, the front one being that with the spring mount built into it and also mounting the Peugeot steering rack, while the others were simple tubes – one behind the gearbox and two at the rear with mounts for the differential welded to them. Gussets at the joints gave added rigidity.
The main tubes curved alongside the engine section, rising at the front to be the right height for the crossmember and being flat and close to the ground at the rear beneath the rear suspension.
The engine and gearbox were installed at an angle to allow a more central seating position behind the 203 steering wheel. The gearlever location was tailored to suit.
Watching her fiancé fabricating this chassis was a young woman keen to help. She had been with Ian when he competed in sailing races, and when he raced motorcycles. Then she’d been at his side with the Ford V8 racer too, and was there when Ian drove the Diana Davison TC Special at Albert Park while he was without a car.
Ian would later marry this long-time sweetheart, the stunningly attractive Laurel, but at this time she spent most of her time at the Mountain family home as he worked on the chassis and other parts of the project.
Today it is still a clear vision in her mind. “I can see the frame as he welded it together,” Laurel says, and delightfully adds her impression of the progress being made, of the life coming into being, “then it came up onto its wheels…”
Her own contribution bore fruit as she took a paintbrush in hand and helped paint the frames. As she helped, the mind of Barry Hudson could not help but allow him to be totally smitten by the tall, slim lady who would find so much joy and grief in this project.
Others helped too, but still the construction covered a lengthy period. Mountain was fastidious, frequently being diverted to tangents that made for a more complete and professional whole, but tended to add days, weeks and months to the construction time.
While the chassis work was being done, the engine was also being prepared, the adaptation of an MG TC gearbox and modification of its remote control was undertaken and myriad other associated jobs done.
A significant piece of the car was the huge magnesium supercharger that was mounted on a frame in front of the front suspension. A Wade R020, this unit was built for a Cisitalia, but left over at the works in England when that manufacturer folded. Ian McDowell was in England and learned of its presence, rang Ian to inform him and then effected the purchase and transport to Australia.
A huge 2 3/16” SU carburetor was to feed the Shell M racing fuel to this well-ribbed blower, with Hudson responsible for the sheet metal brackets that supported it and the manifolding that was remade twice during the development stages. He made these while on National Service, the manifold incorporating a blowoff valve.
As time progressed, more tubular frames took shape and were added to the chassis. A hoop ahead of the cockpit carried the steering column, another just forward of the diff supported the one-piece aluminium seat that was lined with ‘Dunlopillo’ foam and finished with vinyl. Four lighter hoops provided the basic body mounting frame, Hudson making these up to provide the line of the slim, low profile and expecting to carry on and make the body.
At one stage the Jack Brabham Redex Special sat alongside the car, Jack being billeted at the Mountain home when in town to race at Altona. Barry remembers Ian saying, on seeing this, “We should have built a spaceframe…” With the project already three years down the track, there was no turning back. Perhaps, however, Ian had further ideas in the back of his mind.
With the progress of time, Ian actually decided on the alternative route for the body, having Neil Coleman do the job at his North Melbourne workshop. Even so, Ian’s declaration to Barry that Neil would build it in a week failed to be be realised, the job taking the panel beater three weeks. Barry still had to create the bulge in the bonnet to clear the Scintella Vertex magneto that sat on an extended mount in order to clear the manifold.
Time really did drag along. As Barry says, each part of the car was finished to pedantic detail.
Not for Ian to rely on the standard 1290cc Peugeot engine, and being aware of the coming 403 model and its larger 1468cc capacity, Ian had a block modified and larger sleeves and special Rolloy pistons made to take the engine out to 1490cc.
The supercharger was chain driven from the front of the crankshaft, a variety of sprockets allowing different pressures to be used. Initially a combination of 6:1 compression with the blower at 6psi was used. The chain drive also ran the water pump, and a harmonic balancer was fitted.
Internally the engine was thoroughly polished – crank, rods etc, while Ian polished the ports by hand (or finger, at least) using sandpaper. The rocker gear was lightened in this polishing spree, special exhaust valves were fitted, but many of the original components – valve springs etc – were retained.
The Peugeot parts were, unusually, brand new. These were provided, along with a special high volume fuel pump, by Canada Car and Cycle Co for their star salesman to help promote the marque.
The differential chosen was the venerable Ford V8 3.75:1 unit, fitted with cast alloy side plates on the housing and adapted for the independent suspension. Chrysler pot-type joints adorned each end of the halfshafts to take the drive to the wheels.
The de Dion tube had a rotating joint in the middle with phenolic resin friction pads. The very first test showed that this needed to be locked up solid.
Stopping was done by MG TC brakes fitted with Alfin drums, while TC wheel hubs were laced to FJ Holden rims to give a decent sized wheel (for the time) to mount the Dunlop racing tyres that graced very few cars of the era.
A big 22-gallon fuel tank was made from steel, baffled to avoid surge, and fitted over the rear end.
So, with a gestation period lasting so long, the car’s appearance was well received. We mentioned pedantic detail? Reports of the day glowed with the obvious professionalism of the car’s finish. Now it was time to see what the instruments on that polished alloy panel in front of the driver – there was a tacho, temperature gauges for water and oil and an oil pressure gauge.
Testing took place on the Geelong Road, a favourite haunt of Melbourne’s racing set. Trialled without the body to begin with, Ian put it through its paces there before going on to run at the Beveridge hillclimb. This was a dirt climb and resulted in the failure of a pot joint because a pencil rubber had found its way into the joint!
At Templestowe hillclimb Ian did a 64s run, ‘not bad for a teething run’ according to Australian Motor Sport. Then came the first race meeting for the car, Fisherman’s Bend, where a fuel distribution problem manifested itself and led to that final manifold change. Though it gave trouble, the car finished both races in which it was entered.
The next event was the Australian Grand Prix, held at Southport on November 7, 1954 on the daunting 9.7km circuit that lay among the dairy farms to the west of Chevron Island.
This was a special occasion for other reasons, however. The engagement period of Ian Mountain and Laurel Duguid was now over, they were married at a time convenient to allow a honeymoon that embraced the Grand Prix.
Barry Hudson was not a part of this outing, but his comments help explain how Ian was able to assemble a team to help him in the event. “Ian attracted the layabouts and was able to use them,” he told me.
The car was rather less successful than the honeymoon. While the new bride was everything Ian could have wanted, the car was less so. It performed fairly well for such an untried car, but the radiator drain was chafing on the bodywork on this rough circuit and the car lost too much coolant.
Its lap time, however, showed some potential. 4:22.7, compared to the Wylie Javelin’s 4:24.6 and Doug Whiteford in Black Bess on 4:17.8. Top speed was calculated at 118mph (189.8kmh), and acceleration out of the corners was a strong point.
This was put right over the year-end holiday period and the car was made ready for the Gnoo Blas meeting at the end of January. Here it again showed plenty of potential, but this was another dangerous and narrow public road course.
Unfortunately Ian found the limits of the car in the wrong place and plunged off the road and through a barbed wire fence. Though the first ones on the scene found him alive, he died before he reached the Orange Base Hospital.
A distraught widow and a shattered car had to make their way back to Melbourne, John Cummins taking on the job of driving the 203 tow car with the wreck on the trailer for that journey. He had witnessed the accident and knew the horror of it, but for Ian’s brother, Ken, there was still life in the IKM Special.
Carefully extracting the photo album of the car’s construction from his sister in law (“They were cagey about it, they didn’t want to hurt my feelings,” Laurel recalls), he and Don Olsen set about the task of rebuilding – as a tribute to Ian, who had willed the car to Ken.
But Ken had no mechanical aptitude. The job was abandoned and the remains sold to Harry Firth. The body was to lay in the Neil Coleman workshop for many years, the balance of the car to lie in state in Firth’s workshop.
Save for the supercharger, which was bolted to the engine of a Torana run by the HDT as a Sports Sedan for a short time, and then in rallycross. Later it would be loaned out and damaged.
Ian Tate ultimately bought the package from his employer, and it joined a nice collection of cars Ian has restored or is going to. Repairs to the supercharger are planned, and Ian seems to treat this car as the pride of his little collection.
For Laurel Mountain, now remarried, the time of hating the car has now passed. Beyond all else, she feels it’s important that the story of her late husband’s construction of it be told because it was built in a time that’s now forgotten.
It was an era of shortages and difficulties, of change and compromise. Yet through that Ian Mountain forged ahead to build a car that looked good and performed well. Even though he entertained the idea of selling the car when a prominent Sydney driver made overtures, it was still literally in his hands till the day he died.
In this era, cars would spring up from many a suburban garage made from components the owner felt likely to produce a performance that would thrill them. Winning wasn’t always the first thought on their minds like today.
Probably it is Laurel’s words that best sum up this story: “They followed their dreams!”