An eager member of the Eastern Suburbs Sporting Car Club, Max competed in small rallies and then started racing in his everyday-transport Simca Aronde. Working in advertising, he found himself in a position in 1963 to take over the editorship of the monthly Racing Car News magazine and simultaneously started a weekly radio half-hour about motor sport on Sydney radio station 2CH. He had by this time bought the Brian Muir early Holden and race it successfully.
From this point onwards, he was at the core of everything in motor sport in Australia. The magazine grew and became ‘The Bible’ of motor sports in this country until weekly and fortnightly opponents took away its immediacy.
But while it was strong, Max impressed his opinions on his growing readership. Not that they were always accepted totally, with the glaring exception being seen in the debate about whether Australia should go for a 2-litre racing engine or F5000 as 1970 rolled around. He was never to favour the V8-engined open-wheelers, though came to agree that they had the ability to present a spectacle.
Married to Margaret, he became father to Mandy, Vicki-Ann and Michael and was a devoted family man. When I went to work for him in 1972 I was quite amazed with the strength of this side of him. Max had given me my first writing assignment in 1971.
He was the only person ever to fire me twice, the first time when Barry Lake put forward a case intimating he’d do a better job than me (in 1973) and then at the end of the decade, but he always called upon me for stories or reports for the magazine.
By this time Margaret had gone her own way and Max was embarking on different projects. He had a heart attack in the early eighties, which led to the magazine falling from his grasp (he owned a share of it after 1970) and also to him giving up smoking little cigars. In 1986, when the magazine had folded, he headed a group which brought it back to life for a while, but its time was over.
Radio reports on major rallies became his major pursuit, travelling all over Australia to present these on events like the Southern Cross Rally when it became an International event, the World Rally Championship rounds held in WA and the balls-out 4WD Wynns Safari events.
It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that Max became a close friend of some of the World’s top drivers. Jim Clark gave him the driving suit he used to win at Indianapolis (later stolen), he was close to Jackie Stewart, Andrew Cowan and many more. He also competed in the London-Sydney Marathon in 1968 with Bobby Buchanan-Michaelson and in 1977 followed the event at close quarters.
Everybody who was anybody beat a path to Max’s door and publicity potential in those days. In later years he organised his own events, notably the Camp Quality Caper, which came together very much with the assistance of his new wife, Christine.
A quadruple bypass in the nineties didn’t stop him, but he definitely slowed down and by 2016 was starting to lose a lot of his drive. Ultimately he became a full-time job for Christine particularly after suffering a stroke, herself a stroke victim by then and on July 12 he went into a Nursing Home in Scone, where they had been living for three years.
Max had turned 87 on July 6. On July 18 he had another stroke, this time more serious, and he was taken to Maitland hospital. This morning, July 21, he passed away at 2am having been in a coma for a couple of days.
To his family I offer my condolences, but it’s clear that there are many Max Stahl stories which will surface and are welcome on this thread.