Words: Chris Ralph and Ben Dahlstrom
Following the first two rounds of drivers recalling their first race cars, we’ve compiled a third collection of HTCAV drivers telling us where it all began.
Peter van Summeren
First Car: Ford Escort Twin Cam
Current Car: Lotus Cortina
Peter van Summeren’s giant-killing reputation in a Mk1 Escort belies his mere decade of circuit racing experience. But years of winning in other motorised sports put him on the pace from the outset.
A boat designer and builder, he won with outboard ski race boats through the mid ’80s, taking the Southern 80, Mildura and Robinvale 100s and the Bridge to Bridge Classic. In the ’90s, it was karting – in Reed Heavy, the fastest Sprint Karts you can get, only an inch from the tarmac, with 250cc screaming at 22,000rpm behind you. In the 2000s, it was on to bitumen rallies.
So, first car? Road car - Twin Cam Escort. Rally car - Twin Cam Escort. Race car – Twin Cam Escort. Notice a pattern here? Brother Colin’s business is Escorts and when a Twin Cam came as part payment for major fibreglass work Peter had done on a Lotus Elan, they built the rally car. Usually finishing top three, a massive off going flat out at 230km/h into trees gave him cause to ponder…
For circuit racing, Peter wanted a Lotus Cortina, but none were available. A Queensland race Escort was, though, so the fun began. Still hankering for a Lotus Cortina, he jumped at an NSW car a couple of years ago. After a promising debut, it’s now being developed further.
How do the two compare? “The Escort is so much easier,” he says. “You can grab it by the scruff of the neck like a go-kart!” But which one does he favour? “The Lotus! It’s way more challenging. And I love a challenge.”
First race car: FJ Holden
Current race car: Ford Mustang
“Mate, I turned 17 on the weekend, got my road licence Monday, CAMS licence Wednesday and drove at Lithgow Hill Climb that weekend!”
The cheeky young apprentice at Bargwanna & Sons already had his twin carby FJ road car rarin’ to go. Together, Harry and twin brother Alf (in his own FJ) became regulars at Lithgow, Silverdale and Bathurst hill climbs, in the days when that branch of motorsport was far bigger than now.
The FJ morphed into an EH, later sold to buy a block of land, but soon replaced by a 105E Anglia with Cortina running gear - a handy piece of kit in the late '60s. In the early '70s, Harry found a Twin Cam Escort at the side of the road with the front knocked off it for $800 – instant Group C car!
Spurred on, Harry bought the ex-Alan Grice LC Torana, a never-registered race car which eventually found its way to Victorian Historic Touring Car racers Trevor Talbot, Adrian Read, Doug Growcott and now, Mark Barbour.
Production Cars endurance racing was next; Harry campaigning a Toyota Corolla before winning the ’95 Australian Production Car Championship in a Nissan Pulsar SSS.
One great memory? Sharing an EA Falcon with his Bathurst 1000-winning son Jason at the Christmas 300km meeting at Wakefield Park…
In the last decade, Harry has become an honorary Victorian, his red 289 Mustang regularly punching above its weight and often accompanied by Alf in his red Torana XU1.
Now 75, Harry won’t stop – he can’t. “Motor racing is a lifelong drug, incurable and expensive. There’s no rehab for blokes like us!”
First Race Car: VW Beetle
Current Race Car: Morris Cooper S
Teenage Ted’s first go in a paddock bomb steered him to be an apprentice mechanic. Saving his pounds, shillings and pence, he soon had his first competition car - a noisy, bored-out, twin carby Austin A40 - at hill climbs. “Had huge compression, needed plenty of Benzol in the fuel!” he remembers.
But Beetles were the value-for-money weekend warriors and the now-famous No.42 soon appeared on his first track car. With higher compression and twin SUs, it did family runs during the week and got caned by Ted on the weekends. “I was the reliable member in a Fishermans Bend Relay Race team,” he says. “The fast boys sent me out so they could fix broken bits on their cars.”
Obviously, not fast enough! So Ted set about building a really trick engine. Whip it in the daily driver Friday night and whip it out Sunday night - one hour’s work in a VW. Eventually, Ted built a dedicated race VW... before the next ‘Good Thing’ came along - the Mini.
Cooper S types made his name. A 1070cc version won several hillclimb championships and the 1968 Joseph Lucas Touring Car Series at Calder. That same year, Ted won the Australian Touring Car Hillclimb Championships with a 1310cc engine.
Ted drove a Torana in Calder’s 1971 Six Cylinder Series and co-drove at Bathurst in a Mazda RX-3 three times, but it’s no surprise he chose a Cooper S to run in Historic Touring Cars.
Amazingly, 85-year-old Ted shows no sign of slowing down. At the Phillip Island Classic this year, he came 16th, beating home none other than... his son Mark in a Torana. Ageless, fearless!
First race car: FJ Holden
Current race car: Chev Camaro
Sports Sedan hero and Seymour (Vic) panelworks supremo, Tony Hubbard has been winning races for 60 years. His trophy room is chock-a-block - he has to throw some out or build another room!
From go karts and early years of speedway in an FJ and later, an XU-1, he ventured onto the bitumen in another FJ, but by the time of the final Hume Weir meeting in 1977 Tony was fully into Sports Sedans with his LJ Torana. “That went pretty good,” he remembers, “but went a whole lot better once I dropped a V8 into it.” The die was cast…
A few years later, he went up a level, building a fierce tube-frame LX Torana hatchback before buying the Jim Richards NZ-built Big M Falcon for even more success.
But time doesn’t stand still and in the early ’90s Tony built himself another tube chassis racer, this time a VN Commodore with a mid-mounted 6.0-litre Chev V8. Towards the end of the ’90s he went one step further, using a Holden Calibra as a base, again with a trusty Chev motor amidships. Today, he takes great pleasure in seeing cars he built for himself and fellow racers still competing strongly.
Tony retired in 2000. Yeah, right. A month later, with late wife and full-time supporter Gayl, he was at Sandown looking at Historic Touring Cars. “That should be alright, they’re just hotted-up road cars,” he said to her. Hmmm…
He built a V8 Monaro Coupe, but by mid-decade went all out and built the multi-race-winning Camaro he drives today – if he could. “It’s sitting here looking at me,” he says, “we’re both itching to get going.”