Welcome to issue No. 134
March is one of my favourite motoring months, which can only mean Melbourne! As you read this issue the brilliant Melbourne Motor Show has just opened - leaving you plenty of time to get down to Jeff's Shed to have a look at some of the best metal in the land. The Motor Show also means that Shannons's annual motor show auction is also upon us, and as usual you can view some of these magnificent marques in the concourse at the show. Melbourne is the automotive capital of Australia and the motor show is the premier event among many during Automotive Week.
Of course the Grand Prix is also just around the corner, but for those that prefer their racing with style and flair, last weekend saw the running of the Phillip Island Classic. Perhaps the highlight of this superb event was the appearance of three Lago Talbot T26C racing cars, the first time that three of these fabulous French, front-engined Grand Prix cars have raced together at the same meeting in Australia. Their story is one that I'm sure will interest many classic car enthusiasts.
The naturally aspirated 4.5 litre straight-six Lago Talbots were regular winners in Post War European racing against the supercharged 1.5 litre Alfa Romeos and Ferraris of the day due largely to their comparatively good fuel consumption and reliability.
Three-time Australian Grand Prix winner Doug Whiteford added a new level of professionalism to local motor racing when he purchased the ex-Louis Chiron Lago Talbot T26C and drove it to victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst in 1952 and at Albert Park in 1953. After selling the Lago, he went on to purchase a later specification, more powerful T26C in 1954, winning the Argus Trophy race at Albert Park on its first outing in 1955 and placing third in the Australian Grand Prix behind Jack Brabham's Cooper Bristol and Reg Hunt's Maserati 250F the same year.
In 1956 he drove the car to a very creditable eighth in the 'Olympic' Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park behind a string of new Maserati 250Fs including the 'works' cars of Stirling Moss and Jean Behra. Had he not been forced to stop twice for water for the over heating Lago, his lap times confirmed he would have been right up with the factory Maseratis. Purchased in damaged condition by Reg Hunt and then fully restored to mint condition in the early 1980s, Whiteford's second T26C (Chassis No 110002) again raced at Phillip Island in the hands of its new owner, Ron Townley. It lined up against the French blue Lago Talbot T26Cs of Britain's Dean and expatriate Englishman Peter Giddings, whose late model has just undergone a comprehensive 18 month-long refurbishment in New Zealand.
Appropriately, the Maybach Mk.1 driven by Stan Jones that led Whiteford's Lago Talbot at the 1953 AGP at Albert Park until forced to withdraw with overheating problems, again lined up against the French racer in a classic rematch.
Another entertaining racer that will bring a smile to the faces of many fans is the Shannon's Goggomobil Dart that will tackle this year's Targa Tasmania from April 17-22. And despite its bathtub aerodynamics, wheelbarrow tyres and slight 360kW power disadvantage compared with the Porsche 911 Turbo that defending champion Jim Richards will run, it is expected to lead the field of around 250 performance cars on a number of occasions.
Now in its 50th year, the Goggomobil Dart has all the right credentials to make it a Targa Tasmania winner. Conceived and built by Sydney fiberglass specialist Bill Buckle, the Dart was introduced in 1958 as a fun, affordable sports car based on an imported German Goggomobil microcar chassis.
Although initially fitted with a diminutive rear-mounted 239cc Glas two cylinder, two-stroke engine producing just 11kW, the Dart weighed a modest 380kg and was thus able to achieve speeds of up to 110km/h or more depending on the gradient, the wind factor and the life expectancy of its driver.
The Dart made a dramatic return from automotive obscurity to icon in recent years. After featuring in a Yellow Pages TV commercial, the Dart in new Irish green livery became the symbol of Shannons and has featured heavily in the company's TV and print advertising.
With racing thick in the air this month, it's only fitting we have a suitably race-themed competition.
'Racing Through Time' DVD box sets would be a welcome addition to any enthusiast's library.
Finally, you still have time to get your entry in for a copy of "On the Road Again" a great motoring read by Kevin Norbury.
Have a great motoring month!