Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beven reminiscing

Dick Willis/Bevan Hill Milano

My name is Beven Young and with the current interest in Milanos in the Bolly Blog it brought back memories of the one that I became involved with in the 1960s.

The original owner-builder was Dick Willis from Coffs Harbour and its building, history and race record was very well documented in Dick's earlier posting in the Bolly Blog and I would like to add a little bit to it. Back in the 60s I used to buy Racing Car News and I first became aware of Dick Willis and his Milano via that medium. In just about every issue of the magazine in interstate hill climb race results they always seemed to get a placing and glowing reports such as "the huge spinning tyres of Dick Willis' Milano".

In 1966 Dick sold it to Bevan Hill who at the time was an Adelaide Uni student and was living at McLaren Flat. I first met Bevan through Bob Small. I was living at Victor Harbor and Bob's father had just bought the service station on the top of the hill as you drove into Victor. Due to our mutual interest in motorsport and cars in general, Bob and I became friends and he persueded me to join the Adelaide Uni Car Club which was just after Bevan had bought the car and due to the generocity of Bob's old man it was garaged at Victor.

The original Milanos were a fibreglass body kit for MG T series but this particular car had a ladder frame chassis made from 4" (??) round tubing, shortened Holden banjo diff housing, close ratio BMC B series gearbox with swing axle front suspension and drum brakes from a Ford Prefect and a very HOT 179. We never had it on a dyno but we were told it had over 200hp and weighing only 600kg my recollection of the car was it was horribly quick and virtually able to light the rear tyres up in any gear.

The motor had all the right stuff. The block was bored out 3/16" to 3.75, it was fitted with a 149 head and 1/4"over size inlets, 1/8" over size exhausts (the combustion chamber was virtually all valve), SB Chev valve springs, 3 SUs, extractors, reground cam and was able to rev to nearly 8000 rpm.

From what I can remember, with its lift off front, ladder frame chassis and basically all Holden mechanicals, it was simple, with everything accessible and easy to work on. The only major change we made was to change the front end from a swing axle system with drum brakes - Ford Prefect beam axle cut in the middle with an "eye" welded onto each half making it into an independant system - which led to some very interesting camber angles as shown in one of the previous photos (Forty Bends Hill Climb at Lithgow, 1966). However, considering the number of records and FTDs that Dick held it must have worked. As Bevan was using it more for circuit sprints, we converted it to a more conventional double A system using Humber IFS with disc brakes, with an MGB rack and pinion.

On the street with its 12 second 1/4 mile times which, in those days made it a very quick street car, the Milano was a wolf in sheep's clothing and was very effective at harrassing fellow sports car drivers (nowadays we would be known as hoons). I remember one night when we were out in it, we came across someone at an intersection in an MGB. When the lights changed we just managed to keep up with the B and at the next set of lights we once again just managed to keep up. At the third and last set of lights Bevan revved the motor aned dropped the clutch and the Milano snaked all the way across the intersection with the MGB disappearing into the tyre smoke. Looking back it was probably a bit childish but at the time it was great fun. The only problem with driving it on the road it had no radiator fan and boiled easily in traffic.

At a circuit sprint at Mallala when, as Dick mentioned in his article, one of the Milano's rear trailing arms broke and spun it backwards into the only tree along the back straight on the inside of the circuit. I was up at Mallala and witnessed it and it looked like a bomb had gone off under it, bits of fibreglass flying in all directions. We ran over to it fearing the worst but Bevan was lucky. He walked away from it. His only injuries being a cut on his head and slight concussion. Like a phoenix which rose from the ashes it was rebuilt and as Dick had stated in his previous article, the story doesn't have a sad ending for it's still being raced in Historics in Vic.

Just after the accident Bevan moved interstate for employment and that was the last I saw of him for it seems he has "just disappeared off the face of the earth". Dick still lives in Coffs Harbour and is still heavily involved in motorsport in an AUSPER T2 Formula Junior and Bob and I are still friends.

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