Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elfins at Mallala

Saturday was a great day for me. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. It was the Mallala day which formed part of the Elfin reunion and there was a very good representation of Elfin models both on the track and in the pits. The race meeting was a one day event with the title "The HQ Enduro", the perceived highlight being two separate one hour races for HQ Holdens with supporting events for Improved Production, Formula Vee (1200 and 1600) and Elfins (the REAL highlight). Amazingly, there were HQs still running at the end of the second enduro, the condition of the drivers I can't tell you.
The Elfin inventory consisted of 2 Monos, 2 NG FVs (1 racing with the Vees), 3 Streamliners, 1 300, 1 360, 3 Clubmans (this is what you say - e.g. not CLUBMEN), 2 623s (although Vern's red one looks vastly different to Stan's blue one which was running at Collingrove the weekend before), 2 622s, 1 600B F2, 1 700, 1 Catalina, 1 ME5 (you'd start to worry if I said there were 2) and 1 600FF and I think all of that lot were around the place on the day. Disappointingly, there wasn't a Mallala and no F5000s although Bill Hemming had the MR8 quietly sitting on a trailer behind his transporter, obviously to go into the display at the showgrounds the following day. Also sitting on the top level of Bill's truck was the Traco engined T400 which is undergoing a huge restoration, understandably after such a history and a number of owners. I don't think it's finished yet but I dream of its completion and seeing (and hearing) it mixing it with Trevor's ME5 and Steve's 360 Repco.
Because of the speed differential of the various models (I guess), the Elfin track time consisted of two twenty minute Regularity events. In Regularity, passing is limited to the straight bits, of course, but it was a spectacle nevertheless. Especially the ME5 and the 360 gobbling up the other cars. Then suddenly in the first session in comes the black ME5 - black flagged for going 2 seconds under its nominated time. A lap or two later the red 360 is in for the same reason. As far as the "powers that be" were concerned, that was it for the day but a bit of fast talking allowed an adjustment of nominated times and they were out for the second session without hassles although most of the time they weren't running together this time.
Something I noticed was all of the really old blokes in their Elfin baseball caps, some even on walking sticks (even making me look spritely!), but that day they seemed to have a spring in their step and smiles on their faces which seemed to get even wider when the ME5 roared into life. Talking about the ME5, it looked beautiful in its "1983" livery, Ansett signage and all. Only trouble is the Ansett sponsorship money doesn't seem to be forthcoming. That must be the most cleaned and polished car ever. Trevor is lucky to have his two mates that dote on it as much as they do. Maybe all of that dusting is because there was nothing else to do after burning the midnight oil getting it running correctly after the latest engine rebuild. Still getting grief from CAMS over "unacceptable" wheels, Trevor is getting some made up. Ron Lambert (I think the reunion was his idea), a former Elfin employee now living in Tasmania, has the original moulds for the Elfin wheels, and he brought over the first one, straight out of the mould and unmachined, but I reckon they're going to look great.
The Elfin 360 is no ordinary 360, it's the Repco V8 one. Steve Webb has had it for 30 years, actually racing it in National Championship events when it was competitive, then putting it away, only to bring it out again when it became eligible for historic racing. Most of the capital cities have their own little Bolwell history and long term personalities (hierarchies if you like) and Sydney is no exception. Steve is part of that Neil Stevens mob and so is Howard, his long term mate (who fabricated each and every Ikara chassis) and Greg (who has spotted a mystery black Ikara down a drive in Balmain).
Another notable Elfin was the T300 that Bill Hemming was driving. It looked beautiful on the track. It's not the Ramsay one or the blue one in that famous photo at Warwick Farm where it is leading Newton's orange Bolwell SR6. I'm pretty sure it's the one that went to South Africa in 1967 and was raced by Garth McGillewie even winning a Championship or two. That car was found in Zimbabwe in 2001 and was smuggled out of the country in the middle of the night. There is a large number (150 or more) of photos in a Flickr album, documenting the restoration of the car and the rebuilding of the Coventry Climax engine. If you have trouble finding it let me know and I'll give you the reference.
I had an enjoyable chat with Vern Hamilton and his wife (pit crew of one), Elaine, who is secretary of MGCCQ and has written a book on the 40 year history of the Mt. Cotton hillclimb. I don't know how old Vern is but I remember him driving an Elfin open wheeler when I was in my early twenties (a 600B). Later he raced a 622. In recent times he tried to buy back the 622 but wasn't successful. It lives here in South Australia. He did manage to buy a 623, also from South Australia and it's a beaut little car. Vern and Elaine trailered it down from Queensland, thus missing the Leyburn Sprints but they'll be back for Speed on Tweed. Vern is impressed with Mallala, never having raced there before.
These 4 photos are stills taken from Norm's little video camera. The videos themselves can be found on YouTube in the collection entitled clementeclubman - "Elfin 50 Yrs at Mallala" and "Elfin 50 Years 2".
Garrie Cooper's dad, Cliff, the number one worker at Elfin, is 101 and still going. I hope he got to at least some of the celebrations.
A couple of people asked me if I was Bob Mills. Bob was over from America for the reunion and was around the place somewhere, not that I saw him. He must be a striking looking man these days to be mistaken for me........don't you think?
I believe Ron Lambert was behind this reunion and his son James worked tirelessly to arrange it with some help from his sister Jo. They need a round of applause.
One thing I don't really understand is the lack of media attention for such an important event. If it was a footy match we'd be overwhelmed. There was a half page article in the motoring section of The Advertiser on the day, but I didn't see much else. Maybe it's our culture and that's why Sir Jack is more widely accaimed overseas than he is here. There were Elfins that turned up at the MSCA Super Sprint at Mallala the folloing day that weren't at the Elfinfest because the owners didn't know about it. Better luck next time.

1 comment:

Colin said...

I agree that the Ansett color scheme from 1983 looks far better than the basic black. I bet there are many people who wish that the Ansett largesse still existed. Inspected some historic racers here in Europe and they seem to benefit from a more open attitude to originality than the myopic view that Cams appears to take. next thing they will require genuine 1983 gasoline in the tank. Why not genuine made in 1983 gaskets too? Perhaps they could use your unopened can of Golden Fleece oil too.