Sunday, November 26, 2017

Smith Ford V8 special - in Shannons auction tomorrow.

This is it in its heyday, photo courtesy of the Adelaide Advertiser.
HOBART car enthusiast Rodney Williams’ pride and joy is not just rare, it’s the only one in the world.
Hand-built for the 1951 Australian Grand Prix, the one-off machine was raced by its creator, Perth coach builder Harry Smith, in the 1950s.
After the Aussie GP and a handful of local races, it then went off the radar until 1970 when it was found rusting in a swamp in Western Australia.
Now restored to its former glory, Williams, 67, could not be more proud of his 1951 Smith Ford V8 Special, which was one of the jewels in the crown of the Historic Baskerville race meeting for classic cars at Baskerville Raceway — Australia’s second-oldest race track behind Bathurst — over the weekend.
Rodney Williams, of Moonah, with the rebuilt Ford Smith Special, the only one of its kind in the world.
“It’s completely hand-built, a one-off, very rare car,” Williams said.
“It’s the only one of its type in the world.”
Its components are all Ford bits, including the side-valve 3.5-litre Ford Mercury V8 engine.
“It’s very unique for its time because it has full independent suspension with coil springs,” Williams said.
“It was very revolutionary at the time.
“I would hate to put a dollar figure on how much it’s worth.”
The Ford Special is a handful on the track.
“It’s a very difficult car to drive,” Williams said.
Historic Baskerville brought the circuit alive to the sound of classic machines built pre-1976. More than 200 competed in nine categories on both days.
Event director Peter Killick said the 2000-strong turnout was one of the best since the 1970s, and so was the size of the entry list.
“It’s been a great weekend, so we are absolutely rapt,” Killick said.
“It’s the third-biggest crowd at Baskerville since the 1970s, behind the last of the Tasmanian 10,000 race and the truck racing.
“Historic racing is growing strongly all over the world.”
Shannons have given a very good account of the car's history.


The early history of Australian motor sport is filled with one-offs and specials, some famous and successful, others long-forgotten.  Using whatever running gear and parts were at hand, often sourced from wrecker’s yards, these talented individuals built their home-made specials on limited budgets, competing against the more exotic (and expensive) machinery from England, Europe or the United States.  Many famous names in our motor racing heritage started out building and racing their own specials, including legends like Jack Brabham with his famous RedeX Special.  Hand-built by Perth coachbuilder Harry Smith for the 1951 Australian Grand Prix, this one-off creation uses period Ford running gear including a flathead Mercury V8, a ’46 Ford gearbox and a diff from an early Ford ute.  A Ford beam front axle was split to create fully independent front suspension using coil springs, features rarely seen on race cars of the period.  The 1951 Grand Prix was held on a temporary street circuit in the wheatbelt town of Narrogin over 24 laps (a distance of 170 kilometres) and the handicap event saw Warwick Pratley victorious in his George Reed Special, followed by Dick Bland’s Delahaye 135 and Steve Tillett’s modified MG TC, while Smith retired on lap 14 due to overheating.  Costing around 2,000 pounds to build, the car placed its builder under considerable financial strain and Smith tragically committed suicide six months after the race, the car ultimately sold by his brother and widow to help pay off some of his debts before dropping out of sight.


  • Important piece of Australian motor racing history
  • Restored and actively raced in historic events
  • Well-documented history
Discovered in a swamp in Western Australia in 1970 (photos on file show the remarkably intact car following its recovery), the Harry Smith Special was initially restored by Warren Scully as a road car in British Racing Green, who ultimately relocated to the Maldives with his boat building business and sold the Smith Special at auction.  After dropping out of sight in the 1970s, the car reappeared with well-known dealer Terry Healy in Queensland by 1979, who sold it to Adrian Joseph of Ballina in northern NSW the following year.  The car subsequently moved to Victoria when John Stration of Mount Waverley took over, before long-term owner Clarrie Pearce bought the car, ultimately moving to Tasmania where it has resided ever since.  By the time Pearce bought the car it had been repainted white and the wire-wheels replaced with discs, the owner using the car in at least two Dutton Rallies in the 1990s on full Victorian registration.  More recently, the car has been actively raced in historic events by its current owner, a Hobart enthusiast, who bought the car from Pearce’s estate in 2008.  After competing in a couple of Longford Revivals, the owner made the decision to rebuild the Smith Special, bringing it up to the present mechanical standard over a number of years.  After being ultrasonically cleaned, the engine was rebuilt by Don Stafford with a new crankshaft, pistons, con-rods and valves, the gearbox overhauled with new gears and synchros and a new clutch and pressure plate installed.  The original heads were also replaced with alloy items but the originals are included in the sale.  The brakes were overhauled with new master and brake cylinders, the drums machined and new lines hand made, along with new fuel lines and a new fuel tank was fabricated.  Other notable work saw the diff overhauled and the driveshafts balanced and machined.  Featured in numerous publications over the years including Unique Cars and Restored Cars, Harry Smith’s Special is currently on full registration in Tasmania the Ford will be offered for sale unregistered and comes with three folders of information and a storyboard and several period photos.  


John L said...


Unknown said...

A little bit more info, this car was offered for sale in Traralgon (Victoria) in the early 80’s, it was British racing green but in rough condition, the owner didn’t know what it was just that it was a homemade special.
It later appeared on the cover of Restored Car magazine (Jan 2000) but they said it was an Allard

I’ll try and find the photos I took of it and the advert from the local paper.