Story and photos by Vince Johnson
Springtime in South Australia’s Barossa Valley wine district sees the Sporting Car Club of SA’s Vintage Section members in a weekend of pre-war action, centered on the club’s Collingrove hillclimb track near Angaston. Following a Friday evening welcome dinner, the leisurely tour of the neighboring Eden Valley region on Saturday morning left plenty of time for lunch and the annual dinner. On Sunday the competition warmed up after scrutineering, with timed runs up the 700 meter climb.
Oldest by far in the paddock and understandably not racing against the clock was the 1908 Isotta Fraschini Tipo FENC. Peter and Anne Latreille had just completed a 700km drive on the national veteran car rally in the Clare Valley of South Australia.
Reportedly one of only five remaining of 100 cars manufactured in 1908-9, its 1.3 liter 4 cylinder overhead camshaft engine performed admirably on the Saturday tour and was a center of attention on Sunday, idling away with the rocker cover removed.
These engines are, in Peter’s words, the “… likely earliest ever series-production overhead camshaft cars. This car, with engine number 3, entertained those who were in the mechanical and historical loop of the early days of automobile development, for these cars were an extraordinary development in their time.”
In Group J were the two Amilcars of Andrew Mitchell (1924 CGS Grand Sport) and Richard Creasy (1925 ‘G’ in the Grand Sport style), however the class win went to Phillip Hallo in his 1930 Austin 7. During its second run Andrew’s Amilcar left the track, causing him serious injury and our best wishes go to Andrew and his family for a speedy recovery.
Entries in Group K saw larger Plymouth, Dodge, Ford and Chrysler-engined Specials against the smaller Brits. A year ago Robert Sales was in his Fiat 508 Ballila (see VT 8 Nov 2016) but his ‘1938’ Marsel Special this year sounded almost French. No such luck, but it looked like lots of fun. Built from the remains of 7 different makes, including an aircraft wing tank, its 4.2 liter Chrysler power saw it using all the track and then some, in the tight corners. Chris Frost’s 1938 Hartwig Dodge Fargo had the legs on them all, only bettered on the day by three of the invited post war entries.
Ted Geermans had driven his Amilcar CS8 from Melbourne, a round trip of almost 1,600km, to compete in the Vintage Sports & Touring Cars category. The only one in Australia of fewer than 400 built and very few now remaining, it had been imported in 1959. Having suffered some irrecoverable water damage in France it now has a fabric body. Since acquiring it from a deceased estate, Ted, a Peugeot specialist, has sourced or remanufactured the parts needed to have it driving faultlessly. Its 2.3 liter straight eight puts out 58hp at 4000rpm and with a top speed of 120kph it copes easily with the country’s distances.
Jim Scammell knows the Collingrove hill well and took the class win in his 1934 Railton Sports Tourer from Ted, followed by Gordon Lindsay’s 1935 Lagonda M45R. Jim runs the Railton with its original UK number plate and is hoping to take it west next year to the South African Historic Grand Prix Festival. The car has impeccable entry credentials for the event, as in 1934 Michael Straight brought it home third in the inaugural race, won by his brother Whitney in a Maserati 8CM.
Among the ‘Come & Run’ entries was Doug Gordon’s 1924 Amilcar Grand Sport, a car that had been at Collingrove’s first open meeting, on the track’s original unsealed surface, in March 1952. After a series of owners in Victoria, including 40 years in a country barn, Doug has returned it to Adelaide, rebuilding it with the help of local Amilcar specialists Andrew & Angus Mitchell. This event saw it back 60 years since its last run here in 1957. Smallest of the group, and also back after the same elapsed time, was the 125cc Clisby Bantam. In the hands of Geoff Vaughan, who had finished the restoration begun by Jim Scammell, it proved that size doesn’t matter if you want to get to the top. Also in this category, John Sheard had planned to use his 1929 Delage DMN, but had to leave it at home awaiting repairs. Instead he had the only Italian on the hill against the clock, his much younger Alfa Romeo GT Junior.
Quickest time of the day went to Derek Foster’s 1952 Cooper JAP, narrowly, from Bill Bentley’s Nadger Clubman and John Payne’s Mk 5 Cooper JAP. Graham Shipton (1975 Porsche 914) led the Modern Invited group home.
It has been 113 years since the first hillclimb was held in South Australia. Next year it’s hoped that the sound of vintage motorcycles will echo from the hill, adding to the pre-war atmosphere. And with the ‘never say die’ attitude of the veterans and their custodians, no doubt we’ll see them making it to the top too.
With thanks to Keith Williamson, Jim Scammell and Peter Latreille.