celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

Chapter 3 – A speedway connection

Cars take Precedence.

It was 1959 and we were living back in Sydney. By now a constant stream of imported cars flooded our roads, competing with the local Holden. The roads of Sydney were crammed with all sorts of exotica. Radio personalities, Jack Davey and Bob Dyer owned a fleet of expensive and luxury cars and they sparked a boom in the car market. It was common to see Maseratis, Ferraris, Jaguars, MG’s, and many Yank tanks on the road, and, again, my brother and I competed with each other to identify and know every possible detail about every one of them.

I should mention that, while living in Adelaide, for the last 18months of our stay, we had lived within an exhaust roar of Rowley Park Speedway, owned and promoted by the flamboyant art connoisseur, Kym Bonython. Bonython promoted the track AND raced a speedcar, and owned an art gallery, a seemingly strange dichotomy.

Much later, during the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, Bonython was one of many who stood and watched his luxurious Adelaide Hills home be burnt to the ground by the relentless flames. Along with the home and all its contents, he lost millions of dollars worth of priceless Australian and overseas artworks that adorned the walls of the home and which he was unable to rescue before the flames roared in. Such a great loss.

Anyway, the constant roar of the track every Friday night put paid to any possible interest that I would have in motor sport, or so I thought. Later events were to prove that utterly wrong!

1959 was, however, a significant year, for it was that year that saw me kindle an interest in motor sport, of the tar racing variety. And it was, of course, because of the efforts of Sir Jack Brabham who, in that year, became the first Australian to win the Formula 1 World Championship. The fact that “Black Jack” had learnt his trade in the rough and tumble of speedway, probably having been a contributor to the noise that annoyed back in Adelaide, was an irony that was totally lost on me at the time.

Nevertheless, Jack was every boy my age’s hero. The Aussie battler who had taken on the “silvertails” of Europe and the rest of the world and had, in a little car, cobbled together in a backyard workshop, beaten the world. Stirling Moss had had to give best to a boy from the colonies. It didn’t get any better.

So, car racing it was. Every penny (literally) was saved in order to begin and maintain a collection of car magazines, purchased at the usual cost of 2 and 6 (25 cents). Wheels, Modern Motor and Sports Car World became the staple of the household. Racing Car News came along later and anything else that we could afford. We devoured these magazines, reading the print off them and becoming anoraks of the first order.

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