celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

Chapter 6 – A fortuitous mistake

Fifth Contact:

By now we had become totally enmeshed in the car culture of Newcastle, and what a rich culture it was. Every young bloke around our suburb had a car and not one of them was stock. Lowered FJ Holdens, with Jack Meyers exhaust systems were everywhere. Remember the “Rack off Normie” song? Well, Hunter Street on a Saturday night was just like it was portrayed in the song. And every Saturday morning, we’d catch the train to the city centre and spend the morning looking at all the exotica on display. Local DJ Jack Gates owned a Maserati 3500GT and it could usually be seen parked near the city centre along with an amazing variety of cars.

The local MG Car Club promoted a hillclimb event through King Edward Park, on the waterfront every year. It was a round of the Australian and NSW championship and we’d go in there every year and spend the Saturday enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of a motor racing meeting. Jack Sulman, Colin Bond (in the very early days of his career) and Wollongong car wrecker, Ron Thorp in his booming lightweight 289ci AC Cobra were just a few of the “names” on show, all competing in a whole host of classes for the coveted FTD (Fastest Time of the Day)

So, in 1965 we headed in to town, paid our money at the gate and were horrified to find once we were inside that it was a BIKE hillclimb, not a car one. We’d miscalculated the dates and the car meet was the weekend after! Not being one to waste money and somewhat fascinated anyway we stayed. He sights and sounds were certainly different and the smells, yes, the smells. Most of the bikes were British 4 strokes, Nortons, Triumphs, Vincents, etc and they all used castor oil as lubricant. If you’ve never smelt burnt castor from a British 4 stroke exhaust, you haven’t lived!

Also on competing were many of the new Yamaha YDS-3 250cc two stroke street bikes. That was a different sound again, and quite foreign to anything that we had been used to up till then.

But by far and away the most important aspect of that “mistake” was having the privilege (although I didn’t know it WAS at the time) of seeing the great Kel Carruthers set FTD on the “works” Honda 250cc 4 cylinder Grand Prix bike. The noise that THAT thing made should have been bottled and sold.

So, despite that revelation, my passion for car racing remained undiminished and would stay so for a number of years.

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