1959 Year In Review

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Mini Minor
So clever, it became an overnight success and instant classic.

Austin Healey 3000
The Austin Healey 3000 features a stunningly beautiful design.

Unsafe At Any Speed
It was Ford's Mustang, not Ralph Naders book 'Unsafe at Any Speed', that brought about the demise of the Corvair.

Lukey takes the lead from Jones during the Australian GP
Lukey takes the lead from Jones during the Australian GP for a short time, but after a terrific battle with the Cooper, Jones won by a bare 2.2 seconds.

Stan Jones crosses the finish line in the 1959 Australian GP
Stan Jones crosses the finish line in the 1959 Australian GP.

Stan Jones after winning the 1959 Australian GP
Stan Jones after winning the 1959 Australian GP.

The Issigonis Mini

1959 would herald the release of arguably Britains most influential car, Sir Alec Issigonis's revolutionary 'Mini'. Issigonis' first success story had been the Morris Minor, but few would argue that it is the Mini for which he is better known. The car would revolutionize the definition of a small car, while saving the bacon for BMC who were fast losing market share both at home and abroad.

Issigonis' design brief was to build a car smaller than any rivals, a car offering unparalled fuel efficiency while minimising any compromise to interior space. Using a transverse engine with incorporated sump and transmission, the Mini had small wheels and rubber suspension (to compensate the roughness of small tyres), and by pushing the wheels to each corner, cabin room was maximised without enlarging the body shell.

The Austin Healey Sprite may have been what most sports car fans could afford, but it was the Austin Healey 3000 that most wanted. The 1959 3000 made marked progress from earlier models, not just by way of better performance courtesy of the newly designed engine, but now had stopping power to match via a new disc brake setup. Targeted at the US market, it would be their tough safety legislation that would bring about the downfall of the 3000. Nevertheless, the car remains as sought after today as it was in 1959, and with such styling was always going to be an instant classic.

The Chevy Corvair

1959 was to be the year headaches would begin for US car giant GM. Ralph Nader would publish his controversial book "Unsafe at any Speed", his writing of the book in response to safety concerns arising from the release of the Chevy Corvair. With its rear mounted air-cooled flat six engine, the Corvair was a radical departure to tried and tested American automobile design, and many believed it as an attempt by GM to give their mid sizer a more European flavour. Despite Nader and his book getting wide publicity, ironically it was Ford's Mustang that heralded the demise of the Corvair.

Back home, Holden's brilliant success had not escaped the attention of its competitors, which were mostly importing or locally assembling European cars. Ford Australia were known to be preparing for the fullscale manufacture of the US Falcon, while Chrysler Australia were also looking to the USA for a medium-priced family car. Many commentators knew the 1960's would prove an interesting period for the Australian automotive industry. In mid 1959 several major US Rental Car Companies turned to an unlikely motor vehicle in an effort to save costs, the Vauxhall Victor entering service in Los Angeles, Tucson, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and Long Beach, California.

The Australian Grand Prix

In 1959 Stan Jones finally did it. After nine years of steady trying he won his first Australian Grand Prix following a terrific battle with Len Lukey around Tasmania's Longford circuit. Just one day before his 36th birthday, Jones and his Maserati 250F were both on top form and although Lukey's newly acquired Cooper-Climax was faster in the straights, the man in the Masser was master of the corners. With a final brilliant spurt of speed, Jones managed to head Lukey by 2.2 seconds as they streaked across the line - and that after 113 miles of racing.

The Maserati's superior acceleration and cornering enabled Jones to enter and leave the bends faster than his rival. The cars kept such close company on the bends that on one occasion there was some shunting. While the two leaders fought on, Arnold Glass, giving his newly acquired, ex-Stillwell Maserati its first outing, kept close on the tail of Alec Mildren's 2-litre Cooper Climax. The remainder of the field were going around the circuit in a procession. Lap number one was not without its sensations, for it saw the elimination of Doug Whiteford's 300S Maserati sports car - most serious threat to Jones.

It happened like this: The flag dropped and Jones shot off into the lead, followed by Lukey and Whiteford. Before the railway crossing, Doug swung the Maserati around Lukey in his pursuit of Jones. He was going very fast at the railway crossing and became fully airborne when he hit it. Hideous noises came from the rear axle when he landed and a lot of oil spilled out, right under Lukey's wheels. The Masser abruptly halted with broken mechanical bits trailing from underneath. Lukey meanwhile had his hands more than full trying to keep his oil-coated wheels pointing in the direction of the race.

Glass contented himself by sitting behind in third place to wait for an opening suitable for a fast New South Welshman and just to stop himself from getting bored, turned in the fastest lap and a new track record with a sizzling 2 min. 47 sec. Previously the lap record stood at 2 min. 51 sec., and besides Glass both Jones and Lukey knocked it about, too. Jones turned in a 2 min. 48 sec. and Lukey did a tour in 2 min. 49 sec. Jones had the race lead for only two laps when Lukey stormed past to the front for the next six circuits.

On lap nine, Jones was in front again, having taken Lukey, after the Maserati and Cooper "kissed" on the 90 degree corner around the Prince of Wales Hotel. Lukey went to the front for the next eight laps. On lap 16 Glass made his bid for the lead and moved up to within a couple of lengths of Jones, screach-ing through the timed eighth of a mile at 157 m.p.h. in the process. However, the challenge came to nothing after Glass discovered that his car had locking brakes and he had to take to the escape road on Mountford Corner.

When he found the track again, Mildren's ailing Cooper still had not come past, so Glass held his third spot. Jones worked his way back to the front again, made a big effort and worked up a small lead over Lukey, which enabled the Maserati to get across the line a mere 2.2 seconds in front. Glass was about two and a half minutes behind the leaders and Mildren some 39 seconds behind Glass. Only 14 cars started in the race and two of these didn't finish the first lap. There was Whiteford and the M.G. special driven by John Lanyon, which had a comprehensive blow-up.

Bad luck hampered Ted Gray and the Tornado once again. Following trouble during the qualifying heats, he was invited to start in the G.P. itself, but ran a bearing after a few laps. While the Australian Grand Prix may not have much local interest for Tasmanians, the sedan production car race did, as it was a Taswegian that got the better of David McKay's 3.4-Jaguar. Midlands grazier John Youl, previously noted for activities in a bright red Porsche, borrowed his father's 3.4, locked the differential, fitted power brakes and set out to do some racing. For practically all of the six laps, Youl sat in behind McKay's car. Then, on the last corner of the last lap, Youl braked later and harder, and went through to win. He recorded a speed of 119.5 m.p.h. through the timed section, compared with McKay's 118.

Gavin Youl, brother of the victorious John, made a very good showing in an M.G. Twin Cam-powered Lancer and easily won the 1,001 to 1,600 c.c. class. He was only two minutes behind the Jaguars at the finish.

Results Australain Grand Prix (113 miles, 25 laps)

1. S. Jones (250F Maserati), 71 min. 43.8 sec.; 2. L. Lukey (Cooper-Climax), 71 min. 46 sec.; 3. A. Glass (250F Maserati), 73 min. 21 sec.; 4. A. Mildren (Cooper-Climax), 73 min. 50 sec.; 5. A. Jack (Cooper-Climax), 21 laps; 6. L. Archer (Cooper-Climax), 20 laps. Fastest lap: A. Glass, 2 min. 47 sec. (97.02 m.p.h.).

Production Cars Scratch Race (27 miles)

Over 1,600 c.c.: 1. J. C. Youl (3.4 Jaguar), 20 min. 48 sec.; 2. D. McKay (3.4 Jaguar), 20 min. 57 sec.; 3. A. Ling Tas. (Holden), 23 min. 22 sec. 1,001 to 1,600 c.c.: G. B. Youl (Austin Lancer), 22 min. 53 sec.; L. Gangell, Tas. (Austin Lancer), 24 min. 38 sec. Under 1,000 c.c.: R. M. Crawford, Tas. (Morris Minor).

Formula One Championship:

Jack Brabham (Australia) / Cooper-Climax

NRL Grand Final:

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Melbourne Cup:

Macdougal (P. Glennon)

Wimbledon Women:

Maria Bueno d. D. Hard (6-4 6-3)

Wimbledon Men:

Alex Olmedo d. R. Laver (6-4 6-3 6-4)

The Movies:

  • Some Like It Hot
  • North by Northwest
  • Ben-Hur
  • Anatomy of a Murder
  • Room at the Top

Gold Logie:

No Gold Awarded. Graham Kennedy wins "TV Week Awards' Star Of The Year"

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - Ben-Hur
  • Best Actor - Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur)
  • Best Actress - Simone Signoret (Room At The Top)

The Charts:

  1. A Fool Such As I - Elvis Presley
  2. Bye, Bye Baby - Col Joye & The Joy Boys
  3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Platters
  4. Joey's Song - Bill Haley & His Comets
  5. Personality - Lloyd Price
  6. Bimbombey - Jimmie Rodgers
  7. I'll Never Fall In Love Again - Johnnie Ray
  8. Boom Boom Baby - Crash Craddock
  9. The Battle of New Orleans - Johnny Horton
  10. Oh Yeah, Uh Huh - Col Joye & The Joy Boys


  • Ritchie Valens (Short Lived Rock 'N Roll Legend)
  • Lou Costello (Radio & Film comedian)
  • Cecil B. De Mille (Hollywood Director)
  • Mel Ott (American Baseballer)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright (American Architect)
1959 Australian GP
From the drop of the flag Jones shot into the lead of the Australian GP, hotly chased by Lukey, Stilwell and Whiteford. The latter went out on the first lap after coming to grief with a railway crossing.
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