1957 Year In Review

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Holden FE Release
Holden's new Station Sedan would lift the number of models on offer from the General to 7.

1958 Ford Ranchero
The Ford "Ranchero" Ute, at last the US had caught on to what the Aussies already knew.

Holden's First Wagon

It was in early 1957 that Holden would release the first Station Wagon. Then referred to as a 'Station Sedan', like its sedan cousin the Station Sedan was available in two variants - "Standard" and "Special". These two new models would take the number of distinct models in the Holden range to seven. There was little doubting the new model would be a success, in less than 10 years of operation Holden had manufactured their one millionth car body at their Woodville plant, while 4500+ cars had been exported during the year.

While Australia lays claim to being the birthplace of the Ute, 1957 would see American's develop their own version, the new Ford Ranchero. The ute was to soon prove to be an ever popular model in the Ford line-up - its popularity ensuring it would enjoy a longevity spanning 23 years, from 1957 through 1979. Naturally during this time the vehicle underwent several significant revisions, with the last model bearing no resemblance to the first - however in all versions the car remained exceedingly popular, with some 508,000 vehicles manufactured.

Of course stateside the wonderful Ford Skyliner was enjoying immense popularity, this no doubt helped along by the keen interest taken in the new hard-top convertible by then celebrity couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. We very much doubt either seriously considered the idea of owning or driving a Ford, but when it came to making some money for a 1 minute "infomercial" these two were right at home. And after all, the Skyliner really was an engineering masterpiece, and they have become very collectable and highly prized. Click here to watch Lucy and Desi learn how the folding hard top system worked.

Australian Records Topple

Almost every Australian national speed record for cars and motor-cycles fell on September 28-29, 1957 in the first mass attack ever organised in Australia, Sponsored by B.P. The attempts were held near Coonabarabran, in northern N.S.W. The hand-picked team of drivers and riders set new marks in 12 of the 13 classes represented - and the remaining record (Class F cars) would undoubtedly have fallen also if it hadn't been for Jimmy Johnson's tragic crash a few hours before the attempts. The attacks were on the flying kilometre; in accordance with F.I.A. regulations, two consecutive runs in opposite directions had to be made within an hour, and timed accurately to the nearest 1/100th of a second.

John Crouch and George Hutchings were the C.A.M.S. observers. B.P. had chosen cars and drivers to attack records in classes C to I, plus the big saloon-car class, and had also lined up several motor-cycle riders to try out in five classes. The runs were held on a four-mile section of road linking Coonabarabran with Coonamble, via Baradine. The sealed aggregate surface was good and allowed high speeds - but it was only 18 feet wide and had a pronounced crown. Run-off on the sides was limited by lines of white posts, and in addition the road was flanked by trees on the eastern side, while to the west was a railway line and a string of telegraph poles. Additional hazards were small dirt tracks leading off the main road over the railway to give access to properties, and dust blown over from a dirt road on the other side of the railway by the prevailing westerly wind.

There was also a bend at each end of the four-mile strip, which limited both run-in and run-out. The usual was is to hold speed attempts at dawn, when the weather was at its calmest. On this occasion, however, the runs were made in the middle of the day (presumably to attract spectators). The winds were blustery at that time, so that no motor-cycle attempts were made until the Sunday. In Class C, for cars with 3001-5000 c.c. engines, Victorian Ted Gray was given the best chance of setting fastest time. The Lou Abrahams Tornado was sporting the tew 4.3-litre Chevrolet Corvette engine using fuel injection and developing around 280 b.h.p. Final drive ratio was 3.1 to 1, with 19in. wheels and 5.25 inch tyres.

Gray was hoping for speeds around 160 m.p.h. As it happened, magneto trouble cut in around 5300 r.p.m., forcing him to raise his ratio to 2.8 to 1 and lower his-revs. This he successfully did on the Sunday, clocking 157.53 m.p.h. to take the outright record from Davison, whose Class D Ferrari was fastest on the Saturday. The other C Class car present was New Zealander John McMillan's 3.5 Maserati. McMillan was wisely content to feel his way after his monumental prang a few weeks earlier at Mt. Druitt, which necessitated a fairly comprehensive rebuild. The car's appearance had been improved with a more shapely nose, but it was still minus its tailpiece. John finished up with a mean of 152.9 m.p.h.

Stillwell's car had just been landed from Italy, and he couldn't get it there in time. Davison had the faithful 3-litre Ferrari pulling a 3.27 to 1 rear end, which gave a theoretical maximum of 160 m.p.h. at 6000 r.p.m. He was using half-worn tyres, following the practice adopted by Dunlop of using very little depth of rubber in making high-speed tyres. Davison did all he could to lengthen his run-in, as he was 200 revs down on entering the traps, and finished his run only a shade over 6000 r.p.m. But the road didn't allow for much longer run-in, having sharpish corners at either end. He finished with an average of 155.99 m.p.h., and so broke my seven-months-old Class D record of 143 comfortably.

Breaking Mary Seed's Record

The E Class (1501-2000 c.c.) record, held by Mary Seed at 113 m.p.h., was Len Lukey's target in his immaculate Cooper-Bristol. Len and his boys fitted an ant-eater-like snout to the green car, improving both appearance and speed, and also enclosed the sides of the cockpit. Although plagued by overheating, Lukey averaged 147.46 m.p.h., and this was voted the best run of the meeting. Lukey again stole the limelight when his incredible Customline, undertrayed and masked, notched an opening run of 130 m.p.h. on the Saturday, aided by a tailwind. The antiquated timing-gear, which B.P. had borrowed from Victoria, hadn't turned temperamental, Len might have got an even higher mean than his final 123.38 m.p.h. The Ford was using normal transmission and ratios, but pulling 700 by 16in. tyres, and using 6000 r.p.m. instead of the normal 4500.

The existing. F Class record of 103.5 m.p.h. would have been well broken by the late Jim Johnson and his MG Special, as Jim was confident of reaching about 120 m.p.h. His tragic death. in a road accident on the Saturday morning was keenly felt by his many friends and visiting drivers, all of whom admired his eagerness and skill. Derek Jolly came from South Australia with his Climax-engined Decca Special to take the Class G (751-1100 c.c.) record at 116.75 m.p.h. The little Decca was the only sports car present, and was modified only to the extent of a head fairing. Class H (501-750 c.c.) went to Jim Madsen's s/c Cooper-BMW with 109.97 m.p.h. and Class I (351-500) to the Roy Blake/Steve de Bord Cooper 500, which screamed through the traps at 102.47 m.p.h.

Motor-cyclists Jack Forrest, Jack Ahearn, Frank Sinclair and Bernie Mack split. up the bike records between them. Australian overseas rep Ahearn took the 251-350 c.c. class with his Norton at 125.68 m.p.h. and the 175-250 c.c. class with the NSU at 121.25. He was also second outright with 144.59 to . Jack -Forrest's 500 c.c. BMW (149.06 m.p.h.). Sinclair took the big side-car class (750-1200 c.c.) with his HRD at 124.25 m.p.h., while Mack's Norton made easy work of the 351-500 c.c. side-car class with 122.22 m.p.h.

End of the Mille Miglia

In Europe, 1957 would see the end to the prestigous Italian rally the Mille Miglia, after Alfonso de Portago, his co-driver and eleven spectators were killed in the village of Guidizzolo. Speculation as to the cause of the crash abounded for many years, the most common theory being that one of the tyres on de Portago's car blew out. While on the subject of road safety, in Australia 1957 heralded a new era of road safety consciousness, with both governments, motoring authorities and the automotive industry in general trying to raise public awareness of the abysmal toll in loss of life occurring on the Australian roads. The road toll in Victoria alone was upwards of 650 people, with over 13,000 sustaining injuries from the result of a motoring accident.

A special committee of the British Medical Associations Victorian branch stated “the predominant causes of death in Australia are cardio-vascular-renal diseases, cancer and road accidents”. But unlike heart disease and cancer, the road toll nearly always selected the young, and with road accident victims using up more than 100,000 beds in Victorian hospitals each year, there was undoubtedly cause for concern. But from our research (and admittedly this is not as intensive as that by the British Medical Association), it seems women’s legs were a major factor in automobile accidents in 1957. How so you ask? Well the 1957 NRMA publication "Driving is an Art" so wonderfully illustrated how men were prone to distraction at the sight of a good pair of legs.

By contrast - women were more concerned with which hat they should next purchase. The NRMA released the publication “Driving is an Art”, an informative booklet designed to help make drivers of the era more informed, and safer. And, in case you wondered just what the consequences were of being distracted by a good set of “pins”, check out this 1957 Road Safety Commercial – proof that stockings and driving would not mix for at least another 20 years, when Holden would release the wonderful Sandman – and distraction would be encountered inside the car – not out.

1957 Road Safety Council Messages

Formula One Championship:

Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina) / Maserati

Melbourne Cup:

Straight Draw (N. McGrowdie)

Wimbledon Women:

Althea Gibson d. D. Hard (6-3 6-2)

Wimbledon Men:

Lew Hoad d. A. Cooper (6-2 6-1 6-2)

The Movies:

  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Twelve Angry Men
  • Sayonara
  • Peyton Place
  • Witness for the Prosecution

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Best Actor - Alec Guinness (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  • Best Actress - Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces Of Eve)


  • Humphrey Bogart (Screen legend)
  • Richard E. Byrd (Antarctic explorer)
  • Joseph McCarthy (Senator and leader of the anti-Communist crusade)
  • Arturo Toscanini (World famous conductor)
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