Ampol 1957 Around Australia Trial

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Ampol 1957 Around Australia Trial

Class Winners:

  • Up to 1000cc:
    • Car 71: Anderson & Kingham (NSW), Morris Minor (521 points)
    • Car 9: G. Ross (Vic), Fiat 600 (676 points)
    • Car 20: S. Hughes (Vic), Standard 10 (719 points)
  • 1001cc to 2000cc:
    • Car 26: J. Witter (NSW), Volkswagen (3 points)
    • Car 27: Reynolds & Perkins (Vic), Volkswagen (5 points)
    • Car 19: Sheedy & Roberts (NSW), Volkswagen (76 points)
  • 2001 - 3000cc:
    • Car 77: J. Garard (NSW), Holden (21 points)
    • Car 70: R. Scarlett (Vic), Vanguard (48 points)
    • Car 5: D. West (NSW), Holden (74 points)
  • 3001cc and over:
    • Car 58: Mrs. B. Brown (NSW), Rolls Royce (61 points)
    • Car 17: D. & B. Parker (NSW), Customline (266 points)
    • Car 266: M. Arentz (NSW), Customline (612 points)

Prizemoney: £100 pounds was awarded to the best performance from each State, and was awarded to cars 26, 27, 60, 34, 61, 82

Award for a team of three cars, nominated before the start: Holden team, for cars 5, 12 and 66

Most successful husband and wife crew: Car 17: D. & B. Parker

Please Note: You can sort this listing by simply clicking on the column heading
Volkswagen J. Witter (NSW)
Volkswagen Reynolds & Perkins (Vic)
Holden J. Garard (NSW)
Standard Vanguard R. Scarlett (Vic)
Rolls Royce Mrs. B. Brown (NSW)

Bucketloads Of Money, But Travelling In Your Underpants:

With all the recriminations following the "outlawed" 1956 Ampol Trial, CAMS decided that in the interests of motor sport, they would approach Ampol with a view to negotiating a CAMS permit for the 1957 event. Given the actions of CAMS previously, Ampol were understandably not terribly interested in any attempt to "broker a deal".

In March of 1957 the announcement was made...the Ampol trial would go ahead, but under the auspices of the CCMC, not CAMS. Naturally CAMS again labelled the Ampol event "illegal", and threatened to suspend the licences of any who took part. They even went one further, threatening almost everyone that took so much as a little interest in the event. A memo from CAMS Donald Thompson read "...the CAMS will be obliged to act against any persons subject to it who enter, assist, publicise or officiate at this unauthorised event".

Ampol had heard it all before. Starting out from Sydney on the 7th July, the 1957 Ampol Around Australia Trial would follow an eastern states route covering some 7000 miles (11,263 km), and encompassing the famed Birdsville Track, skirting Lake Eyre, Sturt's Stony Desert and the Simpson Desert. Best of all, the total prize money on offer for the event was a staggering £10,000. The competing Mobilgas trial of the same year went one further, putting on offer £15,800, an amount even larger than that offered as prize money for the Melbourne Cup.

The press however seemed to favour the Ampol event, no doubt bolstered by the popularity of Sydney grandmother Blanche Brown in her now 30 year old Rolls Royce (she had obviously developed a keen eye for classics way back then!). Unlike the Redex trials held years before, the competitors had quickly come to realise that weight was their greatest enemy.

The winning Volkswagen driven by J. Witter, along with navigator Stewart, had virtually every superfluous piece of trim removed, including the seat padding, sun visors and internal rear view mirror. They even went as far as carrying only the clothes on their back, changing at each stop-over where their clothes were air-mailed to them, and they would air-mail their dirty clothes back home. The navigators seat was moved backwards, thereby removing 6.3 kilos from the front end, and the pair even went as far as sawing the handles off their tooth-brushes to save weight.

There were 79 competitors that left Bondi Beach, heading to the snow capped hills between Lithgow and Bathurst. Three cars rolled over on this treacherous stretch, and 52 entrants lost points for lateness. At Wagga, Jack “Gelignite” Murray was running ahead of schedule and decided to have his Fiat 1100 greased and checked.

As the hoist lowered, he realized there were only 5 minutes to cover the remaining 3 miles to the next control point. While blazing through the Wagga streets, a motorcycle cop pulled alongside. Legend has it that the following conversation ensued…”Who do you think you are?”. Murray yelled back “Jack Murray, East Sydney Police Boys Club”. But despite the now police “escort”, he arrived a little over-time and dropped two points.

Continuing through the Alps, the field wound their way to Albury, then on to Bendigo, Wallan and then into Melbourne. By the time the field had reached Warrnambool only seven competitors had not lost points, although given they had to wind their way along the Great Ocean Road this was still quite some feat. The ever amazing Blanche Brown (with son Vince at the wheel) only lost 10 points on this stage.

Then on to Adelaide, Port Augusta, and the 240 mile (386 km) section to Marree and the start of the Birdsville Track. By the time they reached this checkpoint there was only one competitor that still maintained a clean sheet. John Garard was a lively character, the larger than life Liverpool taxi driver weighing in at 17 stone (108 kg). In a brilliant display of driving, Garard drove his blue and white Holden into first place, usurping the lead team of Witter and Stewart who had accumulated 3 points, with Duck Anderson in third place with four points.

But the going would again get tough, and a lack of petrol along the Birdsville Track would prove costly for some. Witter and Stewart were the first team to run out, but in a fantastic display of sportsmanship the Perkins and Reynolds team (who were then in foruth place with five points) stopped to syphon out 2 gallons (9 litres) for them.

Blanche Brown's Roller also ran out of petrol, probably not so suprisingly given its 10 mpg thirst. With only 50 miles to get to Birdsville, one competitor gave them a gallon so that they could continue. As luck would have it, they then chanced upon an abandoned utility truck with a full 44 gallon petrol drum in the back!

Jack "Gelignite" Murray's race would come to an end when his Fiat broke an axle on the way out of Birdsville. He remained stranded in Birdsville for a week. Wilf Murrell, winner of the 1956 Ampol Trial, was unable to hold the pace, and Ron Green managed to hole the alloy sump of his Peugeot in, of all places, the main street of Birdsville, after being blinded by the sun and running over a boulder on the side of the road.

But it turned into a nice little earner for local mailman Max Bowden, who offered to tow hapless ccompetitors cars for £2 from the Sandy Creek crossing. His first customer was Eric Sykes in a Goliath, but there would be another 25 cars that would require his assistance.

The competitors that made it to Mount Isa took the opportunity to repair what they could of their battered cars. John Garard's Holden was still leading the event, although he would wait until Cairns to effect the repair on the cracked front cross-member. Many believed Garard would be able to maintain his lead, and for the very first time an Australian car would take out top spot. But at Mackay somehow 9 gallons of water were added to the fuel tank. Garard was quick enough to spot the problem, however the petrol tank had received so much damage that it was impossible for him to empty the contents completely, and some water remained.

The Holden would splutter along the next stage, able to only reach a top speed of 45 mph (71 km/h). He pulled in to Marlborough 10 minutes late, and slipped to third position. Witter and Stewart again took the lead, but rumours of probable saboutage were rife. On top of the "water in the tank" incident, fellow competitor Bob Scarlett (who was running in 4th position in his Vanguard) had to replace his engine bearings at Townsville after someone had rammed sandpaper down the breather tube, thus ruining the bottom end of the engine.

The rest of the event was somewhat uneventful. Blanche Brown's Rolls Royce continued to challenge the leaders, particularly after the leading 3 cars took an unexpected detour at Coonabarabran after a signpost pointed the wrong way. Witter and Stewart would take out the event with only 3 points accumulated, then came Perkins and Reynolds with five points, and the Garard Holden on 21 points. Scarlett was 4th with 48 points, and then, much to everyones amazement, was the Rolls Royce of Blanche Brown.

The achievement was astonishing, here was a Sydney grandmother that had taken her 30 year old 3 tonne Rolls Royce on two Ampol Around Australia events not only winning her class, but almost taking out the event. Admittedly her son Vince had done a great deal of the driving, but this was still a huge achievement. Better still, Blanche Brown had only paid £450 for the car, and won £1360 in prizemoney. And in all the events in which the Rolls Royce ran, the only damage sustained was a cracked windscreen.

The Also-Ran Event of '57 :

With the wonderful success of the 1957 Ampol Around Australia Trial, the Mobilgas event promised to be even bigger and better. There were some great drivers taking part, many with official manufacturer backing. The Volkswagen assault was spearheaded by Laurie Whitehead, Eddie Perkins, Bob Foreman and Greg Cusack.

But of greatest interest was the International teams that had arrived to take part, including a Japanese team driving a Toyopet, a New Caledonian team driving a Citroen Goddess, and a Czech entered Skoda, driven by Major Warwick. Like a politicians promise, the reality of the event was never reached the dizzy heights promised by the promoters. By now the public had grown a little tired of the continued Around Australia events being held in quick succession, and despite having 102 entries, only 86 cars turned up at the Melbourne starting line.

Things quickly got worse, the American team crashing out on the first day, and the Japanese Toyopet entry was simply uncompetitive. The Czech entered Skoda would crash near Katherine, with Major Warwick receiving serious injuries. Fifty two cars would make it to the finish line, not that too many cared. CAMS wisely decided not to persue disciplinary action against the drivers that took part in the Ampol event, and decided instead to work towards a system where the two events could better co-exist.

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