Australian Specials heading for the sprints
MOTORSPORT: When the Historic Leyburn Sprints roar into action this weekend, it will celebrate not only the time the Darling Downs village hosted the Australian Grand Prix but also the ingenious home-built cars that helped revive Australian motor-racing after the Second World War.
The entry list of 28 cars at the 1949 grand prix included 19 described as "specials”, either roadgoing models lightened of superfluous bodywork or ground-up creations using combinations of secondhand parts.
Their expensive imported rivals included two Bugattis, the winning Delahaye, a Jaguar and several MGs.
Virtually all the Australian Specials were constructed by enthusiasts with either limited funds or skills, but made up in speed what they lacked in style.
Typical of the creativity of special builders is the Wolseley-powered 1954 single-seater nicknamed the Flying W.
Owner Eric Cossiche is bringing the car from South Australia for its Leyburn debut, but it will be a homecoming of sorts as it started life in Beaudesert, south of Brisbane.
The prominent W on the car's radiator grille was copied from an inverted Matchless motorcycle badge of the time.
The six-cylinder motor was retrieved from a wreck, the gearbox came from a Singer, chassis from a T-Model Ford and front suspension from a Lancia Lambda.
Teenagers Brian and Rob Fechner and their friend Len Henderson built the Wolseley Special and found it competitive against contemporary factory-built racers.
Other Australian Specials on track will include the 1935 Ford of Peter Trapnell, 1936 Ford of Barry Smith and the 1957, 1958 and 1963 Holdenpowered cars of John Devitt, Paul Budden and Jason Wingett.
The community-run Historic Leyburn Sprints, Queensland 2017 Motor Sport Event of the Year, will run this Saturday and Sunday, with competition from 8am each day.
Gates open at 6.30am and adult tickets are $20 a day or $30 for the weekend; accompanied children under 14 enter free.
Attractions include a Shannons Show n Shine car display (Sunday only), vintage caravan display and markets.
Lucky raffle winners will take a fast track ride in powerful McLaren or Lotus sports car, Audi quattro rally car, 800 horsepower Ford Falcon GT or an ex-Police drag racer.