Chook-Shed Magic - Blackbourn 392

By: Rob Blackbourn

Presented by

peter brock 2 logo peter brock 2 logo

Peter Perfect's early success as a talented Aussie battler with a can-do attitude pressed Rob's buttons big time

From Unique Cars #392, Sept 2016

Combining the iconic Austin and Morris brands under the new British Motor Corporation umbrella in the early 1950s was more or less successful. For a while, anyway. Among the interesting outcomes was that the trusty little BMC A-series motor would ultimately power two very different small cars – the Morris Minor and the Austin A30.

What this brace of little Brits also had in common here during the 1950s and 60s was their highway-performance deficit compared with the usual six-cylinder cars. On twisty or hilly double-line sections of the old two-lane Hume Highway you could almost guarantee being held up by an A30 or a Morrie. The winding climb up the Razorback Range north of Picton was one of the worst. An A30 or a Minor would often lead a snail’s-pace procession of dozens of vehicles toward Camden.

Despite what they have in common, there’s a big difference between the two for me – it’s in my responses when examples cross my path, in either the real or online worlds.

Brock built: The Brock car-enhanced legend

A Morris Minor is all about Alec Issigonis. Way before his design brilliance delivered the all-conquering Minis, he created the Minor. It was no mean car – it provided the Nuffield factory with a valuable showroom performer for the post-WWII era. Thoroughly modern, featuring unitary construction, torsion-bar front suspension and rack and pinion steering, it went on to claim over 1.5-million sales during its lengthy model run that involved a number of updates. These days the Minor’s rounded organic shape endows it with a benign ‘cuteness’ factor (like the VW Beetle), giving it collectable appeal.

Peter -brock -1-logo

Now to the A30. I can’t even get to first base trying to do a potted profile of the A30 as I’ve just done for the Minor.

When I see an A30 it’s all about Peter Brock. And fitting a Holden red motor. Nothing else…

Having always been a total fan of inspired backyard engineers who challenge pukka-machinery on the track with their home-built specials, I was bowled over when Brock and his Holden-powered A30 came out to play. Hallelujah!

This upstart, in his ungainly ‘chook-shed’ hot rod wasn’t immediately clutched to the collective bosom of the motor racing establishment. The influential, old-money, string-back driving-gloves fraternity weren’t quite sure what to make of this fellow, and his unorthodox little car. One of the established competitors, Jon Leighton, is on record as saying that Brock’s A30 struck him at the time as an ugly device because it looked like it was ‘still on its trailer’ as it lined up on the grid. Fortunately it wasn’t long until Brock’s undeniable talent won him his deserved place at the heart of Australian motor sport.

His success with the primitive but effective A30 did more than lay the foundation for his stellar career by showcasing his skills to Harry Firth; along with others including a Ford V8-powered Hillman Imp, Brock’s Holden-six-powered Austin A30 pioneered what became the Sports Sedan era. People like Bryan Thomson, Tony Edmonson and Frank Gardner were soon shoe-horning race-spec V8s, and even odd Formula 5000 chassis sections into memorably inappropriate bodies including a Type III VW fastback, an Alfetta GTV and even a Chevy Corvair. The fast and furious racing produced by these wild and woolly machines added another appealing facet to Australian motor sport.

You wouldn’t read about it… But I did. Just now. On the web. It’s an A30. I couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s straight and affordable and under 150km away...

Footnote: The official response was that "an A30 project wouldn’t be a sensible use of funds earmarked for the long-overdue tidy-up of our hacienda." And Morley’s already busy with Project Duckshit and Ed-Guido’s shed’s full to bursting.

Game over.

 

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