1950 Smith Ford V8 Special
The early history of Australian motor sport is filled with one-offs and specials, some famous and successful, others long-forgotten. Using whatever running gear and parts were at hand, often sourced from wrecker’s yards, these talented individuals built their home-made specials on limited budgets, competing against the more exotic (and expensive) machinery from England, Europe or the United States. Many famous names in our motor racing heritage started out building and racing their own specials, including legends like Jack Brabham with his famous RedeX Special. Hand-built by Perth coachbuilder Harry Smith for the 1951 Australian Grand Prix, this one-off creation uses period Ford running gear including a flathead Mercury V8, a ’46 Ford gearbox and a diff from an early Ford ute. A Ford beam front axle was split to create fully independent front suspension using coil springs, features rarely seen on race cars of the period. The 1951 Grand Prix was held on a temporary street circuit in the wheatbelt town of Narrogin over 24 laps (a distance of 170 kilometres) and the handicap event saw Warwick Pratley victorious in his George Reed Special, followed by Dick Bland’s Delahaye 135 and Steve Tillett’s modified MG TC, while Smith retired on lap 14 due to overheating. Costing around 2,000 pounds to build, the car placed its builder under considerable financial strain and Smith tragically committed suicide six months after the race, the car ultimately sold by his brother and widow to help pay off some of his debts before dropping out of sight.