A bit of 60s history

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Mark was saying how good the Holden radial tuned suspension was. Well of course most of us did not miss this fact. We were all fitting radials, & making them work.

In the racing scene most were into radials as soon as they became available. They were like mana from heaven. In the early to mid-60s racing tyres were made of gold. Not only were they expensive, But unless you had a big reputation, you just couldn’t get them. Dunlop the only supplier just did not have enough to go round.

Even in 65, when I was making podiums in my Lotus 20, I was buying Leo’s used tyres from him. It was that or nothing.

In 64 we all thought Pirelli’s were the answer to a maidens prayer, we did not realise that answer had a sting in the tail. The Morgan responded well to them, with big reductions in lap times, then the troubles started.

First wheels started cracking. We strengthened them, & they tore apart. We imported stronger wheels & thought we had cured it.

Then the left front wheel bearing failed at Warwick Farm. We replaced them all, & went to Oran Park. The right front wheel bearings did not survive practice.

Back home we fitted new bearings, & found the problem. The thing now had 7 degrees of positive camber on that side, down from one degree negative before practice. On checking the stub axle we found it was bent 8 degrees down, yes DOWN. The force acting inwards on the bottom of the tyre when cornering was enough to bend the stub axle down. Not what we had expected.

We grafted Falcon stub axles onto the Morgan slider, & went to Bathurst. Great we had cured it, but some others still didn’t even know there was a problem. I was lucky. The extra stress I was submitting mine to bent them. Others with just a little less, slowly fatigued theirs to failure.

One mate was lucky his MG As distributer rotor button exploded early in the main sports car race. His right front stub axle broke & the wheel fell off while we were pushing it onto a trailer. Another had his right front stub break while backing his Morgan +4 off the trailer when he got home. The word went out, & a lot of cars retired from racing, others were upgraded to be strong enough.

We told Morgan & they had stronger axles on production cars in a very short time. & upgrade kits of the new gear available for existing cars very quickly.

This was par for the course in those days. Racing production cars, we were continually finding the limit of stock components. The good manufacturers used our experience to upgrade their cars, & everyone benefited.

Looking back now I am amazed at how little we all knew, & what a steep learning curve we were all on. Now, with 50+ years of hindsight, I could do a brilliant job of preparing an early 60s car for racing.
5 months ago