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Don Harkness
(1890 - 1972)   Select Image to Enlarge
Don Harkness in his Hispano-Suiza V-8 powered Minerva on Gerringong Beach, New South Wales, Australia right after a run through the measured mile there at an average speed of 107.14 MPH on October 17, 1925.  Harkness reached a top speed of 120 MPH during these land speed trials sanctioned by the RACA – From the book Half A Century of Speed - Australia
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Harkness and Whitey
large product photo
Norman "Wizard" Smith and Don Harkness on board S.S. Maunganui holding floral model of car "F.H. Stewart Enterprise", c1931 (Don Harkness Archive Collection)

Birth:1890 Leichhardt, New South Wales
Death:1972
Religious Influence:
Occupation:racing car driver and engineer

HARKNESS DONALD JAMES (1890-1972),
Donald James Harkness was well known as a racing car driver and engineer. He was born in Leichhardt, New South Wales, Australia and began his career as a teenager by repairing the Gnome engine fitted to W E Hart's plane. Just before WW1, Harkness joined J C Hillier, a motor engineer, in Sydney and by 1921 was a full partner. Harkness & Hillier was formed and for the next 40 years, the firm built a variety of stationary and marine engines, timber jinkers, gas producers and automotive components. The firm also made parts for the Australian Six and in 1924 took over that enterprise. Don Harkness also designed and built the four-cylinder Hornet aero engine which was claimed to be the first locally built unit to pass the Commonwealth Government Airworthy test, large scale production however never eventuated.

Don Harkness's major contribution to the motoring scene was as a driver-designer in racing, record breaking and other forms of motor sport. Driving a hotted-up 1924 Overland known as Whitey he became one of Australia's best known drivers, winning numerous events at the Penrith circuit and Maroubra Speedway during the 1920s. On 17 October 1925, on Seven Mile Beach, Gerringong, New South Wales, he drove over a measured mile at 107 mph (173 km/h) in a heavily modified Minerva chassis. Harkness designed and built two more record breaking cars that were driven by Norman 'Wizard' Smith, they were the Anzac and Fred H Stewart Enterprise. The Anzac established a new world ten mile record with a speed of 149.75 mph (242.6 km/h) and the Enterprise broke that same record at 164 mph (265.7 km/h). Harkness continued to drive competitively until 1935 when he was involved in a serious accident.

Biography

Donald James Harkness, pioneer in the Australian automotive and aeronautical industries, racing driver and record breaker, was born in Leichhardt, NSW in December 1898. On leaving school he became an apprentice in general engineering. At the age of 20 he secured employment at J.C. Hillier's garage at Drummoyne and in 1922 the partnership of Harkness & Hillier Pty Ltd was formed.

Harkness developed an interest in motor racing and in 1924 he imported an Overland chassis which he modified extensively. In this car (christened "Whitey") Harkness won about 50 events at the Penrith and Maroubra tracks and at Gerringong's Seven Mile Beach during 1925.

An offer of a £50 trophy by the Daily Guardian for the first person in Australia to break 100 m.p.h. for a measured mile, prompted Harkness to build a new car using a Minerva chassis and a Hispano Suiza aero engine. He won the trophy attaining 108 m.p.h. at Gerringong on 17 October 1925.

Harkness was approached by racing driver Norman Leslie 'Wizard' Smith (1890-1958) and former Lord Mayor of Sydney Jack Mostyn to build a car for Smith's attempts to break the Australasian one mile and the world ten mile records. The result was the "Anzac" with a Rolls Royce aero engine and a Cadillac chassis. Following the creation of an Australian record of 128.571 miles (206.909 kilometres) per hour at Gerringong, the team took the "Anzac" to Ninety Mile (Kaitaia) Beach, New Zealand, where it achieved an unofficial record 148 miles (238 kilometres) per hour.

Harkness undertook to design and build a car at cost to break the one mile record. A syndicate was formed - Smith, Mostyn, Jim James and Harkness. The car was named the "F.H. Stewart Enterprise" after its sponsor Sir Frederick Stewart. It had a borrowed Napier engine from a Schneider seaplane. On January 26 1932, the car achieved 164.084 miles (264.06 kilometres) per hour breaking the world record for 10 miles. Smith then decided to radically alter the car's cooling system and Harkness left New Zealand in disgust. The 1 mile for which it was built was not attempted.

Harkness participated in hill climbs and joined other early motoring pioneers in trips round Australia from east to west and from Sydney to Darwin in the 1920s and 30s. Harkness abandoned racing after a narrow escape in 1935 when he was almost enveloped in flames.

Harkness had an early interest in aviation. Harkness & Hillier serviced aero-engines such as the Anzani, Gnome, Le Rhône, Clerget, Renault, and Hispano-Suiza and became the distributor of Avro Avian and Percival Gull planes. In 1928 Harkness designed and fitted an aero engine for a hydroglider to be used on the Fly River, Papua New Guinea. In 1929 he designed and built the Hornet No.101 aero engine, a four cylinder-in-line water-cooled unit developing 115 horse power at 2000 revolution per minute. The engine was installed in a "Genairco" plane designed by George Boehm, built by General Aircraft Company, tested by Captain Bill Leggatt and released on 21 November 1930. It was the first Australian built engine to pass the Commonwealth Government's airworthiness type test.

Harkness & Hillier Pty Ltd, aeronautical and automotive engineers, moved from Bridge (later Victoria) Road, Drummoyne to Parramatta Road, Five Dock in 1924. In the early years , the firm specialised in the rebuilding of engines; regrinding old cylinders; and the replacement of pistons, rings, etc. They made crankshafts, cylinder blocks, cylinder heads, gear box cases, pistons, axle shafts and other smaller parts. In 1924 the firm took over the manufacture of the Australia Six car. The firm also built stationary and marine engines, timber jinkers, and gas producers.

D.J. Harkness was made an Honorary Associate of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in 1968 for services rendered to the Museum's Department of Transport and Engineering. He donated many motoring and aviation objects, provided the Museum with many valuable contacts in the fields of motoring and aviation and assisted in the restoration of the Museum's Australia Six car and Bleriot monoplane.

Mr. Harkness died on 11 November 1972.

Don Harkness Collection

Archive, motor racing/aeronautics, Donald James Harkness, Sydney, New South Wales, c 1916-1971
Personal papers of D.J.Harkness consisting of photographs, scrapbooks, newscuttings, letters received, subject files and biographical notes. The material concerns motor racing and the design of aero engines, in particular Harkness's collaboration with racing driver Norman 'Wizard' Smith, 1930-32 and the construction of the Harkness Hornet aero engine, 1930.
The Harkness papers were acquired by the Museum in the 1960s as part of the Curator of Transport, Norm Harwood's campaign to develop a Transport and Engineering "Archive".
The Harkness papers were mixed with Harwood's research notes about Harkness. These have now been separated, Harkness's papers being acquired as 94/268/1 and Harwood's research notes being placed in the transport curatorial research files. An exception was made for the copy prints of photographs which Harwood had made. These have been left with Harkness's papers in the Photographs series (94/268/1-1) because of their value in providing a complete visual record of Harkness's career. (The Museum-provenance copy prints are identified by the description 'Copy print, 1970s'.)
As well as his papers, Harkness donated much printed material relating to motoring and aviation. This material has been placed in the transport curatorial research files. A list of it appears on the Blue File.
Read more: http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=141199&search=Smith%2C+Norman+Leslie+%27Wizard%27&images=&c=&s=1#ixzz17NLloX00
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial

 

 

 

 
 
 

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