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Eldred Norman
(19/01/1914 - 28/06/1971)  

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In the anecdote below I will try to paint a picture of an Australian character who was larger than life – Eldred Norman. I will focus on Eldred’s mechanical exploits, but also try to paint a picture of the times that he lived in. I will also give some of the history of the vehicles Eldred campaigned, both prior to and following his ownership.

The information noted below is based on material originally written by Jon Chittleborough in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, and an obituary written by the late John Blanden. It also draws material from a wide variety of online sources. Eldred was a frequent occupier of column space in many newspapers, and in particular Adelaide’s Advertiser. The National Library of Australia online files recording this era are outstanding resources – see the image of Eldred in his late 30’s perched in his Maserati to the right, taken from an (Adelaide) News article of September 1952 celebrating Eldred winning the Sporting Car Club of South Australia’s Morgan Trophy for top aggregate points in speed events. A special thanks also to Terry Walker for his excellent recording of Western Australian race history.

 

Eldred De Bracton Norman was born on the 9th of January 1914 in Adelaide South Australia, second of six children of Australian-born parents William Ashley Norman, solicitor, and his wife Alma Janet, daughter of Daniel Matthews. Thomas Magarey, an Irish-born miller and pastoralist and Member of the South Australian House of Assembly and the South Australian Legislative Council was Eldred’s great-grandfather. Eldred attended Scotch College Adelaide and briefly studied law at the University of Adelaide. In 1938 he set up an engineering workshop and motorcar-dealership in Adelaide. Rejected for military service in World War II because of asthma, Eldred began to make garden tools and to manufacture charcoal-burning gas producers to power vehicles. In May 1941 he married Nancy Fotheringham Cato, a 24-year-old journalist. Eldred and Nancy had three children in the space of three years – Michael, William and Bronley in 1943 (Mike, Bill and Bronnie).

In 1946 Eldred was purchasing ex-army vehicles left behind by the Americans and selling them in Adelaide at a profit. While visiting the Australian Territory of Papua-New Guinea (PNG did not become independent until 1975), he acquired a war-surplus Dodge weapons carrier chassis along with a host of Jeeps and Blitz trucks at an auction in Port Moresby. Eldred used the Dodge to construct a race car - the “Double V8”, or more commonly “Double V8”. The Double V8, shown to the right below with Eldred in the cockpit, was built from bodywork from aircraft and a tubular steel chassis. Power came from two Ford Mercury 239ci flathead V8 engines for a total capacity of 7,800cc. These engines were good for 100-110bhp each when run independently, giving Eldred some 200bhp in the Double V8. Engine cooling suffered, with a tendency to overheat on long races. The engines were coupled flywheel-to-crank snout with a four-row chain drive. This large machine had independent suspension and water-cooled drum brakes supplied by two SU fuel pumps. The drum brakes produced spectacular clouds of steam as he applied them, despite being undersized for the task. The rear brake drums were built inboard, operating on the back axle and additionally cooled by a fan worked by the tail shaft.

Being South Australian road-registered, Eldred was frequently seen driving the Double V8 around the Adelaide hills with trade number plates tied with string or a strap around his neck. Between 1948 and 1951 he drove the car successfully in hill-climbs and various race tracks in three States. The vehicle was also driven long distances to compete at tracks such as Fisherman's Bend, Victoria a 900-mile roundtrip journey sans mufflers.

 

 

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The clipping to the right, from the News of the 19th of April 1949, shows the Double V8 at the Barossa Festival (Nuriootpa circuit, South Australia). The clipping below is from the News of the 8th of October 1949. The meeting referred to at Woodside, South Australia was the scene of a tragic double fatality during motorcycle races. The car was also raced at Fisherman’s Bend later in October of that year.

 

 

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In addition to circuit racing, Eldred also raced the Double V8 at Sellick’s Beach, South Australia where racing was undertaken between mile posts. An annual speed trial and motorcycle races were held on three kilometres or more of sand along Aldinga and Sellick’s Beaches up to 1953. The Double V8 won both the unlimited scratch race and over 1500cc handicap race held at the beach by the Racing Drivers Association of South Australia in April 1950. This event drew more than 5,000 spectators. One incident with Harry Neale at the wheel of the Double V8 ended with the Double V8 deposited into the sea, ripping off the bodywork and leaving Harry sitting on the chassis, wet but unhurt – see clipping above right from the Broken Hill Barrier Miner of the 2nd of May 1950.
Eldred’s can-do, larrikin spirit was also evident in the way he once retrieved the telephone cables laid out for communication between officials at each end of the Sellick’s Beach strip by fitting a bare rim to the Double V8 rear axle and firing up the twin V8s to power what must have been Australia’s most powerful fishing reel.

The Double V8 was also campaigned in hill climb service, and was entered in the South Australian Hill Climb Championship at Glen Ewin, Houghton in March 1950. On the day Eldred’s was the fastest car.

 

 

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The Double V8 marked the start of Eldred’s entries into the Australian Grand Prix. The January 1950 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula Libre motor race held at the three-mile square layout clockwise street circuit in Nuriootpa, shown to the right. Formula Libre (or “Free Formula”) allows a wide variety of types, ages and makes of purpose-built racing cars to compete "head to head", with the only regulations often governing basics such as safety equipment. Eldred’s Double V8 retired from the Grand Prix after only two laps. Bear in mind however that only thirteen of the field of twentynine vehicles actually finished.

 

 

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Eldred entered the Double V8 in the Onkoparinga class handicap at the Woodside circuit in October 1950, coming second place by one minute despite having speeds of up to 120mph on the straight. The Double V8 was also entered (and took third place by 3.6 seconds slower than first place) in the Western Australian Hill Climb Championship at Mundaring in February.

 

 

 

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The 1951 Australian Grand Prix was again run as a Formula Libre event in March at Narrogin, Western Australia. The 4.4-mile anticlockwise Narrogin circuit is also shown to the right. Eldred entered the Double V8 into the race. While leading on the seventh of twentyfour laps the Double V8 again broke down (this time due to suspension failure), leading to Eldred retiring from the race. The Double V8 is shown at this meeting in the two images to the right, taken by Len Moore.  

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The Double V8 was sold by Eldred later in 1951 to Syd Anderson. Anderson was proprietor of the Sydney Anderson Automotives used-car dealership in William Street and once Western Australia’s largest hire fleet owner with some thirty cars. During both Anderson’s and subsequent ownerships the car was modified repeatedly. According to legend, Syd swiped a large mixing bowl from the kitchen, cutting it in half to make two air scoops for the Double V8. Anderson raced the Double V8 extensively, including the following West Australian meetings:

  • The Great Southern Flying 50 meeting at Narrogin in March of 1952, winning the scratch race for over 1500cc (Eldred’s Maserati, see below, picked up the under 1500cc win), and coming eighth in the meeting main race (Eldred came second).
  • The Northam Flying 50 meeting at Northam in April, winning the three-lap scratch race for over 1500cc. Anderson also competed in the five-lap handicap but did not land in the top three positions. He did however place fifth in meeting main race.
  • The Goomalling Speed Classic at Goomalling road circuit in June. Anderson placed fourth in the fifteen-lap handicap for Racing Cars, first in the three-lap scratch race for Racing Cars over 1500cc and first in the five-lap handicap race for Racing Cars. Anderson is shown driving the vehicle at the 2.4-mile anticlockwise circuit in the colour photograph above. The Goomalling circuit layout is shown below the photograph.
  • The Great Southern Fifty meeting at Narrogin in March of 1953, winning the three-lap scratch race for over 1500cc (Class A).
  • The Caversham Speed Classic in December of that year, winning the three-lap scratch race for racing cars over 1500cc, placing second in the five-lap handicap for racing cars and third in the twelve lap handicapped main event for racing cars.
Anderson also competed in speed trials in the Double V8. At Narrogin Airstrip in February 1954 he recorded the fasted time for the Standing Quarter for Racing vehicles at sixteen seconds, and also for the flying quarter at 8.9 seconds.

Anderson entered the Double V8 in the Johore Grand Prix in Malaya. I suspect this was 1953 as the race was not held in 1954 due to concerns raised by the Johore Welfare Committee, a part of the state government. Unfortunately, he had to retire from the race due to overheating. In one incident during his ownership of the car Anderson was badly scalded when the radiator plumbing in the cockpit let go.

The Double V8 was then sold by Anderson to James Harwood, a navy veteran, musician and motor enthusiast in Perth. Harwood tossed a penny with Anderson to decide the purchase price - either £50 or £100. Harwood won. The vehicle was then towed to a business in which Harwood was a partner - Performance Cars at 173 James Street where Bill Strickland (the renowned sports car and speedway speedcar/modified sedan driver) removed the two Ford V8 engines. The engines were later sold to a speedboat constructor. The Double V8 body was then placed outside James business as advertising, though was removed a few days later at the request of Perth City Council.

 

 

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The images to the right shows Toby Carboni in the Double V8. In the period of 1955-1957 Carboni raced the car extensively in Western Australia. I’m not sure if Toby is the same person who went on to found Carbon Brakes with Greg Nolan, or the extent of his association with the Double V8 (owner or just driver).  

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Carboni entered the Double V8 in the following events:

  • The Northam Flying 50 in August of 1955, placing sixth in the seven-lap racing car handicap (Anderson was racing an Austin Healey in that race and came fourth). Carboni also entered the three-lap scratch race for racing cars over 1500cc though did not finish.
  • The Western Australian State Championships in September. In the first heat of Race 1 of the Racing Car Championship, Carboni placed fifth (Anderson’s Austin Healey coming in third). Returning for the second heat of Race 3, Carboni retired after seven laps (Anderson winning this race).
  • The Caversham Benefit Cup in October, placing fourth in the three-lap racing car scratch race.
  • The Spastic Welfare Cup at Caversham in November. Carboni entered the six-lap handicapped Race 2 though retired after two laps. He returned for the twenty-lap handicapped Spastic Welfare Cup for Racing Cars but again retired after ten laps.
  • The six-hour Le Mans Production Car Meeting at Caversham in May of 1956, placing second in the three-lap racing car scratch race and second outright in the fifteen lap Triangle Cup scratch race for Racing Cars (though not in the top four handicapped places).
  • The Australian Grand Prix at Caversham in March of 1957. Carboni entered the class for Racing Cars but did not start.

 

   

Keith Windsor bought the Double V8 body (probably in 1957) and installed a V12 Lincoln Zephyr engine, shown to the right. Lincoln produced these engines from 1936-1948, ceasing production nearly a decade before Windsor’s repowering of the DoubleV8.
I’m not certain if Windsor used the 267ci, 292ci or 306ci engine (110-130bhp), though in any case was a marked reduction from Eldred’s 478ci (~200bhp) double V8 powerplant. The images to the right show Windsor and the Double V8 in V12 format. Windsor debuted the V12 Double V8 in the Christmas Cup at Caversham in late November 1958, competing in the five-lap racing car scratch race for over 1500cc, though did not place in the top three positions. Sadly, Windsor found the V12 vehicle was not manageable and subsequently scrapped it.

 

 

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The images below are of the Double V8, though I am not sure of the period. The colour image showsthe car chasing Sid Taylor (in a TS Special) and Syd Negus (in a Plymouth) off the straight at Caversham.  

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After the Double V8, Eldred then bought a 1936 Maserati Type 6CM, shown below right during part of it’s life in Europe. 6CM stood for 6-cylinder monoposto (monoposto is a fancy Italian way of saying single-seat). The vehicle was fitted with a twin overhead cam 1493cc engine (shown below), with the Roots supercharger driven directly off the crank and being fed by a Weber 55AS1 carburettor. Eldred’s vehicle (chassis 1542), one of only twenty-seven built, had some 175bhp on tap… a power to weight ratio four times greater than an EK Holden.

 

 

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The Maserati had originally been delivered to Franco Cortese in April 1937. It then went to Scuderia Torino and to Ecurie Auto-Sport for de Graffenried and Balsa after World War II. It was later sold in the United Kingdom to Sam Gilbey (1947) then to Colin Murray (1949). Murray raced the vehicle in the Formula 1 class, including:

  • The April 1950 Goodwood circuit race,
  • The June British Empire Trophy at the Isle of Man circuit. He vied against a thirteen car field, though retired after nineteen of the thirtysix laps due to an accident,
  • The August Silverstone race. He again retired, for reasons unknown, from the field of nineteen (which included Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss).
Murray brought the car to Australia in 1951, racing it in the March 1951 Australian Grand Prix. Like Eldred, Murray did not finish the race, completing nineteen of the twenty-four laps against a field of twenty-eight (remember that Eldred, in the Double V8, completed only seven laps during this race).

Murray later sold the Maserati to Eldred, who built from scratch a new engine block from steel blocks and welded sleeves with hard chromed liners, cast two new magnesium bronze cylinder heads with hardened steel inserts and revised valve geometry, adapted connecting rods from a Singer 1500 and reconditioned the rest of the engine. This delivered 200bhp at 6,000rpm from the newly engineered engine, four and a half times higher power to weight than our EK Holden.

 

   
Eldred circuit-raced the Maserati in the 10½ -mile race held at the Woodside closed-street circuit in October 1951. The course route is shown to the right. Eldred finished the Woodside Jubilee for High Powered Cars race in third position. After finishing Eldred stopped in the pits, raised his bonnet, and with a pair of pliers released two tins of pork and beans that had been wired to the exhaust manifold to cook. Eldred’s culinary skills were noted in Adelaide’s News The Odd Spot column. The vehicle was also raced at the Lobethal, South Australia circuit in December.  

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Similarly to the Double V8, the Maserati saw service in a variety of forms of motorsport. In December the Maserati was entered in the 460-yard Glen Ewen hillclimb at Houghton, South Australia recording the fastest time, breaking the previous hill climb circuit record and winning the meeting’s Unlimited class race. The vehicle was crashed in the March 1952 hillclimb at Collingrove, South Australia, stripping the gearbox in the process. This made for hard work in preparation for the Great Southern Flying 50 at Narrogin, Western Australia a week later. Eldred did however manage to get the Maserati back into working order and 1700 miles across to Western Australia. He achieved first place (and fastest lap at 2:27) in the under 1500cc scratch race, third place in the five-lap handicap race (posting both the fastest time and fastest lap at 2:20), and second place in the main handicapped Great Southern Flying 50 race event (again posting fastest time and fastest lap at 2:19). Remember from above that Anderson had also entered the Double V8 at this meeting – see the clippings to the right from the West Australian from the 14th and 22nd of March 1952.  

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The Maserati also got a work-out in March 1952 for the public opening of the Collingrove Hill Climb track (see clipping right from the Sunday Mail of March 1952 and track layout below). Eldred posted the fourth fastest time of the day (43.2 seconds), and won the category for Racing Cars over 1500cc and all supercharged.  

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The clipping to the right is from the News of the 21st of July 1952.  

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Whilst campaigning the Maserati, Eldred also drive other vehicles. In May of 1952 he won the South Australian Sporting Car Club's reliability night trial in a Holden. Only eleven of the twenty two starters finished, with Eldred losing 580 points over the ninety-mile course, returning at 1am. In a normal trial of this kind, the winner would have lost 30-40 points and got home by about 10.30pm  

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Eldred raced the Maserati in the April 1952 Australian Grand Prix. This was again a Formula Libre motor race, held at the 3.8-mile anticlockwise Mount Panorama Circuit near Bathurst, in New South Wales. The course is shown to the right below. Eldred did not finish the race, completing ten of the thirtyeight laps due to engine troubles (the Maserati’s supercharger relief valve had come unscrewed). Eldred’s race-mate, Frank Kleinig, had to retire his Kleinig-Hudson 8 Special after only four laps. Kleinig’s name will be familiar to early-Holden fans as the man responsible for quite an array of grey motor speed equipment. The blurry image to the right, from the Advertiser of April 8th 1952, shows the Maserati prior to the race.

 

   

The noisy supercharged Maserati was never very fast, and had an insatiable appetite for pistons, including melting one out at Sellick’s Beach in October of 1952. The photo to the right shows Eldred racing the Maserati on Sellick’s Beach (alongside T Hawke’s Allard) at this meeting, the first all-car beach program held in South Australia after the war. Bill Norman remembers being employed at age six to tightening the Maserati engine's many inaccessible nuts, one-sixth of a turn at a time.

 

 

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By 1953 the Maserati had been twin-supercharged to 285bhp, with the second supercharger sitting in the cockpit under the scuttle. The first supercharger remained crank driven, with the second supercharger duplex-chain driven off the first (that is one looong drive chain, running the length of the engine). The car was being tested at the Collingrove hill-climb on Easter Monday. The vehicle would not run under 40mph, was good for 0-120mph in ten seconds, would stay at 120mph at half throttle, got 80mph in first gear and slurped methanol at one mile to the gallon. The power to weight ratio was now six and a half times greater than an EK Holden. The vehicle returned to Port Wakefield, South Australia for the Anzac Day race of April 1953.

 

 

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The clipping to the right is from Adelaide’s Advertiser of the 6th of October 1953, again linking the Maserati to Collingrove hill climbing. Eldred also raced at Port Wakefield Tourist Trophy race that month, snapping the gear lever off the Maserati and finishing in third gear at 9,000rpm (the redline was 7,000rpm) despite suffering badly from hay fever.  

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Eldred then sold the Maserati in October of 1953 to Ted McKinnon (a Melbourne motor dealer), who raced it in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Victoria (again in Formula Libre trim). Ted finished 15th out of the thirtynine car field (Eldred did not enter the Australian Grand Prix in 1953). The vehicle then passed to Eddie Thomas in 1954, possibly for the Seaton brothers, who entered it for Ken Cox the same year. Cox later raced it with a Holden engine from 1957-1959, mainly on Victorian country tracks. The Maserati fell into disrepair, and was sold by Gavin Sandford-Morgan to Alf Blight in 1966. It was restored over many years until it raced at Mallala in 1982. Alf is shown at Amaroo Park in the 1980’s in the image to the right. The Maserati passed to the United States, then to Robin Lodge (United Kingdom) in 1987, René Mauriès (France, who held it from 1988-1997, having been sold to him though Christies Monaco sales for $197,000), until sold at auction to Bernie Ecclestone in 1997.

 

 

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Eldred’s racing interests were diverse, as can be seen in the cutting to the right from the Adelaide Advertiser of the 21st of October 1952, which shows Eldred winning the Production Car Handicap at Sellick’s Beach. The vehicle Eldred is driving is a production Singer SM 1500 Sports, with a 48bhp 1497cc engine. In November of the same year Eldred entered the Singer in the Collingrove hillclimb, recording a time of 51.5 seconds in front of the crowd of 4,000 people.

Eldred won the South Australian Sporting Car Car Club’s Kennedy Memorial Trophy that year for gaining the most points in all forms of competition.

 

 

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After not competing in the Australian Grand Prix in 1953, Eldred returned in 1954. In the interim he had purchased South Australia’s first Triumph TR2, registered SA 1435 for £1,189 – see clipping to the right from Adelaide’s News of the 22nd of February 1954. The original disc wheels were replaced with wire wheels, and an overdrive fitted (operated by a lever mounted beside the transmission tunnel). The vehicle had a completely standard white body and red interior, with a passenger tonneau, single aero screen and headlight tape... no roll bar or seatbelt. The Triumph utilized a Standard Vanguard engine, fitted with a 136ci/rev G.M. 2-71 supercharger, driven at 1.1:1 by four A-section belts and producing 12psi of boost. Eldred experimented with home-made fuel injection, eventually returning to a 2" SU carburettor. Engine internals were largely standard but the crankshaft was ground undersize, then built up with hard chrome. Tyres were Adelaide-made Hardie cross plies, similar to those used later on the Zephyr Special.

 

 

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Eldred drove the Triumph 1300 miles to Southport, Queensland, towing a trailer with two 44-gallon drums of methanol racing fuel. The 5.7-mile clockwise Southport circuit is shown to the right. Winning the Brightways Trophy and Cords Piston Ring Trophy support races on the morning of the Australian Grand Prix gained him entry into the main race, in which he came fourth. By the end of the race the supercharger drive belts had stretched so much that boost had dropped from 12 to 8psi. One of Eldred’s race-mates, (later Sir) Jack Brabham, had to retire his Cooper T26 after only one lap, whilst the 4.3L Maybach Special II of Stan Jones broke in half at two chassis welds, depositing Stan in the scrub at 100mph. The image below shows Eldred in the Triumph at the 1954 Australian Grand Prix.

 

 

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Eldred’s Triumph was driven from the track, and without any rebuild it then towed the trailer, trophies and £600 prizemoney 1300 miles back to Adelaide, rattling gently from cracked pistons.  

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Whilst the Triumph is famous for its Grand Prix performance, it also received a considerable workout in other events, as can be seen by Eldred’s (aquatic) racing in the clipping to the right from Adelaide’s Chronicle of the 24th of June 1954. The race shown is the mud-trial run by the Sputh Australian Sporting Car Club, in which Eldred took third place. The course included a creek crossing and hill at Brownhill Creek, a narrow hills track at Coromandel Valley, and the crossing of the Finniss River as shown to the right with a mud slope and sand course. Imagine doing that in a modern Grand Prix car, and afterwards racing in a Grand Prix. The Triumph was also entered in the Collingrove hillclimb of April. In September the Triumph was raced at Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria then at the Port Wakefield races a day later. Eldred was to come fourth in the Churchill Motors scratch event at the latter meeting. The image to the right, from Adelaide’s Advertiser of the 8th of October 1954 shows Eldred preparing the Triumph.

In one incident in the Adelaide hills, Eldred noted that the Triumph’s tyres had all deflated. The cause was finally found – high loading under speed had forced open all the tyre valve stems.

The Triumph was raced briefly by his Eldred’s good friend Andy Brown then disappeared.

 

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For the 1955 Grand Prix Eldred assembled a new car in ten weeks. The 2262cc supercharged Zephyr Special was unique in using the engine as a stressed chassis-member. The Zephyr engine was canted 45º to the right with a modified FJ Holden front crossmember bolted to the timing cover. A 6" torque tube bolted directly to the engine extending back to the clutch and gearbox. The body, fuel tank and seat are bolted to brackets welded to the tube and the three-speed ZF transaxle from a Tempo Matador truck with directly attached fabricated rear suspension. Drum brakes were taken from a Standard Vanguard. The engine generates 280 to 300bhp and is good for 90mph in first, 130mph in second and on a long straight just under 160mph in top.    

The photo to the right shows the Zephyr Special in 1955, taken at Port Wakefield. It was then called the Eclipse Zephyr. The name Eclipse came from the Adelaide Ford dealer, Eclipse Motors (Eldred had an engineering workshop and was a motor dealer from 1938). The previous name for the car was a bit of a mouthful - the Norholfordor - because it was built from Holden, Ford and Tempo Matador parts. Before you ask, a Tempo Matador was a VW-powered light commercial vehicle made from 1949 to 1954.

 

 

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The October 1955 Australian Grand Prix was held at the Port Wakefield circuit, in South Australia. The 1.3-mile clockwise circuit is shown to the right. Refueling during the race was undertaken from a 44-gallon drum pressurized with nitrogen oxide to speed things up. Eldred finished eighth out of a field of twentythree. The race was won by (later Sir) Jack Brabham in a Cooper T40. The Zephyr Special was so unconventional that it was referred to as that "diabolical device".

 

 

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In 1956 Eldred sold the Zephyr Special to Keith Rilstone. The photo to the right is of Keith competing in the Eclipse Zephyr at Caversham military airstrip in the Swan Valley, Western Australia in 1961. Caversham became Western Australia’s first dedicated motor racing circuit, and hosted the Australian Grand Prix in both 1957 and 1962. Military needs resulted in the Western Australia Sporting Car Club, the operators of the circuit, moving to their new home at Wanneroo in 1968.

 

 

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The photograph to the right is from Rilstone’s ownership, and were taken at Mallala Race Circuit South Australia. Note that the carburettor is not one of Eldred’s legendary 3” SUs... this one came from a Maybach.  

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Finally to the right is the car in its present form. The Zephyr Special is now owned by Graeme and Robyn Snape of Gundagai NSW.  

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In 1956 Norman abandoned racing to concentrate on inventing. He built a large astronomical telescope in the property’s tin shed, then a rotating observatory in the "plane paddock" (no property is complete without an old bomber). Scientists from the Weapons Research Establishment would visit to see his home-made automatic telescope mirror-grinding machine complete a cycle, watching as it automatically applied paste, water, rotated, oscillated, separated, etc, grinding mirrors to a tolerance of 0.000003”. Many of his prototypes, including a car tow-bar and a photographic device to capture burglars, never reached the production stage.

With Nancy, he made a motoring trip in 1961 which took them through seventeen countries, including the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Iran and Pakistan. A sign of the times was ASIO’s interest in Communism. There is a one hundred-page file covering Commonwealth Police investigations into the Norman’s activities. ASIO intercepted the Norman’s mail and recorded telephone conversations leading up to their trip. A confidential memo dated April 1961 to Headquarters ASIO from the Regional Director South Australia, indicates that they have nothing known regarding Eldred, but Nancy's name was linked to others (details blacked out in the public report), was present at a public meeting of note, and had signed a petition organised by Overland' (a magazine who’s editorwas an ex-member of the Communist Party). The Prime Minister Robert Menzies was well known for his anti-Communist views, and was kept informed by memo of the goings and comings of Eldred and Nancy. The trip was undertaken by shipping a 1961 Ford Falcon station wagon to Spain, complete with oversized fuel tank and camp bed in the back. They applied for passports to go to USSR and China in 1961. This request was vetted by ASIO, as part of their 'investigation' of the couple.

 

   

Eldred is also renowned for his sliding vane supercharger manufacturing, which started in Adelaide and then continued after the family moved to Noosa in 1966. Eldred manufactured eight different superchargers (the Type 65, Type 70, Type 45, Type 75, Type 90, Type 110, Type 265 and Type 270), and adopted some truly innovated designs, including a supercharger clutch drive reminiscent of Mad Max’s car. Eldred’s superchargers ended up on a number of Mike and Bill’s vehicles, including an ex-PMG FE van and Bill’s Bill’s supercharged MGTC, a winner at Lakeview Hill Climb in October1965. Eldred’s reflections on supercharging were published in his book Supercharge! published in 1969. The image of Eldred to the right, taken from Supercharge! shows Eldred in his forties. Eldred’s habit of road testing race vehicle continued, with his HD Holden utilitity acting as a test-mule for many of his superchargers. The HD had all drum brakes… interesting to handle given that when fitted with the Type 110 supercharger and Eldred’s own 3” SU it could make 140mph. Eldred’s passion for sliding vane superchargers was taken up by his son Mike. Mike manufactured an improved version of the sliding vane design in Sydney the mid 1980’s, making six models (the 150, 200, 250, 300, 350 and 400).

Norman and Nancy pursued a wide variety of interests. Eldred for example had written a six-article series for the Motoring News section of Adelaide’s News in 1952 (including How Compression Operates). Nancy worked as a journalist and art critic for the Adelaide News, and became a poet and novelist. Her most famous trilogy "All The Rivers Run", was published in 1958. The story was adapted to a television mini-series starring Sigrid Thornton and John Waters which ran from 1983 through 1989. Nancy became prominent as a conservationist and Aboriginal Rights activist. An active member of the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, Eldred often took his children to events, leaving Nancy free to write. During construction of the club's 0.4-mile hill-climb track at Collingrove in the Barossa Valley, Eldred used a .45 caliber sub-machinegun to hammer soil in around fence posts. For years the case of hundreds of bullets lay open in the shed for the three children to play with, together with a quantity of dynamite which Eldred finally disposed of when it began to weep nitroglycerine. Eldred was one of the foundation directors of Brooklyn Speedway, S.A., Ltd, the company which built and operated the Port Wakefield track from early 1953.

 

 

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Stories abound of how Eldred outpaced police as he tested cars on the road between his Adelaide workshop and his Hope Valley home. The police would be on his doorstep moments later, looking to nail him for driving an unregistered vehicle. "Oh, no, it hasn't been running at all... not for a couple of days" he would tell them. Feeling the warmth of the engine cover, the police exclaimed that it retained its heat well and departed. Eldred soon learnt that it wasn’t a bad idea to hose down the bodywork after such a run. His tactics were not always successful though, as the clippings from the 11th of May 1938 and 3rd of October 1946 edition of Adelaide’s Advertiser to the right show. Eldred was also booked for speeding over an intersection (with fines of £1. and 10/ costs in November 1939), and with driving an unregistered car (no penalty, though slugged with 7/6 costs) in August of that year. In one of the incidents above, the Assistant Police Prosecutor noted that “Practically every regulation In the Traffic Act has been broken”. In another incident, when the magistrate shook his head and said, "What will I ever do with you?" he quickly answered back: "How about we start a monthly account?".  

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Eldred was sadly taken by lung cancer on the 28th of June 1971 at Noosa Heads. Nancy passed away at Noosa on the 3rd of July 2000. Both Eldred and Nancy were recognised in a number of ways. Nancy, pictured right, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in June 1984 in recognition of services to Australian literature. The Canberra suburb of Franklin includes Nancy Cato Street. The Jubilee 150 Walkway is a series of one hundred and fifty bronze plaques set into the pavement of North Terrace, Adelaide. It was officially opened in December 1986 as part of the celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the state of South Australia. The plaques contain the names and deeds of one hundred and seventy people who made major contributions to the founding and development of South Australia. The plaques are arranged in alphabetic order. Eldred’s plaque, shown above right is located between the Art Gallery Of South Australia and the University of Adelaide.  

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Source: Eldred Anecdote - Jun 02, 2014 by andrew_harve    
 
 
 

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