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Mel McEwin
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Australian Record - Flying 1 mile

Cat Gp CI Date Venue Driver(s) Make Model Time km/hr mph
A I 9 01/1/63 Lake Eyre Mel McEwin Tornado Special 23.83 241.76 151.10

Another major event was taking place in July 1960 - at Lake Eyre, where
Mel McEwin was attempting to set an Australian land speed record.
Bruce Went was part of the official timing team and he recalls:
"Mel McEwin had sponsorship from Mobil to set an Australian land speed record with his Tornado racing car, powered by a Chev Corvette V8 engine. He drove to Lake Eyre a week before the attempt, carrying the car and all the heavy equipment, including the digital timing gear. He selected a track and marked a straight line with green dye. A party of eight - the tim ekeepers, su rveyors, stewards, doctor and an electronics expert from WRE (to look after the timing gear) - drove up to the site, leaving on Friday night and expecting to be at Muloorinna Station early on Saturday morning – sleeping time had not been taken into account! We were to proceed to the lake, set up the timing gear, survey the track and have practice runs and probably break the record and then drive home on Sunday.
That was the Plan – reality was something quite different!
The officials had been provided with three used cars as transport. These gave continual trouble – new spark plugs needed on one at Clare, broken windscreen wiper switch, bald tyre and cracked wheel, broken jack, driver's side window defective, the battery fell out of one and had to be wired up with fencing wire, and finally one exhaust was ripped out in one of the many deep creek crossings – this was repaired laying in the mud. The roads were in poor condition, due to continual rain, and travelling was slow. From Hawker at 1 am, we arrived at Leigh Creek at 6 am, having taken 5 hours for 100 miles. The road was now dry and by 9 am we were at Marree, and had breakfast at Muloorinna at 10 am Saturday. In contrast to our adventurous drive, the Clerk of Course, Ken Walker, arrived by plane on Saturday.
To reach the lake from the station, we drove over a goat track through sand dunes. The lake edge was muddy for about 50 yards and its surface was a salt crust about 15 inches thick over black, oozy mud.
The timing gear was set up to record over the measured mile but we had trouble aligning the activating lights, due to the glare from the salt. Next morning we were up at 4 am and were able to correctly align them. A few timed runs were held during the day but the car was not fast enough to break the existing record, as it suffered some engine problems.
By 4 pm we had finished and returned to Muloorinna, where we had to again patch up the exhaust before setting off for home. Contending with large bull dust holes, no brakes, a radiator coming adrift and no third gear, we eventually arrived in Adelaide at 7 am on Monday morning."
Editors note: Not for the first time in motor sport history (nor the last), did a record attempt on a salt lake prove to be a lot harder to achieve than ever thought possible when planning began.
Four months later, the Tornado was racing in the AGP at Mallala.

Source - Austin 7 Club of SA 50th Anniversary Book



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