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Norman Leslie Smith ("Wizard")
(1890 - 1958)   large product photo
Norman "Wizard" Smith's racing car, "Enterprise", built by auto and aircraft engineer Don Harkness. 4 August 1931.
Sydney Exposures exhibition caption: 'Wizard' Smith's 'Enterprise', Sydney, 4 August 1931 : Well wishers surround Norman 'Wizard' Smith's 'Enterprise', before his attack on the world land speed record. The attempt was successful, and on 26 January 1932 at Ninety-mile Beach, New Zealand, the 'Enterprise' reached 164 miles per hour, to capture the 10 mile record. Designed by Sydney engineer Don Harkness, the 26 foot long vehicle was powered by a 1700 horsepower aircraft engine. Another photograph from the series reproduced in The Labor Daily 5 August 1931 (State Library New South Wales)
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Scrutineers checking in a Melbourne-to-Sydney record-breaking attempt by "Wizard" Smith ("I think." Ted Hood, 25/10/1988)
"The record breaking Chrysler was then used to set a new Sydney to Melbourne record of 11 hours and 14 minutes. The drive by Mr H J Beith and Mr C Trollope took them from Sydney through Yass, Gundagai, Albury, Benalla and Seymour before arriving in Melbourne. In January 1928, they broke the record for the 570 mile journey again, taking it down to 10 hours and 42 minutes - an average of 54 miles per hour. The two driver took nine minutes off the record set by a Hudson one week before." -- Reference: The Story of Silver Wings website (online) (State Library New South Wales)
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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)
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Group portrait on board S.S. Maunganui, c1931
Norman "Wizard" Smith and D.J. Harkness are in centre. The woman in the beret standing behind the floral wreath of Australia is Eileen who later became Harkness's wife. Harkness's brother, Francis Pearson Harkness, is standing fourth from right, with his wife holding his arm. (Don Harkness Archive Collection)
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Group of men (on steps of Sydney Town Hall, Sydney, New South Wales?], c1931.
From left to right: Unidentified, Norman "Wizard" Smith, unidentified, D.J. Harkness. (Don Harkness Archive Collection)

Birth:13 July 1890, Enfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Death:1 October 1958, Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Religious Influence:Anglican
Occupation:motor racing driver

SMITH, NORMAN LESLIE (1890-1958), racing motorist, was born on 13 July 1890 at Enfield, Sydney, ninth child of native-born parents William Smith, labourer and later carpenter, and his wife Cecilia, née Kennedy. Brought up on a farm at Richmond, he was apprenticed as a mechanic to I. Phizackerley, motor car importer, and on 15 April 1911 married Harriett Ann Russ, with Salvation Army forms. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 September 1916, he embarked for overseas, but was invalided home from Cape Town, and discharged on 7 June 1917. He worked as a salesman for the Queensland Motor Agency before joining Dalgety & Co., Sydney, agents for Hudson and Essex cars, about 1920.

To promote his employers' cars, Smith began entering races and rallies. In 1919 he had won a hill climb at (Royal) National Park. Unbeaten in all the State's major motoring trials in 1922 and winner of the Victorian alpine contest, he became known as 'Wizard'. Next year he set inter-city records between Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Auckland and Wellington. Appointed motoring editor of the Sunday Times and the Referee in 1924, he performed stunt-driving feats in American cars, often wearing his business suit and Homburg hat. In 1926 he set a twenty-four hour record at the Maroubra Speedway and regained the Brisbane-Sydney record. Two years later he created Australian records for distances covered in six, twelve and twenty-four hours, and broke the long distance record held by John 'Iron Man' Burton, when he drove from Fremantle to Brisbane.

Determined to contest the world land speed record, Smith asked racing driver and engineer Donald Harkness to design and build a racing car, the 'Anzac', using a Rolls-Royce aero engine and a Cadillac chassis. Aware of its inadequacies, he concentrated on Australasian records and, while searching for a suitable site for his speed runs, set new inter-city records in New Zealand. When testing it at Gerringong, New South Wales, on 1 December 1929, he created an Australian record of 128.571 miles (206.909 km) per hour. Next month, at Ninety Mile Beach, north of Auckland, he set an unofficial Australasian ten-mile record at an average speed of over 148 miles (238 km) per hour.

Using a borrowed Napier seaplane engine, Smith and Harkness began building a better racer, the (Sir) Fred. H. Stewart 'Enterprise', named in honour of their sponsor. Delays occurred when they disagreed about its design and Harkness became ill. Their differences came to a head in New Zealand in December 1931, when Smith altered the car. Harkness began legal proceedings in Sydney, but later settled out of court.

On 26 January 1932, on a wet and bumpy surface, 'Wizard' Smith set an official world speed record of 164.084 miles (264.06 km) per hour. Although intending to challenge Sir Malcolm Campbell's mile and five mile records, months of inactivity followed, amid adverse publicity. His challenge on 1 May 1932 failed when the 'Enterprise' broke down. Returning to Sydney, he sued Smith's Weekly for alleging that he was a coward. Although he was awarded damages, his public standing remained low and, with insufficient funds, he abandoned plans for further challenges.

In 1933 Smith twice reduced the Brisbane-Sydney record and, surveying the route for a contest in 1936, drove around the continent in 45 days. That year he joined Stack & Co. (Pty) Ltd, motor dealers; he retired as their import representative in 1957. He enjoyed golf and fishing. A perservering man, his short and plain physical appearance did little to offset his enigmatic, introspective personality and, paying insufficient attention to publicity, he was denied the rewards which his skills and achievements should have brought. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died at Kogarah on 1 October 1958 and was cremated with Church of England rites.

Select Bibliography

S. G. Simpson, ‘Wizard’ Smith (Syd, 1977); P. Davis, Australians on the Road (Adel, 1979); People (Sydney), 31 Jan 1951; Sports Car World, Apr 1964; Parade (Sydney), Feb 1972; Referee (Sydney), 4 Dec 1929, 29 Jan 1930; Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Jan, 11 Oct 1932, 21 Dec 1957, 2 Oct 1958; Daily Mirror (Sydney), 29 Nov 1982. More on the resources

Author: E. D. Daw

Print Publication Details: E. D. Daw, 'Smith, Norman Leslie (1890 - 1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, p. 658.

E. D. Daw, 'Smith, Norman Leslie (1890 - 1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition,
Copyright 2006, updated continuously, ISSN 1833-7538, published by Australian National University
http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A110677b.htm

 
 
 

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