If I said, “Aussie Special” would you immediately think of barbeques, surfboards, beer, bikini’s or perhaps vintage racing cars? Australia was unique in the way it put together race cars in the 30’s & 40’s. Being so far away from manufacturers in Europe, the UK and the USA, these inventive Aussies cobbled up the ‘race cars to beat all’. Of course they were different and hard to replicate due to the availability of parts. But they weren’t fussy, they’d use parts from any make or model such as Ford, Hudson, MG, Riley, Alpha or Bentley. Quite often if an original race car was involved in a crash, its parts could evolve into an Aussie Special out of someone’s back shed. Aussie Specials were raced a lot in Grand Prix’s all over Australia, and Lobethal is no exception, both back then and today.
Bruce Hartwig of Aldgate builds Aussie Specials and has been doing so for 25 years. Hundreds of hours go into them and he loves every minute. He does it for fun and said that he just wants people to know how easy it is to get involved. Two Dodge Specials, built by Bruce now reside in Lobethal. A red, 1937, 4.1 litre 6 cylinder, side valve Dodge owned by Alistair Turnbull and a cream and maroon, 1939, 4 litre, 6 cylinder side valve Dodge, owned by Rose Holmes. This is Alistair and Rose’s second year of the Grand Prix in Lobethal, having shared the driving at both events in Alistair’s Dodge Special, while the other was working at the Lobethal Bierhaus. The couple live in the heart of Lobethal, having tastefully restored the old tourist information centre on Mill Corner as their residence. Across the road is the Bierhaus, owned and operated by Alistair and Phil Jones. So they are right in the thick of the action come Grand Carnival time, and thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere and buzz about the town.
Another ‘returnee’ to the Lobethal Grand Prix circuit actually put 60 years between visits. Gavin Sandford-Morgan first raced in 1948 at the age of 22 in a supercharged C-type MG. Then he took part in both of the Grand Carnival’s in 2008 and 2009. He is one of only a handful of surviving drivers from the era. In 2009 he drove his 3.8 litre Jaguar Special which was re-bodied in the racing style of the 1930’s from a 1951 Mk VII Jaguar. Gavin cherishes his motoring experiences and nostalgically points out that the Jaguar in 2009 has the same car number (#27) and number plate (1635) as the MG in 1948! Gavin said the Lobethal circuit was one of the best in Australia due to its many bends and length. He describes it as “magnificent”.
The 14km circuit started this year in front of Blacks Garage on Lobethal’s Main St, heading out the Mt. Torrens road, right turn at Hairpin Bend, through Charleston, another right at Kayannie Corner and back into Lobethal, through the S bends, right at Mill Corner, then back onto the Main St.
It was an exciting long weekend in Lobethal and we were thrilled on the Ridge Road corner by the ‘swingers’ on the motorcycle side cars, hanging only centimetres from the road as their drivers negotiated the S bend. We were awestruck by the million dollar Alpha Romeo G1 imported from the USA and most people marvelled like children at the pure spectacle of the exotic Ferrari’s, Porsche and Maserati’s. It takes a lot of work to put something like this together and a lot of love too. Thanks to the efforts from the Vintage Motorsport Carnivals co. and the Sporting Car Club of SA, we experienced something really very special.