A fa­mous mid­get

Motor Equipment News - - CONTENTS - By Neil Parker READER RE­PLY 0141233

One of the old­est and most his­toric mid­get rac­ing cars in the world is still in ex­is­tence, safely tucked up on dis­play in an Auck­land speed­way mu­seum. The owner of that mid­get, and the mu­seum, is an artist who has never held a driv­ing li­cence, and has lived in the same house for most of his life, with a gi­ant seag­ull and two cats for company.

Bet­ter known as No. 9, that mid­get won New Zealand’s first of­fi­cial mid­get car race at Western Springs on Christ­mas Night, way back in 1937. Nearly 80 years on now, No. 9 is be­lieved to be the only car sur­viv­ing from that race line-up.

And its owner is Gor­don McIsaac, a for­mer go-kart cham­pion and lifetime bach­e­lor, who was born in New Zealand in 1935, the same year mid­get No.9 was built in Cal­i­for­nia.

To say that Gor­don is a speed­way enthusiast is an un­der­state­ment, for he hasn’t missed a sea­son in just-un­der 70 years. Up un­til he was 11, young Gor­don and his older brother were cow­boy movie fans. But an ad­ver­tise­ment in the news­pa­per for a night at Western Springs was to change that for­ever. Gor­don was smit­ten with the thrills and the spills of the oval race­track.

It was at Western Springs that Gor­don fell in love with Mid­get No. 9, then be­ing driven by a real character called Pee Wee An­der­son. Gor­don fol­lowed No. 9’s progress as a string of coura­geous men drove the lit­tle racer into the speed­way his­tory books, even crew­ing on No. 9 when he was old enough.

Ross Reid raced No. 9 from 1947 to 1950. In the 1947/48 and 1948/49 sea­sons he won the high­est points trophy at Western Springs. Reid took 10 fea­ture race wins and fin­ished sec­ond in the 1947/48 New Zealand Cham­pi­onship. Sadly Reid’s mid­get rac­ing days ended in the 1949/50 sea­son when he was badly burned after a wa­ter tank un­der the dash blew, and cov­ered his lower body with boil­ing wa­ter.

Butcher Jack “Cocky” Cor­mack was the speed­way pro­moter at the time, and he bought No. 9, herald­ing a new era in the legend of the mighty mid­get. Driv­ers in­cluded he­roes such as Roly Crowther, Toby Smith, Des Her­rick, Ian Holden and Ron Suther­land. With Vic Cook at the wheel No. 9 pow­ered to third in the 1959 New Zealand Cham­pi­onship and sec­ond in the Auck­land Cham­pi­onships in 1960.

Bill Jardin steered No. 9 in its last race in 1961. The car then spent 10 years in a Pon­sonby lock-up un­til Gor­don res­ur­rected and re­stored it to its for­mer glory.

At the turn of the cen­tury Amer­i­can Indy car and speed­way racer Stan Fox drove the car into the new mil­len­nium when he com­pleted four laps at Pukekohe Race­way, start­ing just be­fore mid­night and fin­ish­ing soon after to record the first laps of the 21st Cen­tury.

Th­ese days, No. 9 re­sides in Gor­don’s speed­way mu­seum in Auck­land. “It’s part of the fam­ily”, he says.

Now the story of No.9, and Gor­don McIsaac’s pas­sion, has been turned into a ma­jor doc­u­men­tary film which pre­miered at the Doc­u­men­tary Edge Film Fes­ti­val in Auck­land and Wellington.

Any­one can visit the Gor­don McIsaac Speed­way Mu­seum in Pon­sonby, Auck­land, and see No 9. Ad­mis­sion is free but all do­na­tions are very wel­come. Please call ahead. 09 376 2880 or email gordo9@xtra.co.nz

The amaz­ing story of No. 9 and Gor­don McIsaacs lifetime pas­sion is now a ma­jor 76-minute doc­u­men­tary, avail­able on DVD for $34, in­clud­ing postage and pack­ing, and can be pur­chased di­rectly from Eye On U Pro­duc­tions Ltd, 21 Dar­ling­ton Plc, Glen­dene, Auck­land, 0602, or on­line from wayne@eye­onu.co.nz

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