A famous midget
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org