Early days

Australian Muscle Car - - Man -

Bruce Ste­wart, born in 1939, grew up in Syd­ney’s in­ner west sub­urbs of Le­ich­hardt and Ash eld. At 15 he started a me­chan­i­cal ap­pren­tice­ship at Har­den and John­son, a large gen­eral work­shop in Kings Cross, hav­ing pre­vi­ously helped his un­cle to x up MG TC sportscars af­ter school.

It was in­evitable he’d soon nd him­self go­ing mo­tor rac­ing given his em­ployer’s clien­tele.

“At Har­den and John­son we worked on ev­ery­thing,”Ste­wart ex­plains. “We even helped pre­pare the Redex Trial Peu­geots of Ken Tub­man and David McKay. I worked with fu­ture rac­ers Andy Roberts (sports cars) and John Wright (F5000) and all we talked about at lunchtime was rac­ing cars. My teacher at Ul­timo Tech was Brian Lawler (an­other prom­i­nent racer) and 60 years on we’re still friends.”

Like a lot of pen­ni­less rac­ing wannabes of the time, Ste­wart got his start in Humpy Holdens, in 1962. Note the plu­ral. He didn’t just race one, but sev­eral. Ste­wart was not averse to pass­ing on a Humpy if the price was right and build­ing

up an­other one to race. This was the golden era of early Holden rac­ing in NSW, with Ste­wart up against stand-outs like War­ren Wel­don, Bo Se­ton and Spencer Martin. He even scored the odd lap record, “but only when the quick guys weren’t there,” he says, try­ing to play down the achieve­ment. Nev­er­the­less, he was start­ing to be no­ticed.

“Simms Spares was run­ning a Humpy for this guy and soon I was of­fered a drive. I started win­ning races and they gave me the car and spon­sored it.

“I couldn’t af­ford new tyres. I would run my com­peti­tors’ cast-offs. One time at Catalina Park, my tyres were right down the grooves. I told the boys ‘she’ll be right,’ but in the race it went down to the cords and blew. In no time I’m up­side down!”

It was fel­low Humpy hus­tler and good mate Don Smith who of­fered Ste­wart a drive with him at the 1965 Arm­strong 500 in a HD Holden X2. The lum­ber­ing Holden had no chance in a class dom­i­nated by the eet-footed Mor­ris Cooper S, nish­ing ninth in class on 116 laps, good enough for 22nd out­right, with­out brakes or a clutch. Ste­wart’s life­time pil­grim­age to Mt Panorama had be­gun.

1965

1963

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