They’re get­ting old quickly

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

WIND back the clock, fin­gers on your stop­watches and drop the flag for the his­toric Ley­burn Sprints next week­end on the Dar­ling Downs.

The 14th an­nual Ley­burn Sprints cel­e­brates the 60th an­niver­sary of the run­ning of the Aus­tralian Grand Prix at the nearby Clifton air­field cir­cuit.

One of the stars of this year’s event will be an en­trant in the orig­i­nal race.

Eric Worner of Mit­tagong, NSW, will race the So Cal Ford V8 Spe­cial for the first time since the grand prix was run on Septem­ber 18, 1949.

Driven by Dick Bland, the car com­pleted only 26 of the sched­uled 35 laps be­cause of tyre prob­lems.

The re­sults of the 1949 race show Ley­burn’s only Grand Prix at­tracted a fas­ci­nat­ing ar­ray of cars, from ex­otic De­la­hayes, Bu­gat­tis and Jaguars to the hum­ble So Cal.

Worner, the car’s 11th owner, races it reg­u­larly at his­toric events and is con­fi­dent it will be com­pet­i­tive and re­li­able on the short round-the-houses track in Ley­burn town­ship.

The So Cal gets its name from the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Speed Shop, a famed em­po­rium of per­for­mance parts for the side­valve Ford Mer­cury V8 fit­ted to Eric Worner’s car.

In the years af­ter World War II, race tracks and racing cars were in short sup­ply.

En­thu­si­asts cre­ated tracks out of air­fields such as Clifton and Lowood and built their low-slung, light­weight sin­gle­seaters us­ing parts scav­enged from or­di­nary cars of the time. The So Cal Spe­cial uses a Ford Model A chas­sis.

Th­ese cars fell out of favour as more so­phis­ti­cated ve­hi­cles be­came avail­able, again from Europe, and many were lost.

But a surge in the pop­u­lar­ity of his­toric racing and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the in­ge­nu­ity of post-war me­chan­ics and con­struc­tors means they are now par­tic­u­larly prized.

They have also spawned a mini in­dus­try in man­u­fac­tur­ing repli­cas.

Sun­shine Coast racer Dick Ver­mue­len has con­structed 18 such pe­riod-style ve­hi­cles for fel­low driv­ers.

Worner, Ver­mue­len and driv­ers of around 190 his­toric, clas­sic and sport­ing cars will com­pete at grass-roots motorsport event. Celebri­ties at­tend­ing the event in­clude Gold Star win­ner Kevin Bartlett, while Dick John­son and Steve John­son will share the driv­ing of a Ford Fal­con GT and Ford Es­cort just one week­end be­fore their Jim Beam Racing V8 Su­per­car team lines up at Queens­land Race­way.

The track has been re­turned to its ear­lier con­fig­u­ra­tion, with the start again out­side the pub owned by for­mer Bronco and Aus­tralian rugby league for­ward Shane We­bcke. It will fin­ish at last year’s start line.

New elec­tronic tim­ing will al­low ad­di­tional cars to be on the track at the same time.

Tick­ets will be sold at the gate and prices are $10 a day for adults or $15 for a week­end pass. Chil­dren un­der the age of 14 are free. Camp­sites are $10. Ley­burn is 220km south­west of Bris­bane and 75km south of Toowoomba. www.ley­burn­mo­tor­sprints.com.au

RACE RELIC: Eric Worner’s 1947 So Cal V8 Spe­cial will be at the Ley­burn Sprints this year; (be­low right), the start of the first race at Ley­burn airstrip in 1949 and (left) its win­ner, John Crouch in a 3555cc De­la­haye. Only 10 out of the 28 starters...

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