FLYING W HITS THE TRACK
ECHUNGA SOUTH Australia -based historic racer Eric Cossich is tack ling his fourt h Historic Winton t his May, adding colour to the event with his Fly ing W Wolseley Specia l Number 10.
Growing up on cattle and sheep stations, Eric Cossich became obsessed with cars from a young age and his early experiences and love for cars led him to ta ke on rebuilding t he 1955 Fly ing W.
Eric is passionate about historic car racing not only for himself but t he generations to follow.
“We need more young people involved and behind t he historic car scene now more t han ever, so t hat it continues,” he said.
“I believe you have not lived until you’ve driven an historic race car – as a guy once said to me – “t wo ways you differ from Fangio: 1 - you have fireproof under wear. 2 - t here’s sk idmarks in them!”
The rebuild was completed four years ago and Eric said, “The car performs incredibly well and is ver y reliable wit h no mechanical issues. It’s a credit to t he Fechner Bros and Henderson who built/ designed t he original car.”
The Fly ing W stor y begins in 1945 at the end of WWII. After watching t heir first car race at Brisbane’s Strat hpine Airstrip, brot hers Rob & Brian Fechner and their friend Len Henderson, began a life-long love of cars.
At the 1954 Brisbane EKK A show t he trio spotted a 6/80 Wolseley motor mounted on a stand. Admiring it they wondered how they could beat loca l race aces, Gly n Scott and Wal Anderson in their new Holden-powered specia ls.
By July 1954, plans for a new car had been drawn and work began.
A model T Ford chassis was the base, married to a Lancia Lambda front end and dif ferentia l, mounted v ia 1 ⁄4 ellipt ic springs and their own design suspension arms. Next the Singer 9 gearbox was insta lled.
Len heard about a Wolseley 6/80 engine for sa le at a Salisbur y firm. The stor y goes a loco engine was dropped on the Wolseley and the engine was sa lvaged from the wreckage. Although it was new, it was missing t he distributor, manifold, fan and clutch but could be bought for 50 pounds. The three couldn’t hand over their money fast enough.
The Fly ing W’s body was made of 3 ⁄4” x 1/8” flat steel, hammered to shape, onto which sheet aluminium was riveted. As the body was fitted and t he grille bolted in place it was suggested a W for Wolseley should adorn t he front. Then a friend suggested turning t he winged ‘M’ on his Matchless motorcycle upside down. A variation of t he ‘M’ was created and t he ‘Fly ing W’ of the Wolseley Specia l Number 10 was born.
It took seven months and 250 pounds to make.
In 1955 it competed successf ully at severa l events and in May 1956 it took the sta r ter's flag for t he last t ime, at t he Burleigh Hill Climb with Len Henderson in the driver’s seat, cla iming t he second fastest time in t he Unlimited Racing Car Class and beating t he likes of MG, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo.
After retiring from competition, t he Fly ing W was cut up and the back end used for a watering pump.
Over 10 years ago Eric contacted the Wolseley Car Club who put him in touch wit h Queenslander Bill Martin who had the original engine. Eric t hen applied to CAMS for an Application in Principle to rebuild t he car. Eric accumulated a ll t he pieces for t he t ribute, rebuilt t he engine, using t he original Wolseley dash gauges, (small rectangular cream face), and 16-inch bra ke drums, believed to have come from the original Maybach.
The Historic Winton meeting runs over the weekend of May 26-28 and will feature a display of more than 2000 rare and restored vehicles.