Northland Auto Sport.
Congratulations to you and to Brian Skudder for trying to do something about preserving your Club’s history. As one who has tried, in the past, to do the same sort of thing for my Club (Wellington) and on a wider basis through the now defunct “Road, Race and Rally”, I appreciate any attempt to revive memories of the days when men were men and race-cars had their engines in the proper place, at the front!
I hope you don’t mind my adding a few comments about the Northland Special, which my research of N.Z motor racing over many years has dug up. Most of these remarks concern the cars life outside Northland.
The car in fact started life as the Jackson Special, having been built here in Wellington during 1949 by the Jackson Engineering works, and not, as was often said, by George Palmer. In its original form it had an engine built by John McMilan from a Mercury V8, though very little remained from the original Merc. Transmission was through a gearbox which McMillan designed and built, and was located alongside the driver, and then by chains to the rear axle. In its earliest form it ad sliding pillar suspension.
McMillan raced the Jackson as Wigram in 1950 but blew out one bank of pistons, but a few weeks later won the first NZ Grand Prix, at Ohakea airfield near Palmerston North. The next owner was Halsey Logan of Nelson, who replaced the transmission with a more orthodox system thur losing the squat “low-slug” look but, in most people’s opinion, vastly improving the cars appearance. He also employed Morris Oxford i.f.s. The car was attractively finished in gold and as the Logan Special competed in just about every big NZ race in 1951 and 1952. at Wigram, Ohakea and Mairehau, with several high placings to its credit.
Before the car became the NorthlandSpecial it went through another change of owner and name, when George Palmer (father of later NZ Champion Jim Palmer) bought it and renamed it the Palmer Special. Palmer raced it at Ohakea in 1953, 1954 and 1955 and also at Ardmore, at Muriwai Beach (where he won the NZ Championship on year) and in hillclimbs. It was either Palmer or Logan who fitted the Offenhauser – Ford motor.
Lionel Bulcraig bought it during 1955 and that’s when it became the Northland Special, reputedly because it was backed by half the farming community of Northland! I’m sure Northlanders will remember the car when it lived there better than I can.
Bulcraig sold the car to Bill Thomasen, who ran it only once or twice before he swopped if for a Monza Ferrari (presumably with suitable cash adjustment) and it was then campaigned for some time by Graham Harvey, who was the first owner not to change its name (Thomasen and Harvey called it the Offenhauser Special). In Harvey’s hands the car, now painted red, was a familiar sight at Ardmore club meetings and on the beach at Muriwai, but particularly in hillclimbs in the Auckland area, between about 1960 and 1962. I remember seeing the car in Garth Souness’s car yard in Auckland about this time, or presumably about the time that Johny windleburn bought it. Living at the the other end of the island from its Northland home I never saw it again, but there was a photo of it in Motorman about 1964 with – despite what Brian Skudder says – Windleburn at the wheel.
I knew the old car had remained in Northland for many years and am sure it is fondly remembered by northern enthusiasts.
I hope this letter is of interest to your members.