Northland Auto Sport.
Re: B. Skudder Article:
“THE NORTHLAND SPECIAL”
It was really terrific to read Brians article on the Northland Special. For many of us ‘oldies’ the Special is still regarded as the proper racing car. Indeed it isn’t too difficult to viaualise a real road circuit on which this vehicle could still win. To help fill in some of the gaps, the Northland Specail – Palmer Special and was also referred to as the Offenhauser Special, was built by George Palmer and who was assisted in construction and design by John McMillan. McMillan was the first person to race this special.
George Palmer had several wins driving the special including the “North Island Beach Championship in 1954. He raced also in the Ardmore Grand Prix on January 8th 1955. At that time the 4000cc Offenhauser Ford was thought to be about 180Hp. This was far too much for the Ford bearings and these usually packed it in about the twelfth lap and more often than not at the back straight at Ardmore. George Palmer took a trip to the states and while there studied racing vehicles. The Special was virtually the same dimensions as the American ¾ mile dirt track car, which raced at Indianapolis, but in no way was it copied.
The Specials rear end came from a Humber Super Snipe, narrowed up, the front and taken from a Morris Oxford, independant suspension, double telescopic shocks on both sides and appreciably narrower in the front than the rear. Rear springs type 35 Bugatti and were very stiff. The combination of a soft front, stiff rear end and the lack of tourtional stiffness in the chassis design, contributed to making it a drivers car. Good times on metal hillclimbs were more a question of circumspection than determination. 90mph in second with Ford cog box.
For the 1956 Grand Prix the official program stated;
“Lionel Bulcraig N.Z. (Northland Special)”
“At his first start with his new car he obtained second place at the Arapuni Hillclimb, one of NZ’s nicest looking and most reliable racing cars. Backed by half the farming community of Northland who will be there in force to give vent to their enthusiasm, we southerners will have to admit its a good car and wish Lionel luck.”
In 1958-59-60 the Northern Wairoa Car Club held combined standing and flying quarter mile sprint. Standing quarter then about a half mile to keep winding up then the flying quarter mile and about another half mile to stop. From memory results looked something like this.
Quarter Time Max Speed
Bruce McLarens Cooper Single seater 1920cc 11.6 136
Lycoming Special 12.6 126
Northland Special 13.2 122
My Morris Minor 22.6 58-61
The quickest flat head Ford saloon in the three years did 75mph and the fastest Austin 110 did 82mph or was it 87mph. Neil Johns would know.
As Brian mentioned, Ken McLennan was the best thing that happened to the Northland Special and he was the bloke who made it navitable on metal roads.