Monday, January 21, 2013

Interesting Photos of Motor Racing from the 1920s-30s

Donald James Harkness, pioneer in the Australian automotive and aeronautical industries, racing driver and record breaker, was born in Leichhardt, NSW in December 1898. On leaving school he became an apprentice in general engineering. At the age of 20 he secured employment at J.C. Hillier's garage at Drummoyne and in 1922 the partnership of Harkness & Hillier Pty Ltd was formed.

Harkness developed an interest in motor racing and in 1924 he imported an Overland chassis which he modified extensively. In this car (christened "Whitey") Harkness won about 50 events at the Penrith and Maroubra tracks and at Gerringong's Seven Mile Beach during 1925.

An offer of a £50 trophy by the Daily Guardian for the first person in Australia to break 100 m.p.h. for a measured mile, prompted Harkness to build a new car using a Minerva chassis and a Hispano Suiza aero engine. He won the trophy attaining 108 m.p.h. at Gerringong on 17 October 1925.

Harkness was approached by racing driver Norman Leslie 'Wizard' Smith (1890-1958) and former Lord Mayor of Sydney Jack Mostyn to build a car for Smith's attempts to break the Australasian one mile and the world ten mile records. The result was the "Anzac" with a Rolls Royce aero engine and a Cadillac chassis. Following the creation of an Australian record of 128.571 miles (206.909 kilometres) per hour at Gerringong, the team took the "Anzac" to Ninety Mile (Kaitaia) Beach, New Zealand, where it achieved an unofficial record 148 miles (238 kilometres) per hour.

Harkness undertook to design and build a car at cost to break the one mile record. A syndicate was formed - Smith, Mostyn, Jim James and Harkness. The car was named the "F.H. Stewart Enterprise" after its sponsor Sir Frederick Stewart. It had a borrowed Napier engine from a Schneider seaplane. On January 26 1932, the car achieved 164.084 miles (264.06 kilometres) per hour breaking the world record for 10 miles. Smith then decided to radically alter the car's cooling system and Harkness left New Zealand in disgust. The 1 mile for which it was built was not attempted.

Harkness participated in hill climbs and joined other early motoring pioneers in trips round Australia from east to west and from Sydney to Darwin in the 1920s and 30s. Harkness abandoned racing after a narrow escape in 1935 when he was almost enveloped in flames.

Harkness had an early interest in aviation. Harkness & Hillier serviced aero-engines such as the Anzani, Gnome, Le Rhône, Clerget, Renault, and Hispano-Suiza and became the distributor of Avro Avian and Percival Gull planes. In 1928 Harkness designed and fitted an aero engine for a hydroglider to be used on the Fly River, Papua New Guinea. In 1929 he designed and built the Hornet No.101 aero engine, a four cylinder-in-line water-cooled unit developing 115 horse power at 2000 revolution per minute. The engine was installed in a "Genairco" plane designed by George Boehm, built by General Aircraft Company, tested by Captain Bill Leggatt and released on 21 November 1930. It was the first Australian built engine to pass the Commonwealth Government's airworthiness type test.

Dave Carrigan at wheel of a Willys Knight car, 1926

Overland car jumping a fallen bridge in a promotional stunt, 1920 - 1929

Don Harkness at wheel in RAC hill climb, Royal National Park, 1926

Large group of men at meeting, 1920 - 1929

The 100,000th Willys-Overland exported car, outside Overland Sydney Ltd office, 1920 - 1929

Horse and cart on wharf with crate containing the 100,000th Willys-Overland exported car, 1920 - 1929

Dave Carrigan at wheel of a Willys Knight car, 1926

Overland car jumping a fallen bridge in a promotional stunt, 1920 - 1929

Group on occasion of the testing of the Genairco, the first all-Australian built plane, 1930

Overland car being driven down steps of Sydney Town Hall, 1920 - 1929

Cars at the end of 1,000 mile rally organised by the Overland company, 1927

Launch of car F.H. Stewart Enterprise, 1926 - 1936

13 Sir Malcolm Campbell at the wheel of the Bluebird, with crowd, 1926 - 1936

Anzac car [with Harkness & Hillier staff at Five Dock], 1928 - 1929

Don Harkness at the wheel of his Overland Sports car Whitey at 10 Mile Championships, 1920 - 1929

Don Harkness at the wheel of his Overland Sports car Whitey at race meeting, 1920 - 1929

Don Harkness archive re motor racing and aeronautics

Hydroglider outside the Harkness & Hillier factory, 1928

Timber straddler outside the Harkness & Hillier factory

Don Harkness at the wheel of his Overland Sports car Whitey, 1920 - 1929

D.J. Harkness at the wheel of an Overland Sports car, 1920 - 1929

Men inspecting the frame of the car F.H. Stewart Enterprise, 1926 - 1936

Don Harkness and unidentifed man with hydroglider engine, 1923 - 1933

Avro Avian two-seater light aeroplane, 1924 - 1934

Norman Wizard Smith and Don Harkness and two other men (on steps of Sydney Town Hall], 1926 - 1936

Group portrait on board S.S. Maunganui, 1926 - 1936

Norman Wizard Smith and Don Harkness on board S.S. Maunganui, 1926 - 1936

Men inspecting the car F.H. Stewart Enterprise, 1926 - 1936

Men on beach with Anzac car

Group inspecting the car F.H. Stewart Enterprise

Don Harkness and unidentifed man with hydroglider engine

Don Harkness at the wheel of his Overland Sports car Whitey

Don Harkness at the wheel of modified Overland car at race meeting

Man seated in a modified Overland racing car surrounded by crowd
Don Harkness at the wheel of his Overland Sports car Whitey at race meeting


Don Harkness at wheel of Overland 6 after setting Australasian 24 hour record

Group and a cat inspecting the car F.H. Stewart Enterprise

Anzac car [with Harkness & Hillier staff at Five Dock]

Group inspecting the car F.H. Stewart Enterprise

(via Powerhouse Museum Collection)

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