The 1980's 'Raid' Cars by Ilona Booth



In the years following the initial glorious intro of the Racing Austin Seven at Phillip Island in 1928, the profile was somewhat subdued until the formation of the Austin Seven Club in the Fifties. One of the early prime movers was an ex-patriot from U.K., John Pryce, who introduced Observed Section Trialling and 750 Formula Racing to the club.

The Austin Seven provided a cheap basis for racing specials and the 750 Formula brought many Austins out of retirement. Although for many the competitive urge was fulfilled by “mud “ trialling there was a hard core element of racing enthusiasts developing the little beast to better and better performances. John Whitehouse and Bill Morling developed a three bearing engine to a very high performance level, took it to U.K. in 1967 and won four of the six races entered. (the Whitmor - owned for some time by Don Smith, now back with Bill Morling.)

Notable cars of the period still active in the club are the Whitehouse “Carrot” currently pedalled by Paul Schilling, the green caterpillar campaigned for so many years by Trevor Cole, originally developed by Dale Shaw, the Doc Grovenor Special, currently owned and driven by John Heagney, developed in S.A., as was the Derek Jolly car raced for many years by Max Foster.

The Formula allowed for practically anything short of blowing, so long as it was crammed between Austin Seven side rails. This allowed for a period of lively performance, albeit with not a lot of Austin Seven componentry, until the upsurge of M.G. and Triumph gradually eased them out of a class. With the decline of the 750 Formula the only venue open to the true enthusiast was Formula Libra.

The developmental technology was not wasted however, as with the growth of an Historic Racing movement in the Sixties a new enthusiasm was born. The Vintage regs required the cars to be returned to their origins, setting in chain a retrieval of old bits from mud cars (now pensioned off in favor of newer makes). To be truly vintage they had to revert to the early 2 bearing models, and here some of the English technology brought back home by Tony Johns was put into effect.

An English racing enthusiast, John Miles, realized that to be competitive in motor racing there had to be an unbreakable crankshaft, and designed a very strong 1 1/2” Ulster type shaft which was made up for him by Gordon Allen, thus allowing for the supercharging of the little engine. The shaft was pressure fed and used Renault rods and pistons.

Tony Johns had his enthusiasm for another ‘raid’ fired whilst in U.K. and passed on his enthusiasm to several other racers while competing in the growing number of Historic meetings being promoted interstate at Mallala, Collingrove, Amaroo and later the Historic Winton meeting launched by the Austin Seven club in Victoria.

As interest mounted it was decided to build new cars to be English formula compliant. Of the initial eight starters, only five finally made the trip, carefully shoehorned into a container, cars minus wheels encased in special trailers built by Bill Morling. These trailers were so designed that when positioned side by side at the circuit the opened lids formed a gable roofed shelter.

In the preparation phase the cars were developed parallel but individually, each with its owner’s special tuning secrets. Tony Johns and Graeme Steinfort’s cars were to a Ross Stewart design with some engineering input from Jim Wilde and Bob Booth. The bodies were developed by Richard Stanley based on a scaled down Type 37 Bugatti. He also built John Ould’s along similar lines, to a design by David Lowe, with a removable tail to facilitate packaging. Max Foster took the ex-Derek Jolly car to Wally Ezard to have the tail shortened for the same reason. Bob Duguid had the only unblown car.

All the cars were based on the short pre-thirties chassis, stiffened for improved handling, with single seater bodies. The drive line was offset, though to a lesser extent than the side valve Jamieson car because of the unavailability of the necessary special works crown wheel and pinion. The driver sat to the right of centre, the engine was moved back down the near side chassis rail of the ‘A’ frame to obtain the offset. This in turn left room for a forward mounted Rootes supercharger bolted to a special front cover providing spur gear drive to the camshaft wheel. A large S.U. bolted to the blower on the offside provided mixture pumped to the engine through a simple log type inlet manifold which nested with a traditional Brooklands type exhaust. A water pump of blown Ulster pattern was driven from the front of the magneto shaft, the rear end of which drove a neat gearbox for the distributor to the coil ignition system. Both Ruby and Chummy cast iron heads have been used, most favoring the latter. Wheels were 18” aluminium motor cycle rims, spoked by Jim Wilde onto Austin Seven hubs. These were dressed in sticky motor cycle rubber.

The flight over to U.K. coincided with the Charles and Di wedding with in flight champers. A second engine prepared by Bob was taken by Tony in the plane as ‘hand luggage’. There was not a lot of time between arrival and the first Hill climb at Prescott to get the cars settled in. Tony’s time was second fastest, beaten only by a sprint special and at Lydden Hill was second on handicap to John Ould. At Mallory Park both Max Foster and Tony Johns had to retire, John Ould taking the winners Champers with Graeme Steinfort in third place. At Cadwell Park Tony was the fastest Austin, some 6 seconds faster than the fastest U.K. Seven. Bill Morris, driving John Ould’s Seven was second, then Max Foster, Graeme Steinfort and Bob Duguid in that order. Tony also won two handicap races, altogether a very good day. The final race at Castle Combe saw only Max Foster and Bob Duguid presenting, and although Max achieved the fastest practice lap, he dropped out during the race due to electrical problems. The race was won by Bob Duguid in the only unblown car of the group.

The exploits of these cars, on a ‘raid’ many years ago are still highly significant in our racing history, and even though their leading edge technology is not as far out in front as it used to be, the enthusiasm has never wavered. At every Historic race meeting by far the largest contingent is the Austin Seven fleet, all still tweaking their stalwart little mounts for that extra bit of grunt.

Honesty forces me to admit I am indebted to an article by Martin Eyre for the more technical details, and to Dave Tedham of the 750 Bulletin for race results. Any mistakes, however, are all my own work.



Tony Johns in his Raid Car, UK 1981

Picture by John Cowley from Martin Eyre's book 'Austin Seven Competition Cars 1922-1982'


Noel Stevens now owns this Raid Car, pictured at Myrniong Historic Sprint 2016