Bob Booth by Ilona Booth


The late Bob Booth and his ‘Specials’.

By Ilona Booth

Bob was always a special builder, from the earliest billycart which he campaigned down Farnsworth Avenue hill, to the youthful apprentice’s Bull Nosed Morris, morphed into a low slung two seater. It had Lancia flair guards, Lea Francis wire wheels, flat Fiat radiator, leather strapped bonnet, wooden dash and a hand beaten scuttle.  It was driven without other body for a couple of years, gradually growing a big slab tank at the back of the non seats. All painted in tasteful undercoat grey. The exhaust ended in a megaphone which belched a big blue flame in moments of rapid acceleration. It was exchanged for an Austin Seven Ruby which served as a pram during the week and was trialled in the weekends. The first of a series of Austin 7’s!

A decade of mud-cars came and went as the need for speed saw the development of the ‘Ulsteroid’, roughly Ulster style, supercharged with extra bits enabled by patternmaking and engineering facilities. This car did very well at sprints and circuits for over ten years, but was never user friendly on touring. After a trip touring with the Alice Spring Car Club that didn’t ‘go well’, the supercharged engine was replaced by a bog standard touring model to enable Club runs with the other sports cars. A demoralising run at Eddington with the standard car, a full 5 seconds slower, advanced the development of the sprint car more than somewhat.   

The major aim of the project was to make the lightest possible car. To this end the chassis rails were lightened, every part that could be was drilled, lightweight tubular chassis, lightweight 3 speed gearbox and the smallest available supercharger. Half a lifetime collection of photos and articles on side valve Austins was pored over scanned measured, and dissected for data. A special axle configuration was manufactured to achieve the offset differential layout. This resulted in a very narrow cockpit seriously limiting drivers. The handbrake was situated outside the cockpit; a bulge in the side accommodated the accelerator pedal. Much of the cockpit was taken up by the large steering wheel, considered to be an essential design element.  The engine components were engineered and developed to the absolute. There was discussion on titanium valves and the boys procured some, but?

It was fired up for the first time in 2007, followed by much more tuning and development. First run was at Rob Roy in 2010, in bedstead trim- no body- only completing a couple of runs with lots of problems. Second Rob Roy in 2011 also only finished two runs although better. In 2012, with advanced cancer and unable to walk Bob sized up the boys, decided who would fit each car and entered the Ulsteroid and the sprint car for Eddington. The boys then had to fettle both cars to competition level. Bob was able to see them both run. He died four weeks later. Stephen ran the Sprint car at Myrniong and it was then retired.

In 2013 I commissioned a four speed gearbox from John Needham. The three speed was a dog. Walter Raschle installed it and in 2014 I ran at Maryborough, having run it the length of out driveway. Managed 20.3, achieving top gear for the first time and was reliably informed I should have given it much more clog. So it looked like a worthy scheme to finish the project for Bob. Sent the car to Albury to be bodied (with a poultice of data for reference). Further fettling and tarting up and painting happened and it was resplendently ready to run at Eddington 2016. Only managed 20.4 with the heavier body and was reliably informed I should have given it much more clog. 


 Ilona Booth in the Bob Booth Sprint Car at Eddington 2016. Photographs by Jeremy Booth.