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It hurtled down the straight, two MGs being left behind as its two Ford V8 engines rent the air via their twelve exhaust stubs. Two MGs followed, being left behind by the monstrous racer put together by the wizard from Adelaide.

Then as the tight corner approached at past the showground, past the start/finish line, the sound changed from the blasting power sound to a cackling noise that rasped into the air, and the brakes went on as the monster had to be slowed right down. Then the MGs closed up again, being lighter and more nimble, but they suddenly drove into a cloud of steam that emanated from this thing in front of them.

Water poured onto the Dodge brakedrums as Eldred Norman pressed his charge's brake pedal, two fuel pumps squirting the fluid over brake drums that were severely overworked. He was in second place now and hoping to do better by the end.

This was the scene in the 1951 Australian Grand Prix at Narrogin. Why is it relevant here?

Because the chassis and running gear of Eldred Norman's 'Double 8' racer were war surplus from New Guinea... a Dodge weapons carrier chassis he'd acquired along with a host of Jeeps and Blitz trucks at an auction in Port Moresby.

This humble Dodge chassis and its running gear were separated forever from their other Chrysler components by 1947. A 2-seater body was installed with a very long nose, with the two side-valve Ford engines coupled together with a double row chain looped around a single row sprocket on the front of one crank and the rear of the other.

Racing on the sand at Sellicks Beach, south of Adelaide, or on the streets of Woodside or the airstrip at Gawler, it made a name for the man who'd trained to be a lawyer but became instead an innovative automotive engineer.

At his side was a woman trained in the skills of journalism, but who was later to be known as a novelist... his wife, Nancy Cato. An incredible duo, they lived their life at the foot of the hills just outside Adelaide and brought three children into a world of innovation, dreams and madness.

Norman liked baked beans, but he liked them hot. Before a race he would lace a can onto the exhaust pipes of the Double 8 and snip the wires holding the well-warmed can to eat the contents after the event. Well, what's a pound of baked beans when you have two lumps of Henry's iron to cart around anyway?

One day at Sellicks Beach they'd laid out their telephone cables for communication between officials at each end of the strip. But they needed to reel them in at the end of the day... Norman put a bare rim on his rear axle and powered up the two V8s with the cable wrapping itself around the rim.

For those who think that Dodge's truck wheels on the weapons carrier might have been a bit heavy, well, you're right. Eldred took some weight out of them by drilling extra holes in the centres.


Eldred Norman in the Double 8 at Woodside leading Lex Davison's MG TC Special. Note the giveaway appearance of the Dodge truck wheels

Bronnie, Eldred's daughter, remembers well how she would wave goodbye to daddy as he took off to drive around the roads he used to test the car. He went up towards the hills, around the top of one gully and down the next road that headed towards the city, turning at the bottom of the hill to return home.

"You could hear it all the way," she recalls, those open exhausts being a real temptation for Norman to let everyone know he was having his fun.

And fun he was prone to have. After he sold the car to another showoff, car dealer Sid Anderson in Perth, he bought and rebuilt a supercharged Maserati 6-cylinder racing car that had blown up in the Narrogin race.

Building a new cylinder head, adapting connecting rods from a Singer and reconditioning the rest of the engine, he sometimes took it around the block near his Adelaide workshop to make sure it was running right.

The police would be on his doorstep moments later, looking to nail him for driving an unregistered vehicle. "Oh, no, it hasn't been running at all... not for a couple of days" he would tell them. Feeling the warmth of the engine cover, the police exclaimed that it retained its heat well and departed. Next time he hosed down the bodywork, but when things got too dodgy he put Trade numberplates on to drive it.

He hung these on straps over his shoulders...

Those were days with a difference... exciting times, interesting times... times when you could do things and not concern yourself overly with attracting police attention. But he still got to face the judge on occasion.

Once, when the magistrate shook his head and said, "What will I ever do with you?" he quickly answered back, "How about we start a monthly account?"

Perhaps the changes that were to take place in society were why it might have been appropriate that Eldred Norman should die prematurely. Lung cancer got this chainsmoker before he turned 60. He was in the process of jamming an Olds F85 V8 into a Hillman Imp at the time, building a car for one of his sons to race.

The stories of Eldred Norman's life are both manifold and amazing. The match he and Nancy made was one of the great partnerships of my knowledge. They made an impression on everyone who ever knew them, and while I never met Eldred I did meet Nancy in her failing years. She was in the process of writing a book about the journey they made in an Australian production 1961 Ford Falcon station wagon but never finished it.

That car had a huge fuel tank fitted and was set up for camping with a bed in the back. They shipped it to Spain and drove through 17 countries, across the USSR included, taking their eccentricities with them.

Eldred Norman made his mark on this world, all right. But largely it began when he bought that Dodge weapons carrier in New Guinea and started dreaming about what it could do for him.
 

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Cool Story Ray. Thanks for sharing it.
 

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Not a problem... I have a more complete version somewhere. Though even that doesn't include the time Eldred was looking for a camshaft he had brought home (when such parts were in very short supply...) so some guys who had just set up a cam grinder could take it and make his Holden really go.

Eventually, after searching the house etc, he asked Nancy... "Oh, you mean that steel stick with the lumps on it? I was using that to break up some rocks on my lapidary pile out the front..."

Or the classic one about the French Polished dining table... but maybe you're not ready for that one... and it doesn't really have any Dodge connections.
 

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Hey Ray:

:thatfunny So I see your from "Downunder". Cool. From what I understand, there's still alot of MV stuff still available there, kinda like Europe. I'd like to visit Australia some day, but these days, if I can't drive there, I don't go. It has nothing to do with terrorist or any of that garbage, it's just that me & airplanes don't get along to well. Now if I were doin the flyin, ;) that'd be a whole different animal. :D But I don't think anybody in their right mind would give me a pilots license. :crazy:

Are you into MV's? Or were ya just surfin? What kinda rig ya got? Hey, how's the weather there? :thatfunny I had some friends that moved down there a while ago, but have lost touch with em. That was back in the late 60's, early 70's. Last I heard they really liked it there. They were all going to more rural type areas. Take Care.
 

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I'm not into the military vehicles at all, but I know some people who are...

Studebaker trucks abound on the pineapple farms near my home, I was leaning against a Stude 6 x 6 just the other day that does some service with the local bushfire brigade here, and there are piles of blitzes still around, though not many still in use.

Jeeps are restored regularly, there's the odd Duck of course.

e.mail me with your friends' names and the general area to which they went and I might do a bit of a search... [email protected]

There was a huge trade in war surplus vehicles after the conflict and use of this kind of stuff on farms was widespread. I have a pic here somewhere of a Ford Blitz (well, two or three of them...) that was converted to be a prime mover with a sawmill on the back and a fifthwheeler built on Blitz chassis for the family to live in as they moved from place to place, cut and milled timber and built homes for farmers.
 
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