When I was younger I was besotted with anything that went fast, particularly racings cars and motorcycles, and the heroes of my teen years were racing drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, and motorcycle racer Geoff Duke.
I used to sit at my desk in class, changing gear under the desk on an imaginary gear stick, when I should have been concentrating on differential equations or some such … I can’t remember any of the maths, but I do remember the cars and bikes.
Learning to drive in a massive dreamboat Buick Straight 8 roadster, then owning a succession of Brits – Riley Brooklands, MG TA, MG TC, Singer 1100, Singer 1500, Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, Wolseley 9, Sunbeam Rapier, Mini Moke, Bond Equipe, followed by some Europeans, Alfa Romeo Guilietta, Lancia Flaminia, Fiat 500, SAAB 99 before succumbing to the Japanese – Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru. The bikes ran through AJS, Ariel, BSA, Royal Enfield and Honda. I’m probably one of the few people in Australia who has never owned a Holden or a Ford. Nor wished to.
I also got to drive some spectacular cars – a supercharged 3.8 litre Jaguar XK120, a v8-engined cut-and-shut Lancia Lamba, a wonderful high riding Vauxhall 30/98, and a blown Chevrolet engined Ford Prefect stand out – and had some spectacular drives and rides. My first run over 100mph (Jaguar MK7) on the Mad Mile at Heathcote; hitting 120 in the XK120 on empty road in an industrial estate; finding that XK120s were deficient in the brake department; driving hands off at 120mph on the sweet line of a banked circuit.
Then I really discovered motorcycles. The first wheelie on a Royal Enfield scrambler; popping the front wheel clear of the road on a Kawasaki 500 Triple going into third gear; blasting flat-out along a deserted air strip flat on the tank of a Kawasaki Z1R; hustling around race tracks on an assortment of machines from a Ossa Wildfire to BSA and Honda production race bikes to Kawasaki Z900R.
I had quite a lot to do with Geoff Duke when he was asked to open the British National Motorcycle Museum. I took quite a lot of shots of him, but my favourite is of him riding a Norton Manx through the main hall of the Museum.
Fangio and Moss I photographed at a curious event in an area known as the Bull Ring, in Birmingham. I’ve forgotten the its name but the event consisted of lots of wonderful cars and bikes being driven around the streets of the Bull Ring. As well as Moss and Fangio, Carrol Shelby, Mike Hailwood, Jack Brabham, Dennis Hulme, Roy Salvadori and John Surtees were also driving.
Before the parade the cars were on display in the local fruit market building. Fruit and vegies and marvellous cars as far as the eye could see. Absolutely bizarre.