OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC
1966 Hillman Gazelle
Story by Barry Hall, pictures by Brian Vogt
OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC
|My interest came early in the 1960s when my friend Ralph Boord
and I decided to build a sports car for racing in club
events at Mallala, being members of the Austin 7 Club. We were also interested in drag racing. One of Ralph's
"friends," Ralph Searl, built a small drag racer with a Hillman motor – this car was very successful in nine chain sprints
at the time being at Gawler on a closed road. Getting back to the sports car, we decided on a Clubman type car with a
Cortina motor, because Ralph worked at a garage, "D Smith & Son," who were agents for Ford. That was only the reason
we used the parts (out of the bin). "Oily" was the name of the car short for "Olympus Ford" – it was very successful
but our driver always found the odd tree so panel jobs until midnight (Oily is still alive).
Following the interest of "Oily," we decided to build a rear engine sports. We first used a 6 cylinder Falcon motor with a Chev-Corsair gearbox. The body was on the lines of a McLaren – we called this one "Boral" from Boord & Hall. The car was later altered quite a bit with a Ford 351 coupled to a Hewland gearbox and sponsored with Shell Racing SA. Later down the track we were approached by Stan Keen who was racing an Elfin Formula 5000. Using the rear assembly, we made a sports car body for him. When he wasn't racing in 5000 events, Stan would bolt the rear drive assembly to the sports car body and go racing.
After spending a lot of time working on other peoples' cars, I decided with Eric that we would look for a secondhand small coaster bus and convert it to a camper, so one was bought from Bute. This was also full of rust (nasty word) on the roof from the mounted water air-conditioner. It also took about 3 years to complete. Also turned out splendid and gets a lot of comments. Having said all that, I was looking for another project, one for myself. Having known Russell Gill all my school and teen life at Pennington, and his knowledge of all types of cars including Vintage, we would go to all the Bay to Birdwood runs together and comment on all the cars saying to each other that we would get one day. Well, Russell got his Hillman and would call in to our place at Woodside whilst on a Hillman run. He looked as if he was having lots of fun along with Beverley – so I decided to get a Hillman! Having seen an ad in the paper at Pennington for two Hillman Gazelles, I thought "this is my chance." After seeing them, they were not pretty, I can tell you! One had no motor but a good body. The other motor was going without gearbox, so I bought them. On taking them home, the wife was not impressed – too much work. So the hunt was back on. Another ad in the paper at Seaford. Had a look, but no clutch. The motor was sound and body was straight with plenty of rust but 100% on the others. It was trailered home to join the others in the backyard.
Knowing how long other projects took, I decided to get into it quick smart. Doors off, trim and seats out. Rust out of corners, then the boot. Rust welded patches in the rear guards, fuel tank out and cleaned, rust on door seals, then front guards (renowned for rust). Having done all this in 3 months, I was doing pretty well. In the meantime, I joined the club and went on runs with primed spots all over the Gazelle. The time had come to paint, so what brand? Acrylic or 2 pack? I spoke to an apprentice at work who had just painted his Statesman and I was impressed with the finish. After talking to young Brett he came up to my place to have a look and took the job (told him all the experience helps for later!) It took one weekend. Saturday, rub down and prime. Sunday, colour on. Couldn't wait for Monday – putting back all the strips, windows, doors and seals. Next the seats were re-trimmed and repaired. Seat belts in front. Picked the best of the bumpers from the backyard. New carpet of course!
After all was assembled, the end result was very pleasing. Not taking any chances, re-built front disc brakes and new exhaust system, new tyres but still not happy! Something wrong – the grille was dented and scratched and did not look the part. While taking a trip to a friend's place at Tiddy Widdy near Ardrossan, we decided to take a drive over to Port Vincent and behold, there was a Gazelle begging to go home. So in I go and ask. Came out with a smile. It was motor complete and 4 speed. Same upholstery and a "manual" and best of all, a good grille. A week later Russell, a friend and myself trailered it home to my collection.
Some months later Russell and Beverley decided to get their Minx painted by my young friend Brett who did mine.
Another project in my shed to remove dents and rust – good job done!
To my surprise, I noticed another Gazelle in the paper at Lonsdale. I took a look and I was amazed at the condition of the
grille – so another one in the yard! I did put this one on my car and am quite happy now.
In October 2003 the company I worked for 50 years came to an arrangement for me to retire. So now I have retired to my shed, "the house of Hillmans." So after 50 years of cars, buses and trucks, what will be the next project? Well, my son in law bought a 1952 Bedford 30 cwt. truck with rust and dents so that's what was next! Another good job done. Proud of myself, painted this one.
Well it hasn't stopped there. My son has a Mk 1 Cortina in the shed (my shed!) – does he need his done too? Of course, and a 4x4 from my other son in law. Well one has to stay busy, doesn't one!
Editor's note: The Hillman Gazelle was a special model assembled by Rootes Australia. Based on the Singer Gazelle
Series VI, it boasted 85 brake horsepower (an extra 15 bhp over the iron head Hillman Minx and Singer Gazelle) due to the alloy head engine built for the Sunbeam Rapier.
As this was the only model ever badged "Hillman Gazelle," Rootes Australia never assigned a series number to it.
Picture below: The broad, flat air filter obscures the rear of the engine bay. Solex B32 PAIAS carburettor has a 24 mm primary throttle (butterfly operated from the accelerator pedal) and a 26 mm secondary throttle (vacuum operated).