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Car Club History

“Prior to 1965 the SPMSC was entirely a thriving go-kart club, with, I think, 11 acres of land, a winding tarmac go-kart track, a corrugated iron and marsden matting grandstand.”


A letter from the first Car Club President

Courtesy of N.G. Chay - first President of the SPMSC

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46 Westway Caterham

12 January 2005

Carl Kadlecek Esq
The President
South Pacific Motor Sports Club
P. O. Box 4
Papua New Guinea.

Dear Carl,

I felt obliged to address this to you, it being a letter from the first president of the club to the newest, and it is going, with some déjà vu, to the same PO Box 4, Port Moresby, which we used in the 60's.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I had a burst of nostalgia, decided to surf for SPMSC, and was quite surprised to get a large number of sites. I now write, optimistically, in the hope that I might be able to get some news of developments in the club. In return you may be interested to hear some news of the club's early days, as indicated by your Keith Wall in his forum page dated 2/4/04.

I left Moresby in 1973, and we are about to start the 33rd year of our six-month holiday in England. I note from his site that (Life Member) Bill Chapman has also left the country (in 1981) but some of your older members may remember his many projects, not least his success in recovering and rebuilding crashed WW2 aircraft for his War Museum. Bill and I, (among others), both played a small part in the formation of the all-embracing motor sport club the SPMSC was to become.

Prior to 1965 the SPMSC was entirely a thriving go-kart club, with, I think, 11 acres of land, a winding tarmac go-kart track, a corrugated iron and marsden matting grandstand (photo attached). There was also a starters box, two basic loos, and two 44 gallon drums, from the ice-filled interior of which, on race-days, a volunteer dispensed v. cold bottles of SP lager to the assembled throng. Nothing more was envisaged. The karts were built by the members and were powered almost exclusively by either single or twin McCulloch chainsaw motors, running on pure methanol. The fuel smells were beautiful. (LM) John Smith was a leading exponent, as were (LM) Jim McCaughern & Bill Crawley (all sadly decd). Bill once had a collision entering the first corner (see press cutting) and finished six feet up a tree at the end of the main straight, still sitting in the kart. In the late sixties we built a rallycross circuit which incorporated the main straight and first corner of the go-kart track before taking to the mud and the jumps - but I am getting ahead of myself.

In January 1965 Bill Chapman decided that the town needed a motor sports club, and called a meeting at the Yacht Club, of which several of us were members, with a view to forming such an organisation. John Smith was a member, racing very quick hydroplanes, when I first met him there in the fifties, and I was water-skiing. John and I later had some very fierce battles in rallies, particularly the Papuan Safari, in which we both had some success. The yacht club incidentally became Royal in 1956, when Prince Philip tied up the Britannia in the harbour, came ashore in the barge, and bought a round for the assembled drunks.

This meeting formed the Port Moresby Sporting Car Club, with Bill as delegated co-ordinator. For some time the two clubs co-existed, with the car club doing gymkhanas, drag races on Wards Strip (airstrip), where the Teachers College was later built, hillclimbs at Eriama off the Rouna Road, and one small rally. In early 1965, another meeting was held at the Yacht Club, with a view to amalgamation of the Port Moresby Sporting Car Club with the South Pacific Motor Sports Club. At this meeting Bill was elected secretary, Geoff Greville (not Graham Grevil as shown at the top of your Life Members list) was elected treasurer, and an APC engineer, Evan Rees, elected President in absentia, while on leave in Australia. Unfortunately Evan had a fatal crash in his Lancia, and never took up the appointment.

With news of Evan's accident Bill called an extraordinary general meeting to elect a new president, and to formulate plans for the combined club. I was elected President and remained in office until 1970 (final report and balance sheet attached). We had the go-kart track, the land and basic buildings, and £400.

I had been doing some homework, and was acutely aware that we had nowhere that the members could meet for a beer, and, more importantly, were putting our hard earned drinking money into some other clubs' pockets. I proposed, and had accepted, a motion that we use the £400 in our kitty to purchase a pre-fab native materials building (several photos attached) about 20ft x 12ft which we then had to erect. It was to be sited beside the end of the main straight of the go-kart track. Although many of the forty members helped, this was mainly built by daily (after work) and weekend toil by Geoff Greville. There was a very hard working committee who all pulled their weight in the construction, and in the ancillary requirements such as specialist building, plumbing, electrical work etc. (LM) Alan Morris and his PNG Motors were particularly supportive.

The first major competition on the calendar was a 300 mile rally (of which I became organiser with Max May, and chief marshal), which was to be held in October, and which, in the following year, became the annual Papua Safari of 500 miles. This was organised by the late Bill Crawley, one of Alan Morris' lieutenants, who continued to run it until he transferred to Lae to run the PNG Motors operation there. When Bill left it was then taken over by Bill Chapman.

The Safari took place over mainly wartime roads which one year included one particularly nasty one down towards Rigo where a local farmer had bogged his farm tractor the week before, and only four of us got through. There used to be a bald hill to the left of, I think, Scratchley Road on the way to Vabukori. Bill Crawley sent us straight up this hill followed by a circumnavigation of the top, on the edge of the drop and at a camber that felt like 45° - great fun. At its peak it attracted works teams from Australia including two Australian rally champions and Brian Culceth who was imported from the U.K. to drive a works Leyland for PNG Motors. At the briefing for the team we were discussing team tactics for impossible bogs where all members were expected to get out and push fellow members of the team through. Brian brought the house down by declaring that there was nothing in his contract that required him to get his feet wet!

When the first clubhouse was complete, we bought a second-hand 8 foot square coldroom for £100, which we tacked on to the eastern end of the building. We applied for, and were granted, a club licence. Lord knows how, as toilet facilities, for example, could be charitably described as basic. These were two corrugated iron erections at a respectable distance.

We had some memorable events in that little building and surrounds. One of our events was an open air jazz concert in aid of one of Lady Cleland's causes (I think the South Pacific Games). For this we convinced the Graham Bell Port Jackson Jazz Band (world-renowned), who were touring the territory, that they should perform. We had hundreds sitting inside the go-kart track with Graham playing his piano on a cargo pallet under a small tent in case of rain. We raised several hundreds for the appeal. I think it may have been the games, because when they finally happened we had moved to the new Clubhouse and I remember having the entire Fijian Rugby Union team for drinks at the club immediately after they had thrashed PNG in the final by something like 91-3. The main reason that I remember is that they were all drinking things like a large gin and a large rum in the same glass topped up with beer. After several rounds of this sort of thing the members were lumbered with body disposal duties. My wife and I had to get the lock, or it may have been the fly-half, up one floor to his temporary quarters at the University.

After about three years the little building was bursting at the seams with about 130 members, which was fine except in the rainy season, so we decided to build a more substantial clubhouse (partially complete photo attached), to plans drawn up by John Wild. At this time I was spending quite a lot of time which should have been devoted to my day job with the Administration to my other job of discussions with the architect, organising documents and permits and finding building contractors. John Lohberger, who had taken over from Geoff as Treasurer, and later Barry Webster were ably organising the finance.

This building consisted of a concrete base about 50 feet square with no external walls and with a bar/toilet/kitchen block to one side, which may or may not be still in existence. I note in your photos that the members seem to be drinking at stand-up tables similar to those installed in the original clubhouse. In addition the bar area seems similar to the island bar with kitchen attached which we built. In 1970 we completed a breezeblock courtyard with garden and playground for the children. When I retired as president in 1970 we had paid off the clubhouse and had turned over $73,000 in the twelve months at, I think, about 20c for a beer. Gold Leaf were $1.50 per carton. Probably a laughable amount today but our members were impressed.

Around 1967/68 I had got the Sports Editor of the SP Post (Neil Smith) on side and we were getting more than our share of publicity in the paper. In addition I was doing a Friday night slot on the ABC with forecasts for the weekend, and another on Mondays with results. This helped us to get sponsorship for club events and for help with expenses for events like the Papuan Safari. Your forum of 19/7/03 mentions key-fob badges. Every Club had them in the 60s/70s, and ours was the same as the present Club badge on the top of your website. John Lohberger has Badge No.1 and I have No.2.

You will notice from the report that from amalgamation in 1965 to 1970, the club existed primarily for furtherance of the sport. After the belt-tightening, and, dare I say it, committee skill in 1969/70, in paying off the debts incurred in the cash purchase of the new building, our membership suddenly ballooned from 130 to 400. Most of these newcomers were attracted by the ambience of the club and the fact that it was a very good place for the odd after work glass or two. This new membership was behind the agitation for financially difficult projects outside the sport, such as the proposed billiard room in 1970, which we, the committee, felt could wait for a few more months. We needed a little time for the wounds to heal.

It was at this time that I wrote the club constitution which, I was pleased to see, is still in operation as displayed on your website. This was primarily designed to vest control of the Club in those involved in the sport and/or those who had worked, or were willing to work for the Club's improvement. I note some photos on your site which would indicate that the billiard room did eventually arrive, and, it would appear, with knobs on. It would be nice to have a few frames. There should also be a copy somewhere in the club archives of a complex set of rally rules which I wrote after some disgruntled competitor, whose name escapes me, hired a barrister to challenge the result of the Safari. The barrister started his judgement in favour of the original result with the statement "We should not lose sight of the fact that we are primarily engaged in a sport-".

I had my first sponsored drive in the first Port Moresby Sporting Car Club rally in early 65 in a Nissan Prince from Steamships Trading Company. My navigator was John Lohberger, recently retired as Chief Collector of Taxes. He and I then moved to (L.M.) Alan Morris' PNG Motors and stayed with them until 1969, in various British Leyland machinery. John Smith, who finished his career as General Manager and Director of PNG Motors, and I both had sponsored Leyland drives. Among our works mechanics were late (L.M.) Jim McCoughern and his brother, who brought a tape back from leave at home in Northern Ireland of the new young comedian Billy Connelly, and asked if they could put it on the club PA system. The only people present who could understand his then raw Glaswegian accent were Jim and his brother.

In 1970 Alan Morris flew a Subaru 1100 to Brisbane for John Smith and I to compete in the Ampol 10,000 miles Round Australia Rally, to publicise his recent acquisition of the Subaru distribution in PNG. The works Holden Monaro V/8s, Citroen DS 23s and Ford Falcon 500 V/8s were all running spotter planes. Our support consisted of three dealers on the entire continent. They were all cruising at 100 mph plus while we were flat out at about 80 mph down a well (with 4cwt of spares, extra fuel and water on board). The first transport stage was from Brisbane via Cobar-Bourke-Wilcannia to Port Augusta, which we did in 32 hours, including changing a punctured radiator. I'm sure (L.M.) Peter Miersch was a man recently arrived from Austria, who also had the first Falcon 500 in Moresby, and gave me a drive of it one night in the rain after we'd had several in the Club. I recall that the handling was so hairy that we both returned sober.

Do we still have a Papuan Safari? In fact do we actually still have competition? I notice that you appear to have some success in the karts, although from all appearances they seem to be a little more sophisticated than our home made machinery. In 1967 or 1968 we had a 16mm movie shot of the Safari, which I think was last seen in the company of Ron Gough. In the very unlikely event that it is still in existence, is it possible that I might be able to buy a VHS copy, as this was one that I won? I appreciate that this possibility is remote to say the least. The last time I competed in the Safari was, I think, 1972, as navigator for Ron in his Mazda RX5 Rotary.

Hope this has been of some interest to you and your members. I wonder if you might have time to let me know how the clubhouse has developed, and if, in fact, our original building was utilised in such development. In fact any news at all especially photos of the building would be much appreciated. I hope to hear from you if you have the time.

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Noel Chay (and not Neville as listed in Life Members) (since corrected)

President 1965-70

More historical info
Images, annual reports and more

- Historical images

- President's Annual Report 1970

- Treasurer's Report 1970

- Pinder's Report of an AGM