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Homepage. This page: A young boy gets to sit in Jack Brabham's Cooper Bristol racing car in the 1950s.

The Redex Special.

At Goodwood a few years back I was fortunate enough to find the three-time F1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham in the paddock, and acquire his autograph. This photograph though dates to a much earlier time, the early 1950s in fact, when Brabham was honing his craft in his native Australia. At the time he raced a Cooper Bristol, supported by Redex, hence the name "Redex Special". A young boy, maybe three years of age, has been photographed behind the wheel of the Cooper, with "Black Jack" crouched alongside. How this single motor racing photograph was to be found in a mixed bag of European motoring images I've no idea, but that's how it turned up. Initially I'd thought that the location of this photograph might well be Mount Druitt, and I read of a suggestion that it could have been taken at the Katoomba circuit in the Blue Mountains, NSW, but it now appears not and the location has yet to be identified. The car sports "6" as its entry number, and an array of Australian and American cars can be seen in the background.
A stamp on the reverse tells that the photograph was taken and/or processed by "Souvenir Snapshots" of Katoomba, New South Wales. Researching the car would turn up some interesting information about this very photograph, and the boy sat in the car, of which more anon.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size Cooper Bristol image.)
Jack Brabham and the Redex Special
In 1955 Brabham upped sticks and headed to England to continue his racing career, having raced the Redex Special in New Zealand after shipping it from Australia. The car was bought in the winter of 1953, and sold in 1955. I've seen photographs of the car with two different styles of sponsorship lettering. Such commercial support ruffled a few feathers with race organisers CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) at the time, as on-car sponsorship was not permitted by the authorities in Australia. As a result Brabham had to remove the name from the car, thus ending Redex's sponsorship of his activities. Apparently the first time this issue was raised, Jack simply covered the lettering up with brown paper and tape, although once up to speed it didn't remain in place for too long.

Identification of the scene, and the boy.

But back to the photograph. Searching online brought up some scans of The Jack Brabham Story, a book by Doug Nye. The history of the car is described in detail, but what really caught my eye was a side view of the same car, also number 6, parked in a similar location to that shown above, with the exact same boy sat at the wheel, albeit in a different pose. In my photo, there's another boy stood in the background in a striped pullover. The same boy appears in the background of the Nye-sourced photograph, this time closer to the car. The line of spectators' cars in the background also matches.
In the book image, there are a couple of wooden fence poles behind the car. In my photograph, there is a thin rope tangled on the grass in the foreground, so I think the car was slightly closer to the parked cars and therefore on the other side of the poles, when my shot was taken.
The caption in the book suggests that the location is the Katoomba circuit in NSW, however this has been disputed as it didn't open until 1961. The boy is none other than Jack's first son, Geoff Brabham, himself a racing driver, born in 1952. I wonder who would have ordered this print in 1954/1955 of Jack with his first son? And how did it end up in England?
Return to Page 17 in the vintage gallery.
Other references to Cooper Bristols on the site include a look at diecast toys versions by Crescent and Dinky.
Racing personalities featured elsewhere on the site include Stirling Moss, perched in this original photo upon an Austin-Healey. In the late 1960s, Jack Brabham put his name to sets of car maintenance cards titled "Jack Brabham's Car Care Cards", and a set for owners of the BMC 1100 & 1300 can be found on this page.

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