Southport Beach, Christmas Day, 1916. Two men. Two cars. The beach is now called Surfers Paradise. A world-famous beach, and a mecca for those chase waves.
The cars are a Willys Overland and a Studebaker Six. Not that you would recognise them. They are speedsters – race cars – modified with lightweight bodies designed to go as fast as possible along the low-tide hard, flat sand.
Those steering, Frederick Zina Eager and Alec Fraser Jewell had three things in common: Their fathers were both called Edward, both dads died early, and both Fred and Alec drive speedsters for one reason: To win. Second best does not sell cars.
Fred Eager’s father started a car business in Brisbane and by 1916 the dealership, and car importing business was thriving. The Eager’s were from a small town near Toledo, Ohio, USA.
Alec Jewell’s father died in the same year as Alec was born, in Ballarat, Victoria in1880, and Jewell became a champion racing cyclist in Perth, Western Australia. Alec Jewell had a dark side. He had trouble keeping to speed limits and suffered from a bad case of white-line fever when driving on public roads. He was a familiar visitor to many Victorian court rooms.
Car Wars Down Under explores both men’s’ lives as they head towards their first event as rivals, a hill climb at One Tree Hill, Brisbane in October, 1916. The stakes were high. The Studebaker had to win to create publicity for the new Studebaker Six. That order came come down from Studebaker head office in South Bend, Indiana. CCM took the order seriously.
Jewell worked for Canada Cycle and Motor (CCM), Brisbane, run by AV Dodwell. CCM and EG Eager & Son fought for bragging rights for their respective cars, Willys and Studebaker, in a battle that became a bitter war of words played out in public via the display advertisements of the Brisbane Courier newspaper. It became personal and nasty.
When the Studebaker failed to put a dent in the successes of Fred Eager’s Willys in the popular hill climbs, CCM looked for an event that would suit the Studebaker and negate Fred Eager’s driving skills in the nimble Willys Overland. The car was affectionately nicknamed Whitey, after its colour. The event organised by CCM was the first Australian Land Speed Record held, to be held on the Gold Coast’s premier beach in 1916.
Car Wars Down Under is biographical, with a mix of Australiana and the early days of Australian motorsport seen through the eyes of those who led the race charge – car sellers that created the dealers’ credo, ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’.
The non-fiction book is illustrated with photographic images and cartoons from this early era of motorsport. It retails for RRP of $29.95 and will be in selected bookshops from late October.