King of the Clubmen
In the 1950s, Clubmen’s classes were the backbone of local road racing – a reflection of the Clubmen’s TT introduced at the Isle of Man in 1949. The rules prohibited pukka racing bikes like the Manx Norton, AJS 7R and Matchless G45 and called for catalogued road models, with virtually any modifications allowed. This gave great scope to the home tuner, and the result was some particularly innovative machinery, produced in home workshops with minimal resources. Favoured bikes were the B31 and B33 BSA, Ariel Red Hunter, Norton International, Matchless G80 (especially with the hard-to-get Shelsley parts) and the Triumph Tiger 100 twin.
The Tiger 100 was a formidable piece of equipment straight out of the box, but it became well nigh unbeatable with the addition of the factory-produced Racing Kit, which cost as much as the motorcycle itself. The kit comprised high-compression pistons, stronger valve springs, racing camshafts, twin carburettors with remote fuel bowls, megaphone exhausts, rear set footrests, rear brake and gear lever, and a close-ratio gear set. The kit turned the T100 into a virtual racer, but the cost was prohibitive to all but a few.
One man who obtained a race kit for his Tiger 100 was Jack Jowett, from Muswellbrook NSW, but he faced stiff opposition from another Novocastrian, Gordon Purcell. While Jowett’s machine was a standard T100, Purcell built his from parts, using a chassis and engine from the Triumph TR5 which had been developed for the International Six Days Trial. Purcell also made his own double-sided front brake by cutting and welding two T100 brake drums back to back.
The Easter race meeting at Bathurst was the biggest event on the calendar, and the Clubmen’s races were the biggest on the packed program. In 1952, Purcell took the honours, but by 1953 the entry list for the Clubmen’s races had grown to such an extent that the races were split into A and B divisions. True to form, Purcell won the A Division from Eric Hinton’s Norton International, while Jowett beat similarly-mounted Frank Wilde to win the B Division. Twelve months later, the Bathurst organisers created a Super Clubmen’s class for the top riders from both divisions, but on this occasion Jowett was narrowly beaten by Ross Pentecost’s Shelsley Matchless.
By 1955 Purcell had moved on into the GP ranks on a Manx Norton, leaving Jowett back in charge of the Senior Clubmen’s Division A at Bathurst, winning from John Shanks’ rapid Ariel, but in 1956 young Victorian Trevor Pound arrived with Jim Guilfoyle’s very special BSA Gold Star and the hard-riding Jowett had to settle for second place.
The youngsters were beginning to get amongst the Old Guard, and in 1957 a fresh-faced 17 year old, Kelvin Carruthers, entered the Bathurst Senior Clubmen’s on a B33 BSA which had been prepared by his father, former speedway star Jack. The field also included Pound and another Victorian star, Bob West, but from the start it was all about Carruthers and Jowett, who was more than twice the age of young Kel. For the first half of the six lap, 40 kilometre race, Carruthers held sway, but Jowett refused to give in, and swept by with two laps to run and held the advantage to the flag to rapturous applause from the big crowd.
That was Jowett’s swan-song as far as Bathurst was concerned, and with the closure of the Mount Druitt circuit, road racing in NSW went into a steady decline. Jack held onto his highly successful machine however, converting it to its original road-going specifications, at east externally.
The famous Triumph is now owned by Jack’s son John, who has generously loaned it to Motorcycling Australia.