For the final collection of the year, we visit Ross & Fred Kiehne. With over 50 years of history in speedway, Formula 250 and Midget race cars, the stories never end. Here at Torquecafe Collections Unveiled, we've managed to rope them in for a chat, and a peek inside their collection that is absolutely stacked full of legacy.
The Kiehne's have approximately 16 cars, but on-site at the time were:
#1 Formula 250 Speedcar • #11 Side Plate Holden 1948 • #1 3k V8 Sesco Midget – Mel Kenyon • #1 Murphy Sesco Midget • #1 Edmunds Autocraft House Car Midget • #1 Edmunds Sesco Midget • #79 Mel Kenyon Midget ft Scat VW • 1973 VJ Valiant Charger
Ross: Well this is where it all started, 50 years ago. Little 250 club my father Des Kiehne made and we had five boys and he looked for a cheap sport and this was the cheapest he could make. So he made the club and we progressed from there. It's a bad disease but we've caught it all.
Fred: With this little car here, Ross had the Sesco at the time so he concentrated on a midget to drive instead of driving them both. He was kind enough to give me a ride in this one and at that stage we started, I run this against the Formula 500s back in the day and they told us, started us at the rear and they said when we come to lappin' keep a low line, well, green flag went and I end up getting third from the back. So it's a very fast little car and it's probably one of the last ones to race this one.
Ross: Another quick story on this car, we went to Yandina for the Litre Club title and they said, ‘oh you can be a guest and run at the back if you want and see how you go and if you qualify you can run.' Well there was two of us there and we broke the lap record by about a second and miles fastest. The Litre Club had a meeting and decided that these were too dangerous to run with them because it was unsafe. So we didn't we didn't run, but we had them beat.
Ross: When I first got started I was 15 and we run a quarter midget and that club wasn't going anywhere fast, so my father made the 250 speed car club. His background was he was in the army and he used to race down at the Hume Weir. As we were getting older, in about ‘73, ‘74, we had nothing to do. We had a whole bunch of kids and we used to be trouble. So he said, well, what's the easiest way is I'll make these. And then we had our own track at Calamvale. Very quickly it progressed to nearly 40 odd cars. And they were very cheap to run. You could make a frame in a weekend for under $200.
My father was a big influence on us. He was a very, very, very good mechanic. And he just instigated, made it fool-proof, made it so it was cheap, it was an economical sport, and nearly everyone around Speedway had driven or been in one of these.
Fred: I still got my original 250 at home that Ross built in 1977. I was the owner at 14, I couldn't race it until I was 16, so I had drivers driving for me at 14. Dad just did that to keep us off the streets. And yeah, I've still got it today. That's what started it all off. Now, I've progressed into midgets after that, but Dad invented, redesigned all the independent rear ends on these because they used to be rigid back in the day. And I put a jack shaft in the middle as well to stop the chain whipping. Just all… He was a great engineer, dad was. He was very smart.
Ross: And run on methanol. They run on methanol too.
There's five number ones in this shed. We had a few more but they've found new homes.
But the Keith Mann car, that's a Murphy number one. It won the Australian title. This one's a Sesco Edmunds and it won the USAC (United States Auto Club) title for Dave Strickland in America. The car behind me which is the Autocraft Volkswagen, it's the house car. If you are a good driver, from Patterson, to Tommy White, to Rice, they drove the car, and every one of those in their rights were number one for that series.
The Kenyon car, it was banned in America. It was very quick, and very noisy. It does 13,000 revs, and it consists of two 1100 Suzukis with a common crank. So it's a V8 with a Mel Kenyon frame. Mel Kenyon is a special person because he got involved in an accident, an Indycar accident and burned his hand. Nearly cost him his life and since then he's won a lot of championships, he's won all the USACs. He's won eight USAC titles since then. So that's how talented the bloke is. He used to crew for AJ Foyt cars. He'd build cars for AJ Foyt, et cetera. So that's a pedigree of the bloke. Him and his brother are legendary. And Mel was driving right up to his 82. So that was about five years ago now, I think. So he's about 87 now. So he almost won the last feature he'd given. He missed by about an inch, they reckon. He just got pipped on the post.
But this is a beautiful car. It'll sit here and idle, just like a road car. It'll do everything right. And then when we were first doing, we were just doing demonstrations at exhibition with it. And when we bought Mel out, he said, ‘oh no, we're going to do some hot laps in it.' So we had to put some tyres on it, and Freddy organised some rims and that at the time. And yeah, he did some hot laps in it. So, yeah, he wasn't mucking around, and it's still a good car today. It's very fast. This type of engine, they've banned it all around the place now, too, so they even banned it in Australia. The V8 motorbike motor won the Australian title with Davey Ray in it, and then they banned it ever since then.
Fred: We've got a few cars here today.
We had to leave a few soldiers behind because we've run out of cars and trailers and people and stuff, but the Kiehne collection's growing and we've got 16 Midgets and two 250s. This is the Kelly Holden. I only purchased this car probably six months ago, and restored it, and I bought it straight from the Kelly family, from Bill Kelly's son, and it was built in 1948. It originally had an A Model Ford in it. It's one of the famous cars that did a lot in exhibition grounds in the early days with Des Kelly in it, racing it as well and I purchased it off the family. Never left the family until I got it and I'm the second owner of it. And I've just restored it.
I've only just finished it probably a month and a half ago and kept the, preserved the 40-year-old paint job on it and just got the sign right and touched up. I didn't want to do too much to it but I just cleaned it all up.
Ross and I have got a car reached down the Gold Coast Motor Museum. We've got them in there apparently. Ross has got a Curtis Craft Offenhauser and I've got a B model Ford which is hand beaten steel. We try and share them around as much as we can so people can enjoy them.
Ross: I've got plenty of race cars and I've had plenty over the years. Some of John Andretti have owned Cosworths, I've had Jeff Gordon's, I've had Tony Stewart's. Jeff Gordon's was a Pontiac and Stewart's was a V4. I've also had Wanless's Volkswagen, I've restored and owned one. They're over in New Zealand now and I've sold them back to America.
Ross: Speedway has been a big part of my life for over 50 years.