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This series of pages touches on the early days of the TR marque in Australia 
Early TR History in Australia
Harry Firth's Legendary TR2 Special
Photos and information courtesy Graeme White©
- the photo below shows Dianne Leighton at Sandown 1962

Graeme says:
                    TOP DRIVERS REMEMBERED AS THE LEGENDARY TRIUMPH TR2 SPECIAL LIVES ON.

"The TR2 Special is by far one of the most historically significant racing Triumph sports cars in Australia’s motor sport history.

The Triumph TR2 Special was built and developed in Victoria by the legendary Harry Firth during 1956 after a spectacular roll-over at Fishermans Bend circuit. The TR2 Special has a very extensive and most interesting sporting history, having been owned and campaigned by well known and leading sports car drivers Gavin Baillieu / Harry Firth followed by Wes Nalder and Dianne Leighton. This wasduring the exciting period known as the “Golden Era” of sports car racing, from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s in Australia when everyday British production sports cars led the way.

This exceptionally quick TR2 Special is a reminder of that past era as it dominated its class (under 2000cc) for nearly a decade with many notable performances. It created numerous new track and hillclimb records, mainly in Victoria and Tasmania. It was the power of the TR’s engine along with the light weight Firth hand crafted body that gave the TR2 Special its greatest advantage. The result was an amazing string of victories pitted against many respected and top class competitors in a diverse array of sporting machines and marques. This was prior to the fitting of a light weight “Oscar“ fibreglass body and just before it was purchased in 1959 by Wes Nalder.

According to Wes Nalder, it was an "Oscar" (not Ausca) because Harry was going to make some of his own modifications, like the fitting of a head rest, grille etc. and he wanted to be different in that period. Wes purchased the TR Special not long after Harry fitted the fibreglass body, so all the so-called Firth modification may not have been completed or made, but it was known as an "Oscar" by Wes. In August 1960, Wes advertised the Special for sale and Dianne Leighton eventually purchased the Special later in the year from Wes. The advert below is a pretty impressive write up for what we know today as the legendary TR2 Special .


Australian Motor Sports - August 1960 p344 (from the Graeme White archives)

It was not surprising that both the enthusiastic Wes Nalder and the very competitive Dianne Leighton during their period of ownership continued to thrill TR owners and motor sports fans alike. They won many class events at various circuits and hillclimbs on the east coast of Australia.

Historically, the racing successes alone make the “Firth” one-off TR2 Special one of the sports more notable specials. Whilst it did the marque proud, that is not the end of the story. The fact that the TR Special has survived thus far is equally exciting for TR enthusiasts Australia wide.

Nowadays, the purposeful looking TR2 Special is proudly displayed, along with memorabilia of the Longford motor races, in the historic Country Club Hotel in Longford, Tasmania. 

In the mid 1980s the TR Special passed through several other custodians after Dianne Leighton. At one stage in it's fascinating history, it was owned by the then TR Register’s Tasmanian co-ordinator."

The TR2 Special at Albert Park 1956 (Paul England’s Ausca to the left and a TR2 in the background)
The TR2 Special at Templestowe Hill Climb (1956).
Dianne Leighton Racing at Calder 1962
Then Tassie Co-ordinator, Mike Sullivan at the wheel (1984).
On display in the Longford Hotel (1990s)

Addition 1:
Here is an interesting addition to the story about Dianne Leighton - with thanks to the VHRR Newsletter - March 2007.
It was in response to a query about the first woman to race at Sandown (searched by Rick Fletcher)

"The first race at Sandown was actually run around May 1904 - however, there were no ladies listed among the competitors. The modern era of Sandown began with the first meeting on March 11th and 12th 1962 and the only lady driver entered was Mrs. Dianne Leighton driving her Triumph TR2 in the Kevin Lott Sports Car Trophy Race over 25 laps ( 50 miles) .

The race started at 3.30 pm on the first day i.e. March 11 and was won by J. Martin in a Lotus 15; second was Bib Stillwell in a Cooper Monaco; and third was Barry Topen in a “D” Type Jaguar. There is no record of other finishers in the event and Dianne Leighton is not mentioned. Dianne was a prominent lady driver of the period along with Pam Elam and of course Diana Davison."

Sources: The Programme of the First Race meeting and the Results in Australian Motor Sport, April Edition 1962.

Addition 2: (source Wikipedia)

The 1962 Armstrong 500 was an endurance race for Australian built production cars. The race was held at the Phillip Island circuit in Victoria, Australia on 21 October 1962 over 167 laps of the 3.0 mile circuit, a total of 501 miles. Dianne Leighton finished 3rd in Class C driving a Simca Aronde with 2 other female co-drivers.

Addition 3: (source Viv Paine)

Dianne Leighton had a fair amount of clout at Sandown Park as her father-in-law Stanley Leighton (now Leighton Construction Company) built the facility. By then the ex Gavin Baillieu/Harry Firth prepared/Ausca bodied TR2 had become a hybrid - note the cut down TR3A grille !