Vale, Charlie Smith – Auto Action
MOTORSPORTS LEGEND and Aviator Charlie Smith, died Oct. 15 at the age of 94. He took up motor racing in the early 1950s and competed in Australia’s first touring car race in 1960.
Smith was born in New Lambton in 1928 and spent his early years on a small farm in Medowie before the family moved to Wentworthville, and he worked as an electrician’s apprentice in the workshops of Eveleigh Railway.
He married Betty Knight in 1949 and became an electrical contractor, wiring new homes in the newly developed Baulkham Hills area.
His first race was at the first post-war motorcycle racing meeting in Bathurst in 1946, when he took part in the first RedeX and Mobilgas trials at Peugeots and a Holden.
Smith raced Mt Druitt and Bathurst in the family car, a Fiat 1100, before modifying a few Morris Majors and taking on Warwick Farm and Katoomba.
Noticed by the BMC, the company ensured it received a new Austin Freeway when it was introduced in 1962.
After a Lotus Eleven Smith bought the Elfin Formula Junior which Frank Matich raced successfully and then won the 1963 NSW Formula Junior Championships at Catalina Park. A Lotus 23 of Alec Mildren followed which Smith said was the best car he had ever driven.
When the first production car 500 mile race was held at Phillip Island in 1960, BMC entered three Morris Majors and three Austin Lancers and Smith co-drove with Brian Muir but was not placed.
The following year he was in a Major with Bruce Maher but retired with a broken suspension. In 1962 he raced the Freeway before it was modified.
From 1963 he was a regular in the 500 at Bathurst where he co-drove with Maher, Barry Ferguson, Ron Jaylen, Barry Seton and Don Holland in Mini Coopers for two class wins and a second. In 1969 he teamed up with Bill Ford and XW GT Falcon auto for another class second.
Later, in his 70s, Smith bought a Series 4 Lotus Seven, got a regularity license and raced for about ten years. Then, reluctantly, he hung up his helmet for the last time.
In 1955, he learned to fly, obtained his license and became a professional pilot and instructor. He introduced Formula 1 world champions Jim Clark and Graham Hill to aviation during their visits for the Tasman Series of the early 1960s.
Smith also had various business ventures which included shares in large cattle holdings. He has also been involved in car clubs, property development and a tenure as a councilor for Coffs Harbor Shire.
An Australian who has achieved a lot in his life and AUTO ACTION extends its condolences to his family and friends.
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