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John Hallihan

Sydney pharmacist John Hallihan is the man who brought a rare D-Type to Australia, in very interesting circumstances.

During the obligatory overseas working holiday in the mid-’60s, Hallihan met legendary Jaguar PR Manager Andrew Whyte. Hallihan was keen to buy a ‘cheap’ Jaguar, and asked Whyte if he knew of any cars already ‘on the water’ to Australia.

John had already purchased the rarely seen C-Type XKC021 which was in need of a thorough restoration, but Andrew, who maintained a meticulous tracking system for every C and D-Type built, told the young chemist that a D-Type had been taken to Malaysia, and had been crashed during the Johore Grand Prix several years before – however, at this time, he had no further details or knowledge of the car’s whereabouts.

1955 Jaguar D-Type “XKD510”. Photo: Mossgren

XKD510 had been sold new in England, in 1955, to Richard Wilkins who quickly sold it to Jaguar’s 1953 Le Mans winner, and second-placed man in 1954, Duncan Hamilton. In his autobiography ‘Touch Wood’, Hamilton claimed to have touched 200 mph in his D-Type in the Dakar Grand Prix, and while exaggerated in typical Duncan fashion, the car he was referring to was XKD510.

Tony Dennis was a protege of Hamilton’s, and he was given the car to race at Goodwood for the Easter meeting in 1955, but turned it over in a high speed accident and was killed.

The wreckage was sold to Gerald Ashmore who repaired it, raced it for several seasons, and eventually passed it on, in 1963, to the Singaporean Jaguar distributors, The Cycle and Carriage Company.

XKD510 on the starting line of the Johore Grand Prix.

Hallihan had arrived in London a couple of years before speaking with Whyte, and was working at the Hermit Road Pharmacy in Canning Town east of the City of London. He was able to also arrange a job for another young Sydney chemist, Ron Monson, who was freshly arrived after deportation from the USA.

Monson was named after his father, who was a famous war correspondent based in Cairo during WWII. Monson Snr. became famous for a book he wrote called “Cape to Cairo” which he completed after walking from the southern tip of Africa to Egypt! It was adventures like this which encouraged young Ron to travel the world, taking a few chances along the way. He had joined a sheep ship bound from Sydney to Panama, and after many weeks of shovelling sheep dung he jumped ship in Mexico, but ran foul of border guards while crossing into the USA – thus his deportation.

The U.S. authorities made Ron’s plan to travel the world just a little easier by asking him where he wanted to be deported to – he said: “Well, I’m headed for London.” So that’s where they sent him, at the U.S. taxpayers’ expense!

Meeting up with Hallihan in London the two spent summers in the pharmacy, and winters in Europe. Hallihan’s own yearning to travel had begun back in university in Sydney. His mother, who was English and from Macclesfield in Cheshire, told John how much his relatives would like to meet him, and this along with travel stories from a weekly magazine fuelled his wanderlust.

He had also spent some time as a ski patroller at an Australian ski resort, and was keen to see the glamorous peaks of Europe and learn how to ski like the instructors.

So, during his European sojourn, he got a job as a maintenance man in the Swiss resort of Leysin, near Montreux. In between laundry and odd jobs he learned to ski in the classic Swiss fashion. His job almost ended prematurely when during one Swiss winter he hung wet bed sheets outside on the drying line, as his mother did in their sub-tropical Sydney home. When he removed the sheets, which had frozen solid, they naturally snapped in half!

1955 Jaguar D-Type “XKD510”. Photo: Mossgren

Back in London, John returned to work at the pharmacy, but then began a business on the side supplying Jaguar spare parts to enthusiasts in Rhodesia. This was despite a British government embargo on trade. John’s company, which consisted only of a business name, stripped Jaguars and posted the parts by air to Salisbury – thereby circumventing the embargo, which only applied to sea trade. Of course, there were difficulties – each parcel could only weigh 28-lbs. A Jaguar wire wheel weighed exactly 28-lbs, so it could not be packed. The inventive Hallihan simply spray painted the addressee’s name on the wheel and shipped it as it was!

It was around this time the young chemists met a man called Martin Maudling, who was the son of Reginald Maudling, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. Maudling Jnr. raced a humble Ford Anglia, and posed around London in a smart Jaguar XK120. John Hallihan answered an ad for a motor mechanic to work on the Ford Anglia, and spent many cold weekends, on his back, in icy pits and paddocks getting Maudling’s Anglia back on the track.

Cockpit of XKD510.

Hallihan and Monson spent quite a few nights in London with Maudling at the Chancellor’s official residence at Number 11 Downing Street, scoffing the British taxpayer-funded Port wine. Following defeat at the election when Harold Wilson’s Labor Party won office, Maudling was kicked out of Number 11, and the Maudling family moved to slightly less grand accommodations in Belgravia – after which the Port wine ration was cut severely.

During their stay in London the chemists had seen the original “Lawrence of Arabia” at a Mayfair cinema and this epic, combined with their lust for travel to exotic places was the birth of their plan to return to Australia cross country!

They needed a vehicle, which had to be cheap, but reliable. Hallihan answered an ad, in The Trading Post, from a gentleman in Crewe, near Manchester. The man was a Rolls-Royce employee and had acquired a WWII Willys jeep. He had removed the often troublesome Willys petrol engine and fitted a Perkins diesel. A quick inspection, an exchange of £250 for the keys, and John returned to London in the rather battered, but rugged four-wheel-drive.

Hallihan and Monson pose with their Jeep, in London.

Back at the pharmacy, Ron and John designed jerry can holders which would give them an 1,800-mile range, but they needed an acetylene rig to weld up the brackets. Enter young Maudling, who had just the kit. Late one night, as John was manhandling the oxy cylinders into the rear of the pharmacy he was accosted by a London Bobby who, after listening to the explanation, assisted John with the task. They were then stopped by Flying Squad detectives in a patrol car and questioned closely about their suspicious movements. Eventually, the detectives hauled the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, plus the owner of the pharmacy, out of bed to verify the boys’ credentials. As neither of the older men had any idea what was going on, it was left to the bewildered Scotland Yard detectives to lecture the young men, allowing them to return to their night time bodybuilding.

So John (27) and Ron (26) and the mighty Willys jeep left London aboard a Bristol airfreighter for the Continent – and the overland journey back to Sydney!

The freighter deposited the pair (and their jeep) in Spain, and after adventurous touring through western Europe, they headed for Morocco, and in true Lawrence style they charged off across northern Africa through Tunisia, Libya to Egypt. The next leg took them through Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, which in 1967 was in the middle of hostilities with India (what’s changed?). After crossing into India, Hallihan and Monson headed for Kashmir to go bear-hunting.

Hallihan, at the wheel of the Jeep, in Africa.

Now, for bear hunting you need a suitable firearm, so our glib young travellers set out to hire a rifle – some task in war-torn India. After convincing the police, the militia and the game wardens of their intentions, they duly hired a rifle to track down big game. Alas, a week of stalking failed to produce the quarry, but it did leave the natives with a smile on their faces.

After joining a ship in Madras, the pair sailed from India to Penang (in Malaysia), so that Hallihan could now search in earnest for this spectacular Jaguar racing car, the D-Type with the registration number XKD510.

Hallihan arrived in Johore Baru, Malaysia and made enquiries about the whereabouts of the Jaguar. Having no luck locating the car, he joined a travelling show moving up and down the Malay Peninsula, asking wherever he stopped about the D-Type. He had no luck, so clearly the car was no longer in the region.

Now, this travelling show sojourn adds another chapter to Hallihan’s fascinating trip log. Arriving in Penang, with the need to earn more money, they saw an advertisement for young men, keen on show business. An Australian travelling show troupe had just suffered the loss of their magician – Edwardo, who had mysteriously decamped late one night with an attractive female animal handler. The owner of the show said they needed a spruiker and a magician. Ron Monson, with his booming voice took the spruiker’s job, while a boastful Hallihan instantly became Edwardo the Magician. John’s only connection to this show business specialty was watching street magicians in London!

Yong Nam Kee, behind the wheel of XKD510, early on in the Ill-fated Johore Grand Prix.
The remains of XKD510 after Nam Kee’s fatal crash.

Working with all of former Edwardo’s props, Hallihan began intense training. One trick required him to supposedly saw off a woman’s arm. John says he went through a bucket of carrots before he got it right! Another eye-opener was to swig some Chinese Whisky, actually kerosene, and exhale sharply over a lighted stick to produce a sheet of flame. The act got a little too colourful one night, when Hallihan spilled some kero on his beard, and lo, Edwardo delighted his audience with a sheet of flame and set his beard alight in spectacular fashion! Soon news of Edwardo’s fantastic act spread ahead of the show, and goggle-eyed Malay patrons flocked in to see the magician who set fire to his own beard!

Finally, it was time to give up the search for XKD510 and return home to Australia. While waiting to cash some traveller’s cheques in the Bank of America in Singapore, he spotted a Singaporean classic sports car magazine with a story about a local man who owned an SS Jaguar. Hallihan contacted him to ask if he had any knowledge of the D-Type. He was subsequently directed to a motor mechanic’s premises nearby, where a wrecked Jaguar was currently residing. It was here he learned the fate of the missing D-type.

Aftermath of Nam Kee’s D-Type striking a tree..

Four years earlier a rich young Malay, Yong Nam Kee, had entered the car in the Johore Grand Prix, which was run on public roads, in a park by the sea. The inexperienced race driver lost control, with the Jaguar spearing off the track, and clouting a light pole amidships. The car split in two, with the front half ending up in the shallows trapping its driver underneath. Onlookers and race officials rescued the driver, and the car was dragged away in several pieces. News of the event and the crash had reached England, where Andrew Whyte had passed on the vaguest details to Hallihan.

The wreckage of XKD510, as discovered by Hallihan, in Malaysia.

Finally then, in late June 1967, Hallihan spotted his quarry. There in Tan Ah Bee’s back yard was XKD510 looking very unglamorous. The broken and twisted body was laying at the rear of the yard minus its engine and running gear. Palm trees and various exotic plants grew up through the cockpit and the engine bay and the wheels were being used to weigh down a tarpaulin covering spare parts. John later said: “It looked just like a plane wreck in the jungle.”

After the Johore crash, the engine from XKD510 made its way into the Malyasian-built Ban Sing Special, seen here in the hands of Yap Ah Seong during a subsequent Johore Grand Prix.

The engine and various bits of the chassis had been relocated to a fiberglass “racing special” which was also in need of special attention. Hallihan was thrilled to find the car, and even more excited when he realized the owner was happy to sell the bits. The engine and chassis parts were recovered from the Special and the gearbox located. Tan Ah Bee had imported some other spare parts from Coventry and these were gathered together along with the broken bodywork.

Another view of the sad state XKD510 was in, when unearthed.

All of this took place the day before Hallihan was due to sail to Sydney! He negotiated a very good price for the collection of parts – £100 for the body, £100 for the assorted spare parts and £100 for beer money (to cover time spent working on the car) – 300 pounds all up (about USD$500). As he departed to Australia on a cargo ship with Ron and the Jeep, he ripped a page from a Singapore phone book with the names of various customs agents and freight forwarders and wrote to them from Sydney to arrange shipment.

Back in Australia after the 13 month overland trek, Hallihan, who was then trying to establish his own pharmacy business, simply didn’t have the time to rebuild the once-graceful Jaguar. He made several attempts to consolidate the project, but eventually succumbed to an enticing offer from his friend Ian Cummins to sell him the wreck – one suspects for a little more than £300!

lan Cummins, a well known Australian Jaguar specialist, had previously tried very hard to acquire the C-type (XKCO21) from Hallihan, and when that failed he bought and restored C-Type XKCO37, but a real D-Type was his ultimate desire.

XKD510 after being restored by Ian Cummins.

Ian Cummins scoured the world for original parts, right down to the 1950s aircraft rivets. Friends in the trade in the UK told them the rebuild was impossible. It took more than five years and a great deal of sweat and money, but eventually XKD510 re-emerged at the Australian Jaguar National Rally in 1981.

It was almost 18 years after the fatal crash in Singapore, when lan later sold the car at auction to millionaire Australian businessman and former race driver, Bib Stillwell for a world record price. The car went on to be enormously successful in vintage racing in the United States, and lan re-acquired it in the late 1980s.

Cummins shipped the car to England in 1996 for the 40th Anniversary Le Mans Cavalcade where on its return to the legendary Jaguar works at Browns Lane, Coventry it was voted the best presented D-Type of the 27 D-types present.

(left) Ian Cummins and (right) John Hallihan.

An interesting epilogue to this story is that in January 1997, the author who was a mutual friend of both Cummins and Hallihan, decided it was time to re-acquaint Hallihan with XKD510. Driving a short distance from his workshop to a Sydney harborside park, Cummins arrived to find a smiling and surprised John Hallihan who clapped eyes on the D-type for the first time since he sold the wreck. After long discussions about its history, John Hallihan finally sat in ‘his’ D-type, and with a beaming Ian Cummins by his side, drove it for the first and last time.

Hallihan behind the wheel of XKD510 at last.

(Photos: John Crawford)