Car Features

Mazengarb Morries and Notas

 

Barry Sainsbury was the second and last manufacturer of the Aussie designed and built Mazengarb overhead valve conversion kit for the post-War Morris Minor’s side-valve engine.  

 

As most motoring Anglophiles know, the Series MM Morris Minor was produced with ‘lowlight’ bodywork from 1948 until 1950 and ‘highlight’ bodywork from 1950 until 1953. (The ‘light’ reference indicates low-set or high-mounted headlights.)

All MMs had a 918cc, four-cylinder, side-valve engine that produced a reliable, if somewhat asthmatic 27.5bhp at 4400rpm, with 39lbft of torque at 2400rpm.

(Allan Whiting has vivid memories of fitting collets to the side-valve stems of the family’s highlight MM, trusting his old man to ease the valve spring compression tool gently enough to let AW’s little 10-year-old fingers position the collets in place under the retainers. A painful death was promised if the collets popped loose during this delicate manoeuvre and fell into the sump!)

Performance engines were scarce and expensive in the early post-War years and the MM’s side-valve engine block and crank were robust enough to handle much more power for racing, but that flat head…

Enter Alf Mazengarb and, later, Barry Sainsbury, who in 2004, jotted down the history of the Mazengarb overhead valve, replacement cylinder head for the MM engine.

Sadly, Barry Sainsbury passed away in September 2021, aged 93, but his son Scott came across his father’s notes and has kindly forwarded them to us, believing they will be of interest to Historic Vehicles website visitors.  Barry’s notes are the base of the rest of this article.

 

The Mazengarb-Sainsbury saga

Alf Mazengarb was an auto engineer with a background at Rolls Royce, who migrated to Australia in the late 1940s with his family. He established Mazengarb Engineering that later became Gear Manufacturing Co Pty Ltd, in one of the old ammunition and armament buildings in the St Marys industrial area west of Sydney.  

He co-produced auto spares for the then popular models as imported parts were on a very restricted basis.  These were distributed through Pelican Spares from a small warehouse off Eddy Avenue, behind Central Railway.

 

 

The Mazengarb cylinder head was developed in the factory drawing office to convert the then popular Morris Minor engine into an OHV model.  

The original castings and coring patterns were given and cast by Croker and Miller, an iron foundry in Mascot, headed by Maurie Miller Snr.  Alf designed all the jigs and fixtures on a jobbing basis at his St Marys factory.

The head was accompanied by a pair of one-and-a-quater-inch SU carbies and, while there are no reliable power and torque outputs recorded, the engine proved to be very sporting.

 

 

To get publicity for the OHV cylinder head Alf built two Morris Minors for racing: one for Maurie Miller Jnr and the other for his chief draughtsman, Bart Wilkinson.  These cars made their debut at the Mt Druitt Circuit in 1952, ‘putting the cat among the pigeons’ in the sedan and touring car sections, where they had great success.

Another car was built for Arthur Hayes, the then President of a very young Australian Racing Drivers Club, which at the time had its headquarters in an old mansion at the Mt Druitt track that what was known as ‘The Castle’.

The Mazengarb Minors made their presence felt at the Mt Panorama track in Bathurst, where Maurie Miller Jnr clocked more than  90mph down Conrod Straight. Bart Wilkinson and Arthur Hayes were well placed.  

Alf took an OHV car to events in Tasmania and again fought successfully.  

The Orange Sporting Car Club arranged what was billed as an ‘International Motor Race Meeting’ on the Gnoo Blas Circuit ring road, on the outskirts of Orange, NSW.  Many drivers from interstate and New Zealand were on the grid: Jack Brabham, Lex Davidson, Fred Zambucca from NZ, Ian Mountain from SA (he was killed on Mrs Mutton’s Corner at the meeting) and Peter Whitehead from the UK.  

Alf entered two cars: one driven by Maurie Miller and the other by Shirley Hodder. Shirley was a first-time starter and later drove successfully at Bathurst with Shirley’s brother and Barry Sainsbury, driving OHV Morris Minors.

Barry was involved in the grass roots of motor racing in NSW in the post-WWII years.  His first encounters were club events at the old Castlereagh airstrip standing quarter mile races.  

The Mount Druitt Circuit was another old ’39-’45 wartime airstrip to have its parameters extended into a macadam-surfaced race track, on which Barry raced during the 1950s.

He also raced at Mt Panorama, the Gnoo Blas Circuit at Orange, Parramatta Park, and hill climbs, including Leura Baths (now Leura Cascades) and Silverdale.

 

Barry gets involved

 

 

After Barry Sainsbury had purchased one of Alf’s cars he became well acquainted with the man himself, so when Alf decided to cease manufacturing in 1956-57, Barry purchased the Mazengarb Head section of his business with all the bells and whistles.  

He formed a company – Conversion General and Auto Engineers Pty Ltd – with his wife Marjorie Joy.  

 

Barry (right) in the BMC factory in Sydney

 

“We operated from the garage at our home in Marrickville,” Barry recalled.

“But it was obvious that the business could not sustain us, with a family, so I gained employment as a production engineer with the British Motor Corporation (BMC) at Zetland, in Sydney.

“I worked in the Unit factory, where engines, gearboxes, diffs and suspensions were built for the mainly Austin-designed cars from 1958.”  

Barry was soon selling conversions to Guy Buckingham, who was then in full swing with his Nota Sports and Racing Car business, in Smith Street Parramatta. Nota Sports & Racing Cars is still in business, in Dural NSW, under the management of Chris Buckingham, Guy Buckingham’s son. 

The MM OHV Nota Streamliners, referred to as Nota Mazengarbs, raced at major circuits, including Warwick Farm and Catalina Park in Katoomba, earning a reputation for both Nota cars and Mazengarb, but too late for the survival of Barry and Marjorie’s little company.

 

 

At the last Wakefield Park race meeting in 2003, Barry Sainsbury was admiring an 8/40 Morris Special and mentioned Mazengarb to its owner. The chap he was talking to suggested having a word with Rob Rowe, who had owned one. 

Barry introduced himself and started talking about the OHV conversion. Rob Rowe  was surprised to hear that Barry was the last manufacturer, as he was under the impression that it was Guy Buckingham.  Rob asked if Barry would jot down what has now become part of motor racing history.

This Nota Mazengarb Streamliner is powered by a converted and tuned MM engine, coupled to a four-speed Morris transmission, with enhancements by John Needham. 

 

 

Nota Chassis No 8 had Nota’s first all-enveloping alloy body and was originally Guy Buckingham’s personal car. It had a full space frame and split Ford 10 front swing axle, and was said be a great-handling car. 

The car was purchased in 1977 from Robert Rowe, tidied up and painted Rally Red.

On 21st August 1977, at the Amaroo Park AARC meeting, it won the Tom Sulman trophy race for historic cars.  

The car has also competed at Oran Park, Silverdale, Castlereagh, Winton and Adelaide International Raceway. After an accident with the ‘rock’ at Amaroo’s Honda corner in 1980, it was repaired and painted green with a yellow stripe. 

The car was sold in the 1990s to a Queensland buyer, but its current whereabouts are unknown. It’s thought to be the only surviving Nota Marzengarb.

  

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