Jim Bradley was a pioneer of Australia’s high-speed equipment industry and a familiar face to generations of newcomers. Street Machine Smyrnatus. He died in April this year.
Bradleys’ involvement with speed goes back to the heady days of Maroubra Speedway in the 1920s, as we learned in this fascinating interview we ran back in our March 2006 mag:
Jim Broadley usually has a phone glued to his ear, so the chance to chat with him for a few hours and nail some snaps of his impressive collection was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. could
Jim also has a few stories he doesn’t mind telling, which is not surprising considering he has run one of Australia’s oldest speed shops, for over half a century. Many legends have been served in boat racing, speedway and drag racing. .
You’ve probably seen it sitting under a canopy at Smyrnatus – or one of a dozen car shows during the year – surrounded by multicarb manifolds, blowers and Hilborn injector scopes. That treasure trove of polished alloys and chrome is nothing compared to what’s in his shop.
Originally your father started the business?
He was a mechanic, a Model T Ford mechanic.
Was he into speed stuff? They were always picking this thing up.
Oh, Christ yes! He was with the topliners, all the guys who raced at Maroubra Speedway. Maroubra had the biggest speedway, did you know?
No, I’ve only heard of Sydney Showgrounds and Liverpool.
No, Maroubra is where all the good and tough racers used to be. Garlic, that’s his name, Phil Garlic. My father used to be in his troop. He played around with T models, putting OHV conversions on them.
When it happened? In the 30s-40s?
In the 20s!
So they were really hot rodders back then. The detail wasn’t invented, but that’s what they were doing.
Yes, it is correct. They have anything going on! They were good, those guys. You see what Ken Warby is. [former world water-speed record holder] “We had to use our heads, not our wallets,” captioned the photo. These days, blokes just go in and buy a blower setup, plug it in and away they go. We had to make our own.
If Ken Warby gave you signed photos you must have been pretty involved in boats?
I spent a lot of time with boats. We got the first lot of Corvette motors in 1957. We’ll get 10 or 12 at a time. [Jim pulls out a photo of one of his own boats getting very out of shape.]
I think you made that corner?
Yes. It was a pretty shitty deal.
No seat belts these days?
No, just wait!
A scary moment for Jim in his 130mph, 350 Chev-powered hydro — believe it or not, he landed on the right track!
So how long has Diablo Motors been around?
It is now 2006 – it will be 53 years.
And the shop has always been here in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba?
Yes. Here is a picture of the actual service station. I did an apprenticeship with my father. It was a difficult five years. [laughs]. “You don’t do it that way. Piss!”
Then no workplace relationships?
no! [laughs] But at that time we had spent a lot of time in tech college. Three nights a week and one day a fortnight.
And the rest was at work, getting your ass kicked when you packed up?
Dad taught me simple things. One night, when I finished my work, he would make me clean my tools and place them on the shadow boards. If something was missing, we wouldn’t go home until we found it.
You didn’t leave your tools in the car, you swept the floor when you went to work and when you finished. Tools were number one. We could not afford to lose them. I was on chapter 30 in a week. Lose a tool and you have 30 bob. All these young blokes have a lot of money.
I see you have quite a few samples for the Windsor and small block sheave rocker covers and intakes.
All the stuff wasn’t available at the time, so we had to make it up. And we’re still building. I’m digressing a bit here, but see this? It’s a piston for a two-cylinder marine motor, a beautifully made thing, but you can’t get a piston for it so I’m making something.
I see you have quite a collection of motors but the only one you don’t have is the Offenhauser. why like this?
I think I could have had one. I’m good mates with Parnelli Jones. [legendary Seppo racer] And when he comes out – he doesn’t come often – but when he does, he always comes to see me. He has an office room.
A Marine 327 Chev circa 1962, complete with six 97 Strombergs and using ultra-smooth Heim joint linkages – “the way it should be done,” says Jim.
So what body parts do you have to give him to get Offie?
Well, he wanted to buy mine [Mario] Andretti engine I got there.
And you won’t sell it to him?
Years ago I tried to buy one of his offices but it didn’t sell. He would frame them and hang beer jugs from them.
This is insulting!
I know it is!
And how did you get Mario Andretti’s old motor?
Well I was lucky, I was ‘in’ with Ford’s grandson. I used to get a lot of motors through it, but it all fell apart.
A lithium axial flux generator and a set of small-window magnesium hallibrand rims
I heard you also brought some Ford SOHC motors into the country?
I think the total number was five. Some ended up in boats and a couple in hot rods. Where they went was never traced.
Have you played around with the Hemi powerplant a bit?
Well, put it this way. I don’t know what year it was, maybe in the 60’s I used to put Chrysler Hemis in boats. Only with twin four barrel carburetors and a 6×2 ram log type thing. They were a bit of a slug.
Yes, the only way to get the Hemi going is to put a blower on it. Then you’ve got their attention, I tell you what!
Mooncross ram manifold with four Maconi carbs for small-block shave
Were you friends with Dean Moon too?
I actually screamed it down here two or three times. I have many of his home movies. He lived with me and always brought his 8mm equipment.
Have you ever shown movies to the public?
We reserved a night for him. I think we put it together in 10 days. We just rang the bell and 500 people came. This must have been in the early 70s.
So where did the name Diablo Motors come from?
[Jim reaches for yet another photo] I had a boat that I named Diablo.
Have you driven one of these ‘Wettie Motors’?
No, a Dodge six-cylinder flathead. We couldn’t get the motors. These blokes should be doing 1000mph today with whatever they can grab, but they’re not doing it.
How fast will Diablo go?
I think 68 mph was the fastest ever.
You have a great collection of stuff.
Yeah, you won’t see a lot of these things, even in the US. Not under one roof.