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Thread: The Brewer Sulky

  1. #1
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    The Brewer Sulky

    Hi people, I am doing a bit of research and I have so far been unable to track down the first production date or year of the Brewer Racing sulky, which was ubiquitous at Harold Park and many other tracks in the period 1950 - 1970. Kevin Newman, Vin Knight and many others used the Brewer and it was - I believe - the first sulky fitted with a tubular steel back bow. It was designed by the late (died 1959?) Harold Brewer and the ones I used to see for repairs were beautifully made. They were typically fitted with Freebairn Singles (possibly the most efficient sulky race wheels ever made?).
    I have checked the patent office, but there are no sulky patents of any description in Harold Brewer's name, which is odd, because the word around the traps in the early 1960s was that the tubular back bow was patented and Harold was said to be ready to defend his patent.
    Anyhow, anyone know anything?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Stallion Danno is a jewel in the rough
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    Not too sure I can help Jim, Dad's first race bike was an fully timber "Egan type" that had seen a few lives before he got it in the mid/late 60's, his next was a second hand ( and only second hand) all Hickory timber round back sulky that "Flash Adios" had won a bucket load of country and City races with Bob Austin in the bike. I drove my first dozen or so winners in that cart and to this day reckon it is the best cart I'v sat in. I'm also pretty sure it was a Regal, you would probably know better than me.

    The Freebairn wheel you mention were truly the bees knees weren't they? In loose or heavy going they made a massive difference to how horses got to the line.

    The Brewer bike had a big reputation as you would know without my saying< I have no idea why, but I always thought the Brewer was made and sold in Victoria.

    You have also enlightened me on Steel tube backs, always thought it was a Regal "advancement".

    Hope you get plenty of answers on this forum, but bikes are not often discussed.


    Cheers,

    Dan

  3. #3
    Senior Member Colt Showgrounds will become famous soon enough
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    Interesting background there, Jim. The first Brewer I sat in belonged to a well-known Showgrounds trainer in the mid-'70's. Beautifully made, bright chrome chassis, bow and cross bar with beautifully pin-striped hickory shafts. The thing that struck me about the sulky was its balance; sitting in it just felt so natural. Made me think I was the equal of Gordon Rothacker (or about as close as I would ever be). The Freebairn wheels had completely sealed- hubs and I remember, with some frustration, painting the glue (shellac?) on the singles and starting again when you inflated them and they hadn't stuck to the rim.

    If you didn't have a Brewer you had to have a Royal Speed, made in Adelaide by the Brown brothers of Bon Adios fame. They were all hickory with a chromed-steel undercarriage and strong as all hell. It was a pretty sad day when sulkies such as these were outlawed in favour of stainless steel-shafted sulkies. While I understood the reasoning, HRA would have been better served by specifying American hickory as the only allowable timber to be used in sulkies. Don't believe me? Tackle some hardwood with identical axes, one with a hickory handle and one with spotted gum. The latter will splinter when you least expect it while the hickory will last for years.

    I digress. Can't help you with much info about the Brewer Sulky apart from some certainty I have some advertising for them in old Harness Horse magazines from the early '70's. I'll try and dig my way through some over he weekend. Good luck with your research.

  4. #4
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danno View Post
    Not too sure I can help Jim, Dad's first race bike was an fully timber "Egan type" that had seen a few lives before he got it in the mid/late 60's, his next was a second hand ( and only second hand) all Hickory timber round back sulky that "Flash Adios" had won a bucket load of country and City races with Bob Austin in the bike. I drove my first dozen or so winners in that cart and to this day reckon it is the best cart I'v sat in. I'm also pretty sure it was a Regal, you would probably know better than me.

    The Freebairn wheel you mention were truly the bees knees weren't they? In loose or heavy going they made a massive difference to how horses got to the line.

    The Brewer bike had a big reputation as you would know without my saying< I have no idea why, but I always thought the Brewer was made and sold in Victoria.

    You have also enlightened me on Steel tube backs, always thought it was a Regal "advancement".

    Hope you get plenty of answers on this forum, but bikes are not often discussed.


    Cheers,

    Dan
    Thanks Dan. Those all-hickory chassis bikes had a great reputation for comfort, primarily because Hickory is a very "springy" timber. I cannot recall if Flash Adios raced in one of our carts, but when you have made 15,500 carts it can be pretty hard remembering what horse was in what cart - outside of Inter Dominion winners, of course. Just FYI, the Brewer was made in a small workshop in Canterbury Road, Petersham. I remember visiting it once to get a seat for a repair we were doing at that time (late 1960s).

  5. #5
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Showgrounds View Post
    Interesting background there, Jim. The first Brewer I sat in belonged to a well-known Showgrounds trainer in the mid-'70's. Beautifully made, bright chrome chassis, bow and cross bar with beautifully pin-striped hickory shafts. The thing that struck me about the sulky was its balance; sitting in it just felt so natural. Made me think I was the equal of Gordon Rothacker (or about as close as I would ever be). The Freebairn wheels had completely sealed- hubs and I remember, with some frustration, painting the glue (shellac?) on the singles and starting again when you inflated them and they hadn't stuck to the rim.

    If you didn't have a Brewer you had to have a Royal Speed, made in Adelaide by the Brown brothers of Bon Adios fame. They were all hickory with a chromed-steel undercarriage and strong as all hell. It was a pretty sad day when sulkies such as these were outlawed in favour of stainless steel-shafted sulkies. While I understood the reasoning, HRA would have been better served by specifying American hickory as the only allowable timber to be used in sulkies. Don't believe me? Tackle some hardwood with identical axes, one with a hickory handle and one with spotted gum. The latter will splinter when you least expect it while the hickory will last for years.

    I digress. Can't help you with much info about the Brewer Sulky apart from some certainty I have some advertising for them in old Harness Horse magazines from the early '70's. I'll try and dig my way through some over he weekend. Good luck with your research.
    Hi Trevor, Thanks for the info. FYI, there is no doubting the superiority of Hickory. When I started with dad we could get second-growth American hickory that you could literally tie in a knot. By 1970 you could only get small quantities of very inferior first-growth Hickory. By 1971 we could not get enough Hickory OR spotted gum to keep up with demand. It would be no use specifying American Hickory these days because it is almost certainly no longer available. You may also be interested to know that when the Brown Bros stopped making gigs they took up an agency for Regal sulkies until the last of them passed away. Not sure when, but I think it was one or two decades after they started selling and repairing our carts. I agree that the Royal Speed was a mighty nice cart. It was unique in having the shafts attached to the back bow with a fibreglass sheath which was finished such that the whole chassis (shafts and back bow) looked like it was made of a single piece of hickory. I think you might find that one of the prime reasons Brown Bros quit making carts was the unavailability of good Hickory.

  6. #6
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    [The Freebairn wheel you mention were truly the bees knees weren't they? In loose or heavy going they made a massive difference to how horses got to the line.]

    The advantages of the Freebairn Singles: Very light. Excellent hub. large tyre (44 mm) great for soft tracks which were best for horses. Tyres had the lowest hysteresis (deformation) losses of any tyre ever used in harness racing. So all up, the most energy-efficient harness racing wheels ever made. DISADVANTAGES: The 15g spokes were the lightest and weakest ever used in a harness racing wheel. Frequent spoke failures. The wooden rims were VERY fragile, a strike from a hoof would shatter them. The tyres were equally fragile, easily punctured, with the result that the flat tyre would often wind around the hub and lead to the catastrophic failure of the whole wheel. It was these disadvantages that caused R.J. Walsh & Son never to go that route. That said, nothing could match the Freebairn Singles for over-all efficiency.




    Cheers,

  7. #7
    Senior Member Colt Showgrounds will become famous soon enough
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    Spot on with the hickory Jim; the Brown's kept renovating old sulkies long after they stopped building them. My late mate I worked for at the time ordered a new one back in '76 and got his 24-year old model fully restored at the same time. The only way I could tell the difference was the differing paint jobs. His brother still has the "new" cart hanging in the stables. Spotted gum, as sulky shafts go, makes might fine slasher and shovel handles. I used to buy them by the hundreds from a bending works by the Clyde River at Batemans Bay in the late '70's for the forestry department. Decent hickory had become impossible to source locally; we were lucky to get onto an importer sourcing them out of the States. Initially, we were very suspicious because they had been painted rather than laquered. They proved pretty good, though. A few years later, cheap Oregon was imported into Australia - plenty of rotten pergolas and verandahs on houses from the early 80's.

    Legend has it the last Royal Speed ever made was offered as a trophy at the Hopetoun Show in the Mallee. It resulted in record nominations from all over the place, only for desperate trainers to be disappointed when Ross Conway fronted up to his home-town show with his great filly Copper Satin! Wonder if he still has the cart?

  8. #8
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Sulkies

    Quote Originally Posted by Showgrounds View Post
    Spot on with the hickory Jim; the Brown's kept renovating old sulkies long after they stopped building them. My late mate I worked for at the time ordered a new one back in '76 and got his 24-year old model fully restored at the same time. The only way I could tell the difference was the differing paint jobs. His brother still has the "new" cart hanging in the stables. Spotted gum, as sulky shafts go, makes might fine slasher and shovel handles. I used to buy them by the hundreds from a bending works by the Clyde River at Batemans Bay in the late '70's for the forestry department. Decent hickory had become impossible to source locally; we were lucky to get onto an importer sourcing them out of the States. Initially, we were very suspicious because they had been painted rather than laquered. They proved pretty good, though. A few years later, cheap Oregon was imported into Australia - plenty of rotten pergolas and verandahs on houses from the early 80's.

    Legend has it the last Royal Speed ever made was offered as a trophy at the Hopetoun Show in the Mallee. It resulted in record nominations from all over the place, only for desperate trainers to be disappointed when Ross Conway fronted up to his home-town show with his great filly Copper Satin! Wonder if he still has the cart?
    Hi Trevor, Speaking of the last Royal Speed, I am not aware of a harness racing museum anywhere in the country that has a decent collection of the iconic sulky brands of the 20th century? There certainly should be, while it is still possible to get the sulkies. Plus we, as a nation, have much to be proud of in terms of both workmanship and innovation, and it would be a shame if it all disappeared.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Horse Of The Year Toohard will become famous soon enough Toohard's Avatar
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    Hi Jim. Bendigo have a few in their museum. Will get some pics next time I'm there.

  10. #10
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toohard View Post
    Hi Jim. Bendigo have a few in their museum. Will get some pics next time I'm there.
    Thanks Paul, I assume the museum is on the track? If not, address?
    Cheers, Jim

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