Frank "Satan" Brewer,
A New Zealander who made it to the very top in midget car racing and who
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was well respected throughout the speedway world.
BY DENNIS NEWLYN
(Editor, Speedway Racing News)
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Frank, who passed away in Phoenix, Arizona on June 8, 2001 aged 94, was a star of the dirt tracks in New Zealand, Australia and America. He had grit, tenacity, an incredible skill and daring and a brand of magic track craft that made him more than a magician of midget racing but a man that was cast in a mould made exclusively for legends.
Frank Brewer was a living legend of midget racing at a time midget racing was incredibly dangerous. Tough men driving open cockpit cars in an era when midgets were not even equipped with a roll bar.
Life in the fast lane was a life of danger, but Frank had survived World War II when he served with the US Air Force Air Transport command at Homestead, Florida – where he rose to the status of sergeant – so midget racing was merely a different kind of danger under the heading of “occupational hazard.”
Frank was racing in America at the time of the Pearl Harbour attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. Frank had earlier been rejected by the NZ Army on medical grounds, so when war broke out he joined the American Air Force. Many years later he admitted he was never phased by the potential dangers of speedway racing and rarely gave it a thought, typifying that men of his era were indeed a very special breed.
In fact his happy-go-lucky approach to life was a quality trademark. A charismatic character who often said that his family life, married to Margaret, that produced three daughters – Madaline, Maureen and Marilyn, was governed by “The master” (Frank), the Mercury (his street/tow car) and the midget (the fabulous V8/60).
When he arrived at the racetrack the effervescent ‘Satan’ as an after-race meeting humorous topic of conversation played up his catch cry of “here comes the Master with Margaret, Madaline, Maureen, Marilyn, the Mercury and the midget” to the fullest. But on the racetrack he did a different kind of talking . . .it was all-serious, where winning was the only statement of fact!
And winning was his credential for entry into the Hall of Fame!
His first major success came on April 9, 1949 when he took out the 30-lap “World Speedcar Championship” at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground. That victory signalled an onslaught of title achievements over the next few years that saw him take out three consecutive NSW Speedcar Championships (1951-’52, ’52-53, 53-’54 seasons), the Australian Championship (Sydney Showground, April 15, 1950), an Australasian Championship (at Sydney’s Windsor Speedway (April 25, 1950), the Australian Quarter-Mile Championship (Brisbane Exhibition Ground, (May 16, 1953), the Queensland Speedcar Championship (Brisbane Exhibition Ground, May 8, 1954), the Australian Quarter-Mile Title (Brisbane Ekka, May 22, 1954) and the “World Speedcar Championship (Brisbane Ekka, May 29, 1954).
In his native homeland of New Zealand (he was born in Christchurch) he won three National Championships. Frank Brewer is fondly remembered for theV8/60 cars he brought to Australia – the most famous being the blue and white V8/60 number 99. Brewer bought the car from well-known Californian midget owner Leonard Faas in 1947 and brought it to Australia soon after. South Australian great Harry Neale later drove the car. After his untimely death at Perth’s Claremont speedway in the late ‘fifties, high profile Sydney speedcar owner Ted Dark bought the car in 1961 and the era of the ex-Brewer car as the Berco Holden began.
The Berco was driven by some of the biggest Sydney names in Australian speedcar history – Johnny Peers, Andy McGavin, Johnny Stewart, Len Brock, Lew Marshall, Howard Revell, Ray Oram). He brought two Eddie Meyer V8/60 cars to Australia on the occasions he raced Down Under. One of the cars (numbered 48) was raced by multi Australian Champion Andy McGavin.
His distinguished American career in the forties saw him race with the California-based United Racing Association at tracks that included the famous Gilmore Stadium, Los Angeles, Culver City, Fresno and the Rose Bowl and Balboa.
Among the many American highlights were his victory in 1940 and ’42 150-lap San Diego GP and the 1946-47 seasons Western States Championship. While racing in America he was selected to captain a team of 20 midget drivers who visited England in an attempt to introduce speedcar racing in the Old Dart. While in England the Americans raced on three tracks in London, however a lack of promotional flare on the part of the British press saw the tour struggle to gain recognition.
Living in Los Angeles for many years, Frank Brewer was a star of the West Coast midget scene. During the war years he became an American citizen, settled in Australia and resided in the outer South-Western suburb of Campbelltown before later returning to America. While in Australia he maintained a close involvement with the sport through his photography that saw his work often published in Australian speedway publications. He often visited Australia and up until his health deteriorated a few years ago, he was a regular visitor to Parramatta.
Typifying the status he held in world midget racing, a massive attendance fare welled Frank on his final lap, with an emotional service at St Johns Anglican Church, Camden. He is buried beside his wife of 50-plus years, Margaret, at Camden General Cemetery, Sydney.