UNLOCKING THE PAST | Mount View Hill Climb

History: Twists, hairpins and 'S' bends on the Mount View Hill Climb

The Newcastle Automobile Club formed in 1915, possibly inspired by the launch of the Model T Ford in Australia that year.

The Automobile Club was passionate about cars and about car racing, holding a hill race at Whitebridge shortly after it was founded.

Twenty years after their foundation the Club members were still just as enthusiastic and had now found somewhere near Cessnock perfect for their motoring exploits.

Mount View, with its twists, turns, hairpin and "S" bends had become the site of an annual motoring event, with the mountain providing challenges to the drivers and a wonderful day of thrills and spills for the locals.

The following year, 1936, the event got even bigger. The Mount View hill climb had now become a whole weekend in April, with multiple events all framed around the main attraction, the hill climb.

Organised by a consortium of car clubs it was billed as "one of the most ambitious hill climb and speed events that motor cars have attempted in NSW" and serious competitors drove from as far away as Sydney to take part.

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On April 19 a crowd estimated at 6000 turned up, perching on rocks at natural vantage points, or climbing up trees to get a great view, or most spectacularly, standing at the top of the mountain to watch the cars ascend toward them.

Spectators had been encouraged to bring a picnic basket and rug, with free hot water available so no one missed out on a cup of tea!

Buses ran from Cessnock to the base of the mountain and a local band played to add to the atmosphere. The hill climb drivers kept everyone entertained with their thrilling antics, including the winning car a high-performance Bugatti, who sped up the hill in 1.5 minutes. But Mount View was the real winner with lavish praise for this "show piece" of the Cessnock district in the newspaper coverage.

The Newcastle Morning Herald raved about the magnificent panorama which unfolds at the top of the mountain. "The scene embraces a bird's eye view of Cessnock and surrounds...on a clear day the Hunter can be seen like a silver snake wending its way to the sea....Scarcely a visitor to Mount View yesterday failed to comment upon the splendour of the view".

Kimberly O'Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library. Email kimberly.osullivan@cessnock.nsw.gov.au.

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