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Hinton, Henry Frederick (1909–1978)

by Don Cox

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Henry Frederick Hinton (1909-1978), motorcycle racer and motor mechanic, was born on 31 July 1909 at Aston, Birmingham, England, eldest son of Henry John Thomas Hinton, general labourer, and his wife Nellie, née Hanson. The family emigrated to Sydney soon after World War I and settled at Canley Vale where Harry attended the public school. In the 1920s his father and two uncles owned a motorcycle business, Hinton Bros, at Newtown. Hinton made his competitive début in 1929 in a motorcycle beach-race at Gerringong. His Western Suburbs clubmates dubbed him 'Chisel', a reference to his sharp mind rather than his thin build: he was 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall and weighed just over 10 stone (64 kg). While working as a motorcycle courier in Sydney in 1931, he was involved in a serious road accident and lost his left eye. Restricted vision did not affect his racing career. At St Andrew's Anglican Church, Lakemba, on 5 March 1932 he married Vienie Kathleen Reid, a typiste.

In 1933 Hinton won the 350-c.c. class at the Australian Tourist Trophy races on a gravel-surfaced course at Phillip Island, Victoria, riding a borrowed Norton machine. An official representative (1933-39) for Bennett & Wood Ltd, the Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd agent in Sydney, he prepared the modified B.S.A. roadsters (which lacked the design sophistication of some of their rivals) and competed as team leader in road-racing, and in dirt-track and road trials. He won the Australian lightweight event at Bathurst in 1937 and 1940, and the sidecar event at the new Mount Panorama circuit in 1938.

During World War II Hinton repaired Army motorcycles for Bennett & Wood. In his spare time he and Eric McPherson founded the Motor Cycle Racing Club of New South Wales. In 1946 Hinton opened his own motorcycle dealership at Bankstown and switched to Norton machines. He won the 350-c.c. class at Bathurst in 1947 and 1948, and the senior (500-c.c.) Grand Prix five times between 1950 and 1955. Endorsed by the Auto Cycle Council of Australia as an official representative, he competed in the Isle of Man T.T. races in 1949-51, as well as in events in Ireland and Europe; he soon graduated from racing privately entered machines to being factory rider (1949-51) for Norton Motors. In 1949 he had become the first Australian to record a podium finish in a world 500-c.c. championship event by finishing third in the Dutch T.T. A crash in 1951 ended his international career.

Hinton returned to racing by winning two classes at Bathurst over Easter 1952, riding ex-factory Nortons. Next year he won four out of the five solo classes. He was five times Australian motorcycle champion and seventeen times a winner at the annual Bathurst motorcycle-racing carnival. After his retirement in July 1955, he gave his racing machines and wily technical help to his sons, who between them won eight Australian championships. Survived by his wife and two of his three sons, Hinton died of cerebrovascular disease on 9 May 1978 at Belmore and was cremated; his eldest son Harry had died in 1959 in Italy following a motorcycle-racing accident.

Select Bibliography

  • A Fistful of Revs (Syd, 1978)
  • D. Cox and W. Hagon, Australian Motorcycle Heroes, 1949-1989 (Syd, 1989)
  • J. Scaysbrook, Motorcycle Grand Prix World (Melb, 1989)
  • Two Wheels, 19, no 2, Oct 1978, p 38, no 3, Nov 1978, p 46
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 July 1949, 10 Apr 1955
  • Report on 1933 Australian Tourist Trophy (published in Australian Cycling and Motor Cycling, undated part of magazine held by author)
  • private information.

Citation details

Don Cox, 'Hinton, Henry Frederick (1909–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hinton-henry-frederick-10508/text18647, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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