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Alexander Nicholas (Lex) Davison (1923–1965)

by John B. Blanden

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Lex Davison, n.d.

Lex Davison, n.d.

Alexander Nicholas (Lex) Davison (1923-1965), racing motorist, was born on 12 February 1923 at Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, only child of Victorian-born parents Alexander Ambrose Davison, manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Nolan. Educated at Xavier College, Kew, in 1941 Lex captained the athletics team, rowed stroke, played in the first XVIII, and was heavyweight boxing champion and vice-captain of the school.

In December that year Davison was called up for Militia service. The family company, Paragon Shoes Pty Ltd, was a major supplier to the armed forces. Because of his father's ill health, Lex was discharged on 10 August 1942 to assist in the business. When his father died in September 1945, Lex assumed control of the firm and inherited his father's fine collection of motorcars. On 2 October 1946 at St Peter's Catholic Church, Toorak, he married Diana Margery Crick, a dental nurse.

Three days later Davison began his formal motor-racing career in the New South Wales Grand Prix at Bathurst, but his Alfa Romeo proved uncompetitive. In 1947 he returned there for the Australian Grand Prix with a huge, supercharged Mercedes Benz 38/250: he recorded the fastest time and was placed third on handicap. Soon acknowledged as one of Australia's leading drivers, he competed successfully in races, hill climbs and reliability trials.

During the 1950s Davison's business interests prospered and included Monte Carlo Motors (a General Motors Holden dealership), Killara Park (an Aberdeen Angus stud and dairy at Lilydale), as well as Paragon Shoes and an associated tannery. The profits enabled him to pursue a busy racing programme throughout Australia and overseas, using some of the best equipment available. He won the Australian Grand Prix in 1954 (driving a Jaguar), 1957, 1958 (both in Ferraris) and 1961 (in a Cooper-Climax), the Australian Hill Climb championship in 1955, 1956 and 1957, and the Victorian Trophy in 1955, 1957 and 1963. In 1957 the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport awarded him the gold star as champion Australian racing driver. He assisted Donald Campbell in his land-speed record attempt in 1964 at Lake Eyre, South Australia, driving Bluebird at more than 160 miles (257 km) per hour on the dry saltpan.

Over six feet (183 cm) tall, prematurely balding, with broad shoulders and an athletic build, Davison was generous, cheerful and friendly—totally unspoiled by money and fame. He showed a keen interest in spearfishing and water-skiing, and was a competent clarinet player. A natural leader with a gift for words and conversation, he was a founder of the Victorian division of the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia, president (1956-59) of the Light Car Club of Australia, and a member of the Melbourne Swimming Club and of the founding council of the Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.

On 20 February 1965 at the Sandown Park circuit near Springvale, while driving his 2.5 litre Brabham Climax in practice for the International 100, Davison suffered a heart attack. The car, travelling at over l00 m.p.h. (161 kmph), left the road, hit a culvert, somersaulted and crashed through a railing fence. Davison sustained severe head injuries and was dead when officials reached him. Survived by his wife, five sons and two daughters, he was buried in Box Hill cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £234,686. Gay Dutton's portrait of Davison is held by the author. The Lex Davison Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Australian Grand Prix.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Motor Sport, Mar 1953, p 20, Apr 1953, p 16, Apr 1965, p 34
  • People (Sydney), 30 June 1954, p 35
  • Wheels, July 1954, p 18
  • Cars, May 1956, p 14
  • Sports Car World, Jan 1962, p 40, Aug 1964, p 16, Apr 1965, p 12
  • Australian Autosportsman, Mar 1965, p 25
  • Racing Car News, Mar 1965, p 28
  • Herald (Melbourne), 20, 23 Feb 1965, 29 Apr 1967.

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Citation details

John B. Blanden, 'Davison, Alexander Nicholas (Lex) (1923–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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