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Malcolm Clarke (Max) Stewart (1935–1977)

by Graham Howard

This article was published:

Malcolm Clarke (Max) Stewart (1935-1977), racing motorist, was born on 14 March 1935 at Orange, New South Wales, youngest of three children of Malcolm Herbert Stewart, clerk, and his wife Isabella, née Clarke, both born in New South Wales. Educated at the local public school to Intermediate certificate level, 'Max' served an apprenticeship to a mechanic and became service manager for the area's Holden dealer. At the Baptist Church, Orange, on 25 January 1958 he married a local girl Margaret Mary Allen, who was a shop-assistant. He acquired the Orange franchise for Triumph motorcars in 1964 and for Toyota cars and trucks in 1968.

Six ft 2 ins (188 cm) tall, lanky and fair haired, Stewart had no special sporting achievements at school. He began racing motorcycles about 1953. Claims that he was selected for an Australian motorcycle team to compete on the Isle of Man seem unlikely, as his road-race experience was limited. Pressure from his fiancée ended his two-wheel career in 1956. Although he contested interstate go-kart races in 1962-64, he won no State titles: he was simply too large for go-karts.

Early in 1965 Stewart bought a two-year-old Rennmax-Ford, a road-racing car built in Sydney, which he drove in distinctive style—his jaw determined and his shoulders wedged into the narrow cockpit. With this car he won the 1½-litre Australian championship series in 1967. Next year, in a new Rennmax, he tied the series with Garrie Cooper. Late in 1968 Alec Mildren, a team-owner, offered Stewart a 1600cc Formula Two car. Using the Sydney-made Waggott engine, Stewart won the 1969 and 1970 F2 titles. He also raced as teammate to Kevin Bartlett in a 2-litre version of the same car in New Zealand, South East Asia and Japan. His attacking, full-throttle driving established him in the front rank.

Stewart's strong personal and financial base in an inland city was unusual for a leading racing driver. Some saw country-Australian character in his direct manner and his uncompromising, unpretentious approach to racing. A close friend recalled that, while Stewart carried an executive briefcase like the 'glossier' drivers, his contained engine parts, not contracts.

In 1971 Stewart narrowly won the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport's Gold Star championship for Australian drivers. After Mildren retired, Stewart switched to the newly introduced 5-litre Formula 5000. He broke his wrist—a rare accident for him—racing in the United States of America in 1973, but in 1974 dominated Australian Formula 5000 events, winning the Gold Star and the Australian Grand Prix in an English Lola T330. Securing sponsorship from the Sharp Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd, he moved with his family to Beacon Hill, Sydney, in 1975 to pursue racing full-time and again won the Australian Grand Prix that year.

At Calder Raceway on 19 March 1977 Stewart inexplicably hit a slower car during a practice session; he died from his injuries on the following day in Royal Melbourne Hospital and was cremated. His wife and their two daughters survived him. A non-smoker and non-drinker, he had made provision for his kidneys to be used as transplants. At Orange a park was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Motor Racing Annual, 1975
  • Racing Car News, Sept 1967, p 49, Apr 1977, p 26
  • Chequered Flag, Dec 1975, p 59
  • Australian Motoring News, 26 Nov 1971
  • private information.

Citation details

Graham Howard, 'Stewart, Malcolm Clarke (Max) (1935–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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