Thoughts & Memories: Don


Donald Swanton, resident at Newman’s on the Park, reveals his incredible story sharing his passion and immense skill behind being an Australian Motor Racing Pioneer.

Born on the 3rd of March 1930, Don grew up in Highton Grove, Balwyn, right next door to Camberwell Grammar, the school where he began his education journey in 1936. He later would become the “Head Boy” in 1940.  His natural leadership skills were noticed and rewarded when he was named School Captain in 1948. A man of many talents, Don excelled in tennis, football, and joined the school cadets becoming a school lieutenant at the young age of 14. Don purchased his first car in 1949, a big Amilcar Roadster with a dicky seat in the rear. The car spent more time off road then on, but it taught young Don numerous skills about a car’s mechanical intricacies.

At 18, Don began his first job working with his father at William Crosby P/L. Although this kept him busy, he always maintained a keen interest in motor sport, owning a Singer 9 which he raced at the Hill Climbs and at Fisherman’s Bend in Port Melbourne.

An Amilcar Roadster, similar to Don’s car.

In 1955 Don decided to advance his motor racing career by moving to England. Painfully selling his Cooper racing car to finance his travels, Don began packing up all that he owned with the promise of intense competition and an electrifying adventure. He would soon set sail and settle in Birmingham, a well-known location for the motor industry. Upon arrival, Don moved to Edgbaston and began work with SU Carburettors in their experimental section.

“I truly enjoyed my job and I even purchased a Lotus 7, which I started racing after joining a racing club.”

His passion only grew when he began racing at Silverstone Brands Hatch racing circuit, Oulton Park, and other local circuits. Don often crossed paths with Australian racing legend Jack Brabham, former Formula One Champion of 1959, 1960 and 1966. The pair became good friends.

Between the years of 1956 and 1958, Don changed jobs regularly to learn as much as possible about the motor industry and what goes on behind the scenes. At the same time, he still managed to attend a tech school in Burmingham where he obtained an Associate Member of the Institute of the Motor Industry (AMIMI) qualification.

It wasn’t until 1959 when Don returned home with his car on the iconic ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary.

After 4 years of living abroad Don was finally reunited with his family in Australia.

Don resumed racing in 1960 whilst working with the prestigious Mercedes Benz Australia. Setting records, Don continued racing his Lotus at Fisherman’s Bend, Templestowe Hill, and Bathurst where he was involved in a rare accident, hitting a wall after the fire extinguisher in the car came adrift and lodged in the foot pedals. The accident did not deter Don, and he proceeded to compete, including in NSW where he won the South Pacific Sports Car Championship at Gnoo Blass circuit in Orange.

He would later take on administrative work as the President of the Australian Motor Club, holding on to the many records at various racetracks.

Don married the love of his life, Lorraine, in 1967, buying their first home in the bayside suburb of Beaumaris in 1966 and starting their family with daughter Kate in 1969, soon followed by their son Brooklyn in 1971. Don later went on to build multiple homes including his dream home in Keysborough, establishing a horse agistment property, all the while continuing to work for Mercedes Benz Australia.

In 1966, Don joined his father at a company called Fleetways Transport and was transferred to Sydney for one year. Immersing himself in his career, he decided to go out on his own, keeping his successful business for four years before selling. Before moving, Don tried his hand at telemarketing, where for six years he did incredible work for a paraplegic and quadriplegic organisation.

In 2020, Don turned 90 and found himself living at McKenzie Aged Care’s residence in Templestowe, Newmans on the Park.

“I have settled in very nicely and I am enjoying making new friends and participating in the many lifestyle activities.”

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