Over the years I have read any number of articles in books and magazines mentioning
Australian Rupert Jeffkins and his exploits with DePalma in the 1912 Indianapolis 500. Most of these stories, while acknowledging his role in the 500 mile race, overlook or dismiss his other achievements in the United States during the first dozen years of the last century.
When Jeffkins returned to Australia in late 1912 he generated a great deal of publicity in the period motoring journals and newspapers which detailed his US motoring achievements. Most of these very similar articles appear to rely heavily on a list of achievements most likely prepared by Jeffkins himself – as they all contain a similar spelling error of Surplay – instead of Serpollet. During 1913 Jeffkins promoted a motor race meeting at Richmond (Victoria). The program for the event also carried a great deal of self promotion for Jeffkins which mirrored the articles previously published (including the Serpollet spelling error). One of the event sponsors was Castrol and fortunately the local representative forwarded a copy of the program and associated publicity handouts back to Castrol’s head office in the UK where they were incorporated into a large scrapbook. Some seventy years later, journalist Eoin Young, gained access to the Castrol archives discovered the scrapbook and subsequently had an article published in the US magazine Autoweek detailing the amazing story of Jeffkins U S racing career. Some months later another article appeared in the Australian Wheels magazine which was essentially similar but with a little more detail but basically questioned many of Jeffkins “achievements”.
About ten years ago I became interested in Jeffkins mainly due the fact that he was born in East Maitland – a town close to where I lived at the time. Since then I have been endeavoring to test the truthfulness of Jeffkins claims and in recent times this task has been made easier with the advent of internet sites where digitized copies of US and Australian newspapers can be searched.
His life in Australia since he returned has proved more difficult to document. His experiences during the period 1912 to 1922 when he was in the public eye were detailed in period magazines and newspapers but the period from 1922 to his death in 1954 has been more difficult. For this period brief mentions in newspapers and searches of public records have been the sources used to compile this brief article.
I'm proud to post this story and research by Brian Lear on the Vintage Speedway website,
thank you Brian L ...Brian Darby. 2.10.10.
Our only tribute to our first International racing driver - Liverpool Cemetery - NSW.
Rupert Jeffkins - 1881 - 1954 - Rest in Peace.