MiniSprint - MiniSprint
Brief re-collections of the MiniSprint by Geoff Thomas
|In 1965 I decided to go racing in a Mini
Cooper and bought a brand new 1070 Cooper S from David Jolliffe at
Corsley Garage in Wiltshire. I had a reasonably successful first season
and during this time I met Neville Trickett who was based in Blandford.
Neville had the idea of cutting the Mini body both through the windscreen pillars and also through the waistline of the body itself, in order to reduce wind resistance for racing. I decided to finance the operation and we set up in a workshop in Wallisdown, Bournemouth, which belonged to a young chap called Surtees whose father had made a fortune in the record-player business with the "Dansette". We had two further great blokes, Haggis and Nick Jenke and we all got stuck in to produce a Racer and a Road version.
|I cannot possibly tell you how difficult thing were! It was aggravation, aggravation, aggravation! Neville did a marvellous job with the "cut and shutting", but the problems of door apertures and windows were always with us. We used specially cut down laminated windscreens which I recall cost £85 each and I ended up fitting them all with a 75% success rate. 25% of them cracked and split during the fitting process! At least having paid for them, I could not blame the others for breaking them!|
|The winter of 1965-1966 was particularly cold and conditions in the Wallisdown workshop were freezing all the time. Neville, Haggis and Nick worked like trojans producing the things and I was in charge of sales which were going reasonably well. I particularly remember Nick because he used to refer to a car seat as a "chair"! He used to say to me "Shall I fit the driver's chair now"? Early in 1966, and quite separately from the MiniSprint project, I became interested in Corsley Garage which belonged to Rob Walker of the the Johnny Walker Whisky family. Rob Walker sponsored Stirling Moss and was a most successful F1 Private Entrant. I took a controlling interest in the Corsley Garage company which was an Austin and Jaguar Dealership. In May 1966, the MiniSprint project moved from Wallisdown to Corsley Garage.|
|With the much better
facilities at Corsley production improved and so did the standards of
Several cars went abroad including a brand-new one to Copenhagen and the one shown left which went to a happy owner in France.
All in all, we produced some 85 MiniSprints before the project was sold to Stewart and Arden, the London British Leyland distributors.
|I think we were all pleased to be out of it
by then. It was hard work and didn't quite make the money we had hoped
for. However, it was an experience and possibly "character
building". Neville went on to further design and success; when I
last heard of him he and his lovely wife were in France. Haggis went on
to be "Haggispeed" and , no doubt Nick, who was very laid
back, is happily engaged in something interesting. Young Surtees did not
come to Corsley with us. So, where are you all now?
I, together with my brother Graham, went on to build up the "Rob Walker" business to the stage where we had fourteen garages and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1972. An enjoyable moment was when our Rob Walker Racing Team won the F1 British Grand Prix in 1968 with a Lotus driven by Jo Siffert. But that is another story!