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
Several cars went abroad including a brand-new one to Copenhagen and the one shown left which went to a happy owner in
All in all, we produced some 85 MiniSprints before the project was sold to Stewart and Arden, the London British Leyland
|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!