Peter Manton, Austin 1800 tow car and his ‘Improved Production Touring’ Cooper S, perhaps at Surfers Paradise in 1970…

Manton is long way from home, the Gold Coast is 1720 kilometres from Melbourne, the Mini aces home base. That cut down Austin 1800 is a really nice rig but I don’t fancy towing that Mini with that car, even if it has a couple of SU’s bolted to the side of the ‘B Series’ head. It lacks the ‘mumbo’ needed for such long tows across our big, brown, parched continent. Nice thing to ponce around Surfers Paradise in mind you.

By 1970 Peter was winding down a long career in the sport which dated back to the thirties. Born in 1922, Gerald Peter ‘Skinny’ Manton began racing at 16 in his mothers Austin 16.

In his formative years he worked at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermans Bend in product engineering leaving to work for John Ould Motors and later Monaro Motors, of which he later became a partner.

Monaro Motors sold MG’s and developed performance parts for the marque. They were agents for Wade superchargers and became sole distributors in Victoria for SU carburettors. ‘Skinny’ progressed to design and research developing many twin-carb manifolds and other bits.

Mac/Manton works MGB ‘HBL129D’, Sebring 1966 (unattributed)

Manton’s reputation amongst the BMC UK hierarchy was such that he was chosen to partner Roger Mac in a works MGB at Sebring in March 1966, it was a successful weekend too, the pair were seventeenth overall in the 12 hour classic and first in the GT 2 litre class- the race was won by the Ken Miles/Lloyd Ruby Shelby American Ford GT40 X-I Roadster.

In a busy weekend Manton also contested the four hour Governor’s Cup for sedans the day before the 12 Hour. He shared a Cooper S with Paddy Hopkirk but the pair’s 1293cc S was outted with a broken timing chain after only 33 laps- Jochen Rindt won in a works Alfa Romeo GTA shared with Roberto Businello. Businello, well known in Australia after his Alfa Giulia TI Super Sandown 6 Hour win with Ralph Sach in 1964, blotted his copybook in all but destroying the car in practice.

Hopkirk/Manton Cooper S during the Four Hour Governor’s Trophy, Sebring 1966 (Friedman)

As the Issigonis front wheel drive BMC products swept the market Manton was in on the ground floor.

In 1962 BMC released the Morris Cooper in Australia but in August 1961 Manton was one of those behind the ‘Morris 850 Sports’, the little brick was fitted with twin-SU carbs and a set of extractors. The car was sold through Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne and P&R Williams in Sydney, whilst a ‘dealership special model’ the cars had the backing of BMC inclusive of the factory warranty.

In terms of his racing Manton swapped his Marshall-blown Morris Major for a succession of Cooper S’ with which he became synonomous. Manton Motors was a well known destination for a generation or so of Melbourne BMC and racing enthusiasts

Was the Mini King of Oz Peter Manton or Brian Foley? Are the honours equally split?, without doubt they were the Mini Kings of Victoria and New South Wales respectively throughout the sixties in any event!

Manton from Bob Holden, Ford Escort Twin-Cam and Brian Foley in Warwick Farm’s Esses 1970 (R Thorncraft)

Etcetera: Sebring 1966…


Sebring main straight vista with the Mac/Manton MGB to the left and back.

#57 Porsche 904GTS of Ripley/Wetanson in front, MGB of West/Charles, one of the Porsche 906’s to the right and alongside the Shelby GT350 Mustang of Kohler/Reina/Biddle and on his own behind that group of three the Porsche 911 of Ryan/Coleman.


Hopkirk/Manton chasing the Renault Dauphine of Porath/Van Hoozier, ever present Goodyear blimp up above.


The Shelby Mustang GT350 of Kohler/Reina/Biddle from Mac/Manton- and below the MGB being monstered by one of the 7 litre Ford GT Mk2’s, no doubt Peter Manton spent as much time looking in his mirrors as he did out the B’s windscreen on the wide expanses of the airfield circuit.


Flying trio.

Mac/Manton MGB from the similar West/Charles entry and then the Ryan/Coleman Porsche 911. Dave Friedman’s photographic archive is wide, rich and deep.

Photo and Reference Credits…

Eldougo, Dick Simpson, Russell Thorncraft, David Knowles, Dave Westerman, article by Craig Watson in uniquecars.com.au, David Friedman Archive, Peter Longley

Tailpieces: Manton’s Cooper S being monstered by Shell teammate and 1970 ATCC champion Norm Beechey’s Holden HG Monaro GTS350 at Calder…



Peter Longley’s great shot of Manton turning in to Longford’s Viaduct circa 1965.


  1. JohnFirth says:

    The 1800s were a great ‘open road’ point to point vehicle!!
    Not much weight to tow. Alloy subframes I hear……..

    • markbisset says:

      Sorry to be so slow in responding- marvellous cars and much underrated relative to the Oz stuff of the day. Such a shame Leyland Oz didn’t build an attractive car in the P76- the car itself was very good but sinfully ugly compared with, say, the HQ Holden, which had pretty basic underpinnings but looked good ‘in period’?

  2. Gray Chandler says:

    Mark , not a cut down sedan .[ Wikipedia ] A version unique to Australia was the Austin 1800 Utility, a coupe utility produced from 1968 to 1971.[12] Over 2,000 examples were built. The Utility was released near the end of the first series in July 1968 and most of the examples produced were therefore Mk IIs. A cab chassis variant was also offered. The 1800 Utility was given the model code YDO10. I had a modified MK11 1800 and got booked for 100mph on the way to Mallala. Actually received a $60.00 refund from the Elizabeth Courthouse because they thought the Police had erred. cheers.

    • markbisset says:

      There you go Gray!- I don’t remember them at all and yet they must have been around.
      I’ve a soft spot for BMC cars, my mum had a Morrie 1100 which I learned to drive in, and drove heaps.
      In my student years I had mates who inherited Austin 1800’s from their folks- I was amazed just how nice a big car they were to drive, and these were abused ‘student maintained’ cars too.
      Far superior to the ‘Dad Car’ Holden, Ford, Valiants of the day in terms of comfort and driving fun.
      Won a Rally or three as well!

  3. Gray Chandler says:

    Please bear with me on my ramblings , but this is a revelation. FEATURE ARTICLE The 1800 V8
    The Austin (1800) Quarterly
    July 2013
    FEATURE ARTICLE: The 1800 V8
    The Advanced Model Group at VP Zetland designed this Austin 1800 with a 4.2L V8 power unit and
    front wheel drive in 1968. An extraordinary development that indicates the commitment to future
    direction for automobile manufacture in this country by BMC. The said web page is fully detailed with photographs. cheers.

  4. terry dinning says:

    I remember those day where Peter Manton, Brain Foley & Johnny Harvey did battle against the mite of the bigger V8’s.

    • markbisset says:

      Cheers Terry,
      They were always spectacular cars and drivers to watch. By the time I got interested in racing PM had retired, and BF didn’t come to Victoria much but I saw John Harvey race many times with great style and success.

      • RodwayWolfe says:

        Peter Manton was the .Mini King . His cars were not modified as much as people thought. Weight was his big thing. He drilled holes in everything and as he Only weighed about 8 stone he left them behind. I remember one Sandown race for a joke he took his shoes off and left them on the grass at the start line. In later years when I moved to Metung I worked on a boat for Jack Old ( no relation to John Ould) who was the Principal of Monaro motors and helped Peter financially and with his cars. He told me lots of stories about Peter Manton and his achievements. Great article Mark about a man I worshipped as a young bloke.

      • markbisset says:

        Great to hear from you Rodway,
        Thanks for the recollections- my first meeting was the ’72 Sandown Tasman, ‘Skinny’ had just retired as I became interested so I missed out on seeing him and the other Mini legends- Brian Foley, Don Holland and Lynn Brown for example. Those mid to late sixties Touring Car grids would have been something to see!

  5. Terry Sullivan says:

    My father in law had an 1800 Ute from new on the farm. He eventually parked it because it kept blowing mufflers. He said it had great traction in the paddock because of the fwd.

    I believe Manton was far ahead of Foley in developments. He was first I heard of using titanium parts in his car. I don’t believe there were any weight limits in those days.

    An example of his ingenuity was his left had drive Mini. I saw it at Catalina. A simple conversion as didn’t have to do anything to the dashboard……

    • markbisset says:

      Cheers Terry,
      I had a mate whose father had one- it was a vastly nicer car to ride in than my dad’s HK Holden- at Uni I drove several and even as typically abused student cars the engineering showed thru.
      I missed out on seeing Skinny unfortunately, the Mini racer I remember in Victoria when I first got interested was Rod Stevens (as in roll bars) who had a very quick, and rough! Mini sports sedan in the pre-Rotary in Mini era.
      There is a blast from the past- must find a photo or two.

  6. Leslie hope says:

    Was my boss for 10 years great man

    • David Knowles says:

      Hi – do you know what became of Peter Manson please? He codrove an MGB at Sebring in 1966 and I am trying to trace all the drivers or people who knew them

      • markbisset says:

        Hi David,
        I’m afraid I don’t know more about Peter Manton than in that article, he had stopped racing by the time I got into it. I have no interest in Touring Cars so my library on the topic is pretty thin. I didn’t know he raced at Sebring- so you have taught me something already!

      • markbisset says:

        I’ve just had a look for Sebring shots- of which you are no doubt well aware, and updated the article and included you in the reference credits. I’ll post the images in Facebook later on- lets see what else we may be able to find via ‘re-promotion’ of the article.

  7. David Knowles says:

    Thank you Mark. I read something which appeared to hint that he died in 1978… but there’s nothing to back that up.

    • markbisset says:

      Yes- I tried a while back to find his date of death but could not. Have another look at the article, have just uploaded some Sebring 1966 photos you may or may not have seen before?

  8. Rob says:


    It looks to me as if the Sebring race that Manton contested in a Cooper S with Paddy Hopkirk was the very first race in the history of the Trans-American Sedan Championship, a.k.a.Trans Am series. The official results that I managed to unearth only mention Hopkirk (http://www.trans-amseries.com/results/1966.pdf) but I doubt that there was more than one four hour sedan race at Sebring in March 1966 won by Jochen Rindt! So it would seem that Peter was a competitor in a very significant touring car race. Any thoughts?


  9. vincent sharp says:

    Hi all,
    Yes that was the very first Tans Am race, won by Rindt in an Alfa 1600 GTA. That’s one the Alfisti remember!

  10. […] Peter Manton’s Neptune Racing Morris Cooper S is not in this race but in the same batch of shots and therefore possibly racing at the same meeting- too good a shot to waste in any event. Story about him here; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/29/mini-king-peter-manton/ […]

  11. […] 1969, and five times Australian Touring Car Champion ‘Pete’ Geoghegan below. See here; https://primotipo.com/2017/11/29/mini-king-peter-manton/ and here; […]

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