Posts Tagged ‘Morris Cooper S’

(unattributed)

The inaugural Southern Cross Rally held from October 6th to 9th 1966 brought international rallying to Australia and attracted European stars Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen both of whom ran Morris Cooper S…

The event covered 4,000 km and ran from Sydney to Melbourne and return- Roselands Shopping Centre was the end point 17 km from Sydney’s CBD.

The Barry Ferguson/Tony Denham VW Beetle 1600 took the lead on the second night and set a fast pace until an exchange with a tree ended their great run 360 km from Sydney, this allowed the works Harry Firth/Graham Hoinville Cortina GT to win from the Greg Garard/Frank Goulburn Holden HR and Ian and Roger Vaughan Cortina GT in third place.

The opening photograph was taken at Huthwaite’s Shell Service Station in Edward Street Wagga Wagga- isn’t it a beauty?, but its also a mystery as to the crew. #2 is not on the entry list below nor does it appear to be a ‘missing number’ GT but rather a poverty pack Cortina of some sort- ideas folks?! https://southerncrossrally.blogspot.com/2019/07/1966-entries.html

(SCB)

The Firth/Hoinville Cortina takes centre stage alongside the #15 Garard/Goulburn Holden HR X2 and #17 Vaughan Brothers Cortina GT at Roselands.

The HR to the left behind is the Reg Lunn/Geoff Thomas ‘Dustings of Burwood’ (Melbourne) entry and the #14 Max Winkless/A Smith Volvo 122S to the right- rear centre is the distinctive Alec Mildren entered Alfa Romeo Giulia Super run by the versatile Doug Chivas and Lindsay Adcock.

(SCB)

Rauno Aaltonen and Roy Denny during the night on day 3 north at Cooma in the New South Wales sub-Alpine country. Click here for the full story of this event on the marvellous Southern Cross Rally website; https://southerncrossrally.blogspot.com/2016/03/1966-story.html

On balance Rauno had a pretty good month in Australia, whilst ‘in town’ he took in the 2 October Bathurst 500 enduro sharing a car with Bob Holden to an historic win in front of eight other Cooper S’!- they were a lap clear of the Fred Gibson/Bill Stanley and Bruce McPhee/Barry Mulholland machines.

 

(S Charlton)

The upper photograph is Rauno on his own at Mount Panorama, the lower one is Aaltonen chasing the BMC works Cooper S #28 of Paddy Hopkirk and Brian Foley, DNF after 28 laps.

Etcetera: Firth/Hoinville works Ford Cortina Mk1 GT…

Firth’s car was one of the 110 GT500s Harry and his crew in Queens Avenue, Auburn built prior to the 1965 Bathurst 500- this run of cars was a very successful ‘homologation special’ with Bo Seton and Midge Boswell winning the classic that year.

Whilst the Melbourne pairing of good friends and great engineers were lucky to benefit from Ferguson’s misfortune in the Southern Cross, so that is almost always the case- the ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’ adage holds good.

Meritorious was that Harry had competed in the Bathurst 500 together with quite a few other ‘Cross runners the week before and immediately prior to that had returned from the US where he contested two Trans-Am rounds- on 10 September, the Green Valley 6 Hour for ninth place and 18 September Riverside 4 hours- seventh in a Lotus Cortina with Allan Moffat- Moff ran selected rounds of the series that year amongst his primary program the ‘1966 Central Division (Cendiv) Touring Car Series starting in May in the American Midwest.

Moffat said of Firth in his autobiography written with John Smailes ‘Harry Firth was fantastic. The race was half day, half night and, when darkness fell, he drove like the rally star he was. He pulled back four of the six laps i’d lost and brought us up to second in class behind Kwech’s Alfa. Then a throttle cable fell off and he dropped another six laps and had to start again. This time he got into ‘man possessed’ mode. On a track with questionable grip, in the pitch dark, he set a new under 2 litre lap record. We finished fourth in class and ninth outright. Ray Parsons with Jon Leighton was third in class and seventh outright.’

A week later the team were 2,200 km away in Riverside, again Moffat sang Harry’s praises- ‘…Harry surprised us again. He removed the cylinder heads from both our cars and took them to a local machine shop where he performed some magic. Its not that I didn’t want the details but Harry wasn’t called The Fox for nothing. All I needed to know was that the work was legal and quicker. He assured me it was. Harry came down with the flu that weekend so I dove solo. My job, if I could, was to spoil Horst Kwech. For four hours we raced like crazy for second in class, while Frank Gardner sprinted ahead to score Alan Mann’s only victory of the series’ John Smailes recorded.

The Bo Seton/Midge Bosworth Ford Cortina GT500 en-route to Bathurst victory in 1965

 

‘The Canberra Times’ 11 October 1966

The piece above is interesting- Harry was multi-talented as all you Australian enthusiasts well know.
He was a great preparer/builder of race and rally cars, an elite level rally and production-sedan driver not to forget his abilities to develop competitive performance car packages with manufacturers (Ford and Holden). After his own driving career he was a great talent spotter (mind you he nurtured talent whilst still driving too) and team manager of people, budgets, builds and race-day strategy- he schmoozed sponsors and manufacturers as well.

He really was rather an amazing hombre, consistent with Ken Blair’s thesis in the article above Harry also won the first Australian Rally Championship in 1968 in either/and/or a Lotus Cortina Mk2/Cortina Mk2 supercharged- perhaps one of you rally nutters can set me straight- he was fifty then by the way.

Credits…

‘SCB’- southerncrossrally.blogspot.com, Getty Images, Stuart Charlton, ‘Allan Moffat: Climbing The Mountain’ Allan Moffat with John Smailes

Tailpiece…

(FoMoCo)

GT500 out front of Ford’s Australian headquarters on the Hume Highway, Broadmeadows in 1965, I wonder if JFF-368 was the factory press car, and whether it still exists.

Finito…

(R Kaleda)

Kevin Bartlett awaits the start of the Country Club GT Trophy at Warwick Farm on 18 September 1966…

Magic shot from the collection of the late racer Ray Kaleda- that’s Glenn Abbey with the hand on the roof and Bob Jane’s Jaguar E Type Lightweight to the left, with Spencer Martin at the wheel- thanks to Glenn Moulds for identifying the meeting date and the race itself. I wrote an article a while back about the development of the Alfa TZ1/2; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/04/alfa-romeo-tz2-sebring-12-hour-1966/

Niel Allen’s Lotus Elan 26R entering the Farm’s Pit Straight but its a different meeting- Fred Gibson is at the wheel

 

(G Moulds)

 

(R Kaleda)

The front row- Niel Allen, on pole from Martin and Bartlett, the splash of red behind is Andy Buchanan’s Ferrari 250LM. That’s John Sawyer, Bob Jane Racing Team Manager in the blue trousers and shirt keeping an eye on Spencer. Click here for a piece on the Jag Lwt and Elan 26R; https://primotipo.com/2018/04/15/perk-and-pert/

(B Caldersmith)

First time down Hume Straight it’s Martin, Allen, Bartlett and Buchanan almost side by side, the Fred Gibson Lotus Elan and Brian Foley in the first of the Cooper S’.

Andy Buchanan in the Ferrari 250LM vacated by Spencer Martin at the end of 1965 and looking pretty as a picture as always. Car #3 is Ron Thorp’s AC Cobra. Piece on the Scuderia Veloce/David McKay LM here; https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

(B Caldersmith)

Martin with a touch of the opposites out of Creek Corner ahead of Allen, the pair finished first and second followed by Kevin Bartlett’s TZ2, Andy Buchanan, 250LM Brian Foley’s Cooper S Lwt and Ron Thorp in his wonderful AC Cobra.

 

(B Caldersmith)

All concentration, Spencer was busy that weekend, he also raced the Jane Lotus Cortina but the Tasman Brabham BT11A Climax was left back in Brunswick.

Here he is on the exit of Polo sandwiched between Shepparton’s finest- Bryan Thompson in his ex-Beechey Mustang and Bob Beasley’s Cooper S. This Touring Car feature was won by Pete Geoghegan’s Mustang from Brian Foley’s Cooper S, Thompson, Beasley and Martin.

(unattributed)

 

(B Caldersmith)

Martin and Allen continue their race-long dice whilst lapping Noel Riley’s Honda S600- Noel Riley was a race and rally driver of some note as well as a handy race and rally engineer inclusive of a stint with Frank Matich during the F5000 years in his CV- not to forget the business he had with Colin Bond for a bit.

Etcetera…

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

Credits…

Ray Kaleda Collection, Peter Windsor, Glenn Moulds Collection, Rob Bartholomaeus

Tailpiece…

(P Windsor)

Kevin Bartlett chews the fat circa with Glen Abbey? 1966 in Alec Mildren’s Warwick Farm compound- TZ2 and the Brabham BT11A Climax whilst a grinning Fred Gibson in jeans and polo shirt wanders past. Magic.

Finito…

It’s funny how stuff happens sometimes, I finally bought a Mini Cooper S last month, mind you, the one I lusted after in my teens was a Morris Cooper S…

Most normal fourteen year old ‘knob-jockeys’ were looking at Playboy and Penthouse and giving the sav a serious slap. Being the sick little unit that I was I spent most of my waking hours looking at Sports Car World, Racing Car News- and Autosport which required a trip to town- Technical Books in Swanston Street, Melbourne will be well known to Victorian enthusiasts over 40.

The cars I lusted after as my first road car- then four years down the track weren’t the local muscle cars but the Cooper S, Escort Twin-Cam, Lotus Europa with my dream car the Ferrari Dino 246GT. The Dino fantasy lasted for a several decades until Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 finally blew it off its pedestal.

I always thumbed through magazines whilst sitting in a beanbag watching the teev, whilst other cars came and went, my diet of articles always came back to this group of cars with the Cooper S always to be my first car, restricted to a student income as I was.

I had a Castrol promotional brochure (remember the set of seven or eight stapled into Racing Car News, one at a time each month?) about John Leffler’s Cooper S Lwt Sports-Sedan, which I looked at endlessly together with road tests of the S and Clubman GT.

I can still remember the standard Cooper S 1275cc oversizes of the ‘A Series’ block at 1293cc and 1310cc, the factory race AEA 648/649 and rally AEA571 cam part numbers are still in my woolly head long after the intricacies of the accounting and economics I was studying at the time have well and truly disappeared.

Castrol brochure featuring the BMC Racing Team, John Leffler Cooper S, leading Barry Sharp, Ford Falcon at Oran Park circa 1970. Leffo a few years later, 1973, won the Australian FF Championship in a Bowin P6F and in 1976 the Gold Star in an F5000 Lola T400 Chev

I came close to buying Coopers twice and still kick myself for missing out on the first one, a BRG 1969 car in Richmond. Dad insisted I get an RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) mechanical test on it, which was the right parental advice (not that I usually listened to it) and of course the car sold on the Sunday with my deposit dutifully refunded a couple of days later. I cracked the shits with him for well over a month.

Spending all of my Monash Uni student income on Elfin 620B Formula Ford laps at the Calder based Bob Jane-Frank Gardner Race Driving School whilst 18 changed everything- I found god and he raced single-seaters!

So the focus then became a road tow car and a Formula Vee by the time I started full-time work, that was achieved. I bought a Venom Vee in February 1979 and started work the following month. So, the Cooper S never happened, why bother rattling around in road cars on-circuit when you can drive the real thing? Here are the exploits of one of Australia’s most prominent FV drivers. Not. https://primotipo.com/2016/10/06/formula-vee-and-the-summer-of-79/

I have owned a few Cooper S TYPE cars though; three Alfasuds- Sedan, TI twin-carb and Sprint and an Alfa 147GTA amongst other things.

The Lotus Europa, when I finally drove one was a heap of shit- what a disappointment, ‘shake-rattle-and roll’ it wasn’t a flash example i guess, but the Lotus fetish never left me- my Elise was a wonderful 5 year experience if somewhat challenging in the winter.

I looked at a beaut ‘Vermillion Fire’ red Escort Twin-Cam an old codger (he was far younger than I am now) had for sale in Glen Iris but by then a mate had an Alfa Giulia Sprint GT (nee 1600 GTV) in which I drove a lot of miles and it was a far more cohesive bit of kit than the Escort- and I had couple of 105 Series coupes as a consequence.

The Italian Sheila

Roll on a cuppla decades, had kids, raced historic Formula Ford, got divorced and got a girlfriend. An Italian one actually- if I’d known what Northern Italian sheilas were like at 18 I’d have specialised in that breed from then- but you live and learn right?

Five years ago she bought an R53 Cooper S auto (sub-optimal as a manual driver but too easy round town), in fact I wrote about it a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/03/perdriau-master-cord-tyres-mini-cooper-s-nuriootpa-and-lobethal-australian-grands-prix-tour/

In recent times the thing, which always used a lot of oil, has been using a forty-four of expensive lubricant a fortnight. Our mechanic put this down to the car probably not being run in properly in its infancy- Patrizia being ‘WUBs’ second owner. The funny thing is you can’t see the oil being burned like you could in the old days- the plume of pungent but sweet smelling blue smoke has not been there.

She-who-must-be-obeyed looked at new Abarth 595’s last summer and only baulked when I pointed out the lack of cruise-control- so we, she, kept driving The WUBster and I kept shoving expensive oil down its gullet on a weekly basis whilst alternative, automobile deliberations continued.

WUB @ Tarra Warra Estate near Healesville

And then, as they say in the classics, it happened!

Ok, I did insist we use her car for the trip to Kyneton, comfier than mine as it is.

A few kays past Calder, going up the long hill towards Diggers Rest the little beastie lapsed onto 3 cylinders- not a big deal I thought as the same thing happened in almost the same place twelve months before and was just a duff plug. An easy, cheap fix.

Not so this time.

The long gradual build up of carbon on #3 piston from all that not fully burned oil over all those years, ignited, blowing a neato hole in said aluminium component and did some block damage to add insult to injury. Worse, it was ALL MY FAULT as I insisted we use her car not mine- I was driving the thing at the moment of destruction.

Never mind the fact that the ‘liddl fokker could have let go on a similar trip she did to McRae the week before…’twas all my fault, deploying all of the chick logic they have.

No amount of cunning-linguistics on my part, and my powers of persuasion are not too shabby given forty years in business, were going to shift the crossed arms of The Italian Sheila.

So my friends, having first got interested in Coopers circa 1971, I am now the proud owner of an R53 in 2019, it’s easily the most expensive in Australia too. My heart feels good but my wallet is not so flash.

The Italian Sheila did buy the Abarth in the end- it’s great, in some ways the ultimate inner city tool, I’ll bore you with that another time.

As I said at the outset, it’s funny how stuff happens sometimes, and more often than not a chick is involved…

PS; Hopefully The Italian Sheila does not read this, she never looks at primotipo, all good, I trust, hope and pray.

Tailpiece: The new Abarth 595 in Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy…

Castrol Cooper S Brochure- the rest of it…

 

Finito…

 

As in ‘Prang It and You Own It’…

Here Bob Kent allowed Randall Bromfield to do a few practice laps of Baskerville in 1970 aboard his very tidy 1310cc Morris Cooper S, whereupon Randall ‘lost it at the bottom of the hill’.

Bigtime by the look of it.

Clearly Randall had not mastered the complex topography of that particular part of Tasmania to the required degree. The fiscal arrangements between ‘ole Randall and trusting Bob subsequent to this misunderstanding of the laws of physics remains unrecorded but it seems to me The P&O System is an eminently fair and reasonable one in circumstances such as this…

Credits…

All photos oldracephotos.com.au

Tailpiece: Daffy-Ducked ‘innit like?- it will take more than the application of Uri Geller’s talents and polish before the ‘brick is ready for its next meeting…

Finito…

(Eldougo)

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…

(Friedman)

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.

(Friedman)

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

(Friedman)

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.

(Friedman)

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…

(Simpson)

 

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

Finito…

mini 1

Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon head for victory in the Monte snow and ice, Mini Cooper S, January 14-20th 1967…

They won the alpine classic from the Ove Andersson/John Davenport Lancia Fulvia and Vic Elford/David Stone Porsche 911S.

By 1967 the Mini Cooper S was long established as a race and rally winner; in the Monte the cars won in 1964, 1965 and 1966, the cars driven by Paddy Hopkirk/Henry Liddon, Timo Makinen/Paul Easter and in ’66 Makinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk dominated the event.

They finished in that order only to have French officialdom throw them out, and Roger Clark’s  4th placed Lotus Cortina, advancing Finnish Citroen driver Pauli Toivonen to a hollow win.

The cars ‘were excluded for having iodine vapour, single filament bulbs in their standard headlamps instead of double-filament dipping bulbs’, this was a bit of French bullshit which allowed a Citroen win…

The Mini’s advantage was rammed home in 1967 when Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon won the event one last time, the age of the Mini was coming to an end, the ‘rally reign’ of the Ford Escort Twin-Cam/RS1600 and other more powerful specialised cars was about to begin…

mini plane

The works Morris Cooper S #144 Timo Makinen/Paul Easter 41st and #178 Simo Lampinen/M Wood Plane is the Douglas DC4 based ATL-98 Carvair. (unattributed)

Rauno Aaltonen was born on January 7, 1938 his teenaged ‘need for speed’ initially satisfied competing in speedboats and later motor bikes on speedways, motocross and in road racing becoming the first Finn to win a TT event in 1956 at Hedemora, Sweden.

He started rallying at 18 after deciding that ‘bikes were a bit too hazardous after several racing accidents’ competing in both Mercedes Benz 170S sedan and Saab 93B, a ‘real rally car’.

He competed in the World Rally Championship throughout the 1970s and was a factory driver for BMC, Ford, Lancia, BMW and Datsun over the decades. Prior to the WRC’s formation he won the European Rally Championship championship in 1965 and the Finnish Rally Championship in 1961 and 1965.

He was victorious in the following events; the ’61 Warsaw Rally and Rally of 1000 Lakes both in Mercedes 220SE, the 1964 Liege-Sofia-Liege in a Healey 3000 Britains’ RAC, the Polish, Munich-Vienna-Budapest and Czechoslovakian Rallies, all in 1965 in Minis. He won the 1966 Tulip, Vltava and Czechoslavakian Rallies, the Monte as described here in 1967 and Australia’s Southern Cross Rally in 1977 in a Datsun Violet 710.

In circuit racing he contested the Spa 24 Hour in a BMW in 1958, the ’65 Sebring 12 Hour, Targa Florio and Le Mans 24 Hours in factory Austin Healey Sprites, also doing some of these enduro’s for BMC in 1966-68.

In 1966 he partnered Bob Holden to a Bathurst 500 win in a Cooper S at Mount Panorama and in a nice bit of symmetry also raced the event in 1991 in a Toyota Corolla with Holden.

photo (4)

Mini; unitary construction, 1275cc pushrod OHV engine fed by 2 SU carbs. 4 speed box, slippery diff, disc front and drum rear brakes. (Jiro Yamada)

Aaltonen related his 1967 Monte win to Sympatico.caAutos…

In 1962, Aaltonen crashed his Mini at Monte Carlo: ‘I was stuck in the burning car. I could see pastel colors, you know, and I was hearing classical music. Then I could hear my co-driver calling me to climb out, but the seatbelts were already melted, so I had to wiggle out.’

‘We run the col de Turini twice, both directions. It’s very difficult: cliffs, rocks, narrow roads…”

‘We arrived at the beginning of the last stage leading by 12 seconds. Vic Elford was second in a Porsche 911, but he was in front of the road, starting ahead. We listened to that six-cylinder, the feeling of power! He disappeared down the road.

‘It was our turn. The man with the flag counts down from 10, but he stops at four. There’s an accident on the hill, the ambulance rushes up. Then a snowstorm starts. You could see the snowflakes floating down. In theory, it could be beautiful. For us, it was hell. The spikes in our tires don’t work in the snow and we couldn’t see the road – everything was white.’

mini black oversteer

The winning Cooper S of Aaltonen/Liddon. (unattributed)

Today, the marshals cancel special stages for less serious incidents. Back then, the show just went on and the countdown resumed.

‘First gear. Wheelspin. 8,000 rpm, hardly moving. Second gear. Wheelspin. We couldn’t get any grip. Henry Liddon, my co-driver from Bristol, England, has a dry sense of humor. He says when we get to the top of the hill, ‘two and a half minutes down’. No way – but in rally, you never give up.’

What Aaltonen, and Liddon for that matter, didn’t know is that this joke would become reality in the most spectacular way.

‘We drove back down the mountain really fast: third gear, 140 km/h. The spikes were working better now. Suddenly, under the snow there was a patch of ice. We started sliding, rocks on the inside of the turn, cliffs on the outside. I saw that there are these concrete blocks that would be safe to hit: they would stop the car from going over.’

Any sane man would have done the same. Going down a cliff at the Col de Turini is something you simply don’t want to do even if they paid you a million dollars.

Aaltonen wasn’t paid that much, but he made an almost suicidal decision: ‘You never give up. So I aimed between the concrete blocks. I knew it wasn’t a sheer drop, maybe 45 degrees and with trees.’

Ah, no problem there, then…

mini color

Battery of lights legal in 1967… (unattributed)

‘We were flying in the air. It looked like we were in a fairytale. These boulders looked like giants.’

Amazingly, the Mini and its crew survived the drop: ‘We landed on soft snow between trees and huge boulders. This was purely good luck, as one cannot steer the car while airborn. Had we already left the road, there was no point in stopping as the Mini would instantly sink deep.’

He admits that they had no idea where they were going.

‘Once we had found a road and noticed it was the special stage, we understood how lucky we had been. Nobody could purposely find that kind of route between the trees and boulders – yet, in fact, it shortened the route.’

The accident worked to Aaltonen’s advantage: ‘We won by five seconds. It was a huge shortcut. That was not skill, it was good luck’, he concedes. ‘I told my co-driver to shut-up his mouth and don’t tell anything.’ It’s something Aaltonen revealed only after 20 years.

Their was perhaps some Karma in all of this given the bureaucratic nonsense the year before…

mini 4

Aaltonen and Henry Liddon still in the car at the Monte’s end. (unattributed)

mini 5

Hero’s welcome for the victors back in the UK. (unattributed)

Credits…

Team Dan Rally archive, aaltonenmotorsport.com, sympatico.ca Autos