Works Minis in Detail book review

It was the family car that became a superstar on the rally stage. Gordon Cruickshank learns all about the works machines

Rauno Aaltonen et Henry Liddon Mini Cooper S at the Monte Carlo Rally

Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon with their 1967 Monte-winning Cooper S

Browse pages

It chimed with the times and came across as the coolest of David versus Goliath victories – petite four-square Minis seeing off rival makes’ uncool, staid saloons. The Mini’s successes on track and even more famously in rallies waved the Union flag across Europe at the time when Britain was finding its postwar place and London was the grooviest spot on the planet. You can read this work as a history of the Mini’s greatest moments or as a catalogue raisonné of Abingdon’s finest, since it investigates and dissects all the works cars in forensic detail, from the first bog-standard 850s through the various Cooper iterations which steadily eked more and more performance and handling from that tiny power plant.

This is not a book to read from start to finish; it’s better suited to diving into a particular event, or investigating what the works crew at Abingdon did to a factory-fresh Cooper S when they got their oily hands on it. Anyone building a replica team car will surely find every detail in here for their build, including all those go-faster dashboard goodies (like those long switch extensions which were always advertised in the front of Motor Sport), and while most of us will gloss over the finer details of engine numbers and bonnet straps, such information will help to tie down accurate provenance for each vehicle, especially as so many were re-shelled or modified later. As the Mini Cooper registrar for the 77 ex-works cars, Young is well placed to access the factory build sheets and other sources, and obviously knows his stuff.

For those of us with a more general interest it’s about the stories around the events and the characters involved, and soaking up the photos – 840 of them – which convey the times: an anxious crew watching a Mini dangle from a derrick on an Athens quayside, or a roof rack full of tyres propped against a road sign with a hand-lettered tablecloth nicked from a restaurant warning locals that the team is doing a recce on their quiet French back road. There is racing and rallycross too, but it’s those snowy Monte Carlo stages which are the abiding image of how a tiny but agile and innovative machine lifted so many prizes.


Works MinisWorks Minis in Detail

Robert Young

Herridge & Sons, £65
ISBN: 9781906133962

 

 

Book reviews in brief, February 2021

Excess all areas

Richard Heseltine

We all have guilty pleasures: I’m still intrigued by kit cars, dating back to the joys of Custom Car magazine. It’s been a world of the crude, the weird and just occasionally the clever and attractive, and the high-water mark was surely the 1970s, Heseltine’s era here. Part analysis, part catalogue, this paperback offers surprising detail on such forgotten British horrors as the Buccaneer and Minette, but also successes such as the Nova, the Davrian, and all those beach buggies, plus a look at specials and one-offs. Fun, in a ghastly way. GC

Performance Publishing, £27
ISBN: 9780957645066


The Great British Rally

Graham Robson and Martin Holmes

It’s changed names and sponsors, but since 1932 there has always been a top British international rally. Today itís Wales Rally GB, but Robson and the late Martin Holmes take us though the RAC and Network Q eras, from the 1930s days of braking tests and seafront wiggles into serious forest rallying when the RAC became one of the toughest challenges on the WRC calendar. Oh, those chilly nights in a foggy forest listening to cars approaching… Copiously illustrated, with yearly results, it’s all here.
A one-stop history right up to 2018. GC

Veloce Publishing, £30
ISBN: 9781787113688


TWR’s Le Mans-winning Jaguars

John Starkey

Whenever I see a Silk Cut Jaguar I get in a muddle. Anyone can recognise the XJR-14, but Iíve never got my head round the XJR-8, 9 and 10. Now with this on the shelf I’ll be able to quickly flick through the pages covering TWR’s struggles and successes and pretend I know all about it. Starkey certainly does, describing each step from the Tullius cars through to the ‘F1 with mudguards’ XJR-14, along with memories from many involved. Car by car details even include who built the monocoque — and in these days of ever pricier books it’s nice to see something compact. GC

Veloce Publishing, £19.99
ISBN: 9781787115682