Charles Barter has spent 25 seasons in the same Datsun
For many years the family name was almost as synonymous with hillclimbing as Shelsley Walsh. “My brother Robert and I started at the beginning of the 1970s,” says Charles Barter. “We bought Win Percy’s rallycross Ford Anglia and converted it. That sowed the seeds.”
He subsequently forged his reputation at the wheel of a Hillman Imp – and other cars powered by Hartwell-tuned Rootes engines (including a Davrian and a Delta T80 Formula Ford 2000 chassis, fitted with a methanol-fuelled 1.1-litre Imp lump). He accumulated numerous wins and titles in the colours of Golden Springs, his family’s watercress-farming business, before moving on during the 1980s to a Peugeot 205 that Hartwell was developing for customers. After a couple of years, though, with little more to prove on the hills, he decided to take a break. “Mistake,” he says. “I soon realised how much I missed the sport.”
The answer? A Datsun 240Z. “I knew where that was,” he says, nodding towards a familiar blue silhouette. “It’s another ex-Win Percy car. He used it on the road, but also in a few events. It was languishing in an orchard so we restored it – and I have been racing it in road sports events for the past 25 years.
“I’ve been tempted by other things, but that would mean selling the 240Z – and I don’t think I could. I enjoy it so much and still seem to be competitive as I approach my 75th birthday, so…”