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A European Diary
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Not So Great a Boulevardier…

A European Diary Last Updated: Jan 30th, 2005 - 16:19:56

An American Mini
By Anthony Matthews
Jul 18, 2004, 17:41

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Part 1

I miss Henry Lidden. He died a few years back. Henry was a great rally navigator in the '60s and part of the BMC works team. He also worked for the Bristol Motor Company and was much involved with the Bristol Car Club.

After I was married in Sweden (following the '65 Swedish Rally which I did not finish due to mechanical failure - more of that in another story) I was due to go back to the States and continue working for Aston Martin. I decided that I would buy my old '64 rally car from Abingdon (BMC Competition Department) and ship it to New York.

Henry heard about this and persuaded me that I should enter the Bristol Rally before leaving. I assumed that he was going to co-drive. But no he was organising, however he said he could fix me up with a good local man. To cut a long story short the rally was a disaster - the 'S' was reversed into by a Volvo 544 Amazon which buggered the oil cooler and took out the Lucas P700s driving lamps. I was an unhappy man at 3.00 am on a Sunday morning when I saw Henry somewhere in the Quantocks and told him so. And I was due to deliver the car to Southampton docks for shipping the following Tuesday. Later that Sunday Henry "rallied" the troops. The apprentices were summoned and started work on the car under our supervision late Sunday afternoon! The car was completed Monday night and shipping happened - on time!

Part 2

My old friend Candy Poole persuaded me that I should enter the Mini in an SCCA race at Lime Rock (Connecticut) one weekend. Candy was one of the few people in New England who could tune a BMC "A" Series engine - the 1293 'S' was producing about 95 bhp at the driving wheels.

"Bring plenty of money, Tone", he told me, "and meet me in the car park of the Stagecoach Hill", - a pub run by an Englishman in Sheffield, Mass..

"How much Candy?" I asked, "And why?"

"This way we make money and cover our costs for the weekend. As to why, I'll tell you later."

I was puzzled but met him in the pub car park as instructed. "Will a couple of 100 bucks do?" I asked him.

"Great", he answered, "let's go into the pub."

We went in and there was silence.

"So this is your bigmouth limey friend", someone said.

"Hope he can put his money where his mouth is!"

What a greeting. Candy winked at me.

"Iv'e told them that you've said that you'll whup their arses tomorrow. Give me the wad"!

Money seemed to change hands "What have I let myself in for?"
I thought.

Come Sunday morning we practiced. I pointed out to Candy that I didn't seem to be able to get full throttle. Once again he winked.

Well third row on the grid wasn't too bad. There were Healeys, Porsche 356s and even an 'E' Type!

To cut a long story short I lapped all but one of the cars - a well prepared MGA Twin Cam (also prepared by Candy). That night in the bar when things were quiet Candy handed me back my $200. "That's for starters and we've got a couple of hundred more for the budget, but one of the guys wants to buy the car."

"How much?" I asked. "How much??...that's twice what I payed for it."

And so the car was sold.

Next week I rang Henry to ask him to get me another!



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