COM­PE­TI­TION CLASS

Richard New­ton’s Mk3 Cooper S is in­spired by his il­lus­tri­ous Mini past.

Mini Magazine - - Contents - Words Jeff Rug­gles Pho­tog­ra­phy Matt Woods

Even af­ter more than five decades, the Mini scene still has plenty of ca­pac­ity to sur­prise us. Many might recog­nise Richard New­ton as the co-founder of Suf­folk-based New­ton Com­mer­cial, the lead­ing light in re­place­ment Mini trim. But while that’s pretty re­mark­able in it­self, there’s more to this tale. You see, Richard’s ca­reer high­lights also in­clude time with the BMC Com­pe­ti­tions De­part­ment, a year at the leg­endary Down­ton En­gi­neer­ing and even a spell in Ger­many man­ag­ing two Cooper S rac­ers. And it’s the mem­ory of those race cars that in­spired the trans­for­ma­tion of his Mk3 S from a £500 daily hack into the unique trib­ute act you see here.

Richard first bought the car as a stan­dard

“When I opened the bon­net I im­me­di­ately saw two ex­tra studs on the head...”

Glacier White ex­am­ple in 1979, just as he and wife Vera had started the New­ton Com­mer­cial busi­ness from their semide­tached house near Ip­swich. How­ever, his his­tory with Minis and BMC ve­hi­cles ex­tends back to the mid-1960s. “I served my ap­pren­tice­ship at Mor­ris Mo­tors,” he tell us. “I started on my 17th birth­day and was there for five years, but I spent my last year at BMC Com­pe­ti­tions in Abing­don. I was into rac­ing and per­suaded them to let me go for a month, but I was there for 12, work­ing on the Works Minis, Austin Healeys and all sorts. That would’ve been 1967.”

DOWN­TON DAYS

From there, it was back to re­al­ity for a short while. “I went to BMC Ser­vice for nine months af­ter I fin­ished my ap­pren­tice­ship, in the com­plaints de­part­ment, which was huge!” Richard con­tin­ues. “But then I got a job as sales man­ager at Down­ton En­gi­neer­ing. I saw it ad­ver­tised and Peter Brown­ing (ex BMC Com­pe­ti­tions man­ager) gave me a ref­er­ence. I was there for a year be­fore I went to work in Ger­many for a com­pany called D.L. Wood­ing and Co. It was the main BMC agent for north­ern Ger­many, based in Ham­burg and feed­ing all the other deal­ers. My job was to source ac­ces­sories for all the English cars, like the John Rhodes stuff and all the other brands that were around at that point. At the same time I would get the lat­est parts from BMC Spe­cial Tun­ing, be­cause we were cam­paign­ing two Cooper S race cars and were sell­ing the tun­ing kits. They were MkIIs, both painted black, one with a gold roof and the other with a sil­ver roof. A chap called Chris­tian Sch­marje drove one very suc­cess­fully, and one was later driven by Prince Leopold of Bavaria.”

Sadly, af­ter a cou­ple of years the Minis

were no longer com­pet­i­tive against the faster Al­fas and Fords, so they were re­tired. “We packed in rac­ing Minis in 1971, and then we were ap­proached by Ford to run two Es­cort BDAs. We built three cars in de­vel­op­ment with Broad­speed, and one still ex­ists to­day. We then raced for two and a half years, win­ning the 2-litre cham­pi­onship, but in 1973 we had the oil cri­sis which blew ev­ery­one out. We ended up go­ing bust, which was a real shame.”

LUCKY FIND

Richard re­lo­cated back to UK, where he be­came a branch man­ager for Serck Ser­vices. This would later lead to re-trim­ming seats for com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles (see separate panel), and the es­tab­lish­ment of his own busi­ness. Be­fore long Richard had left Serck, but that meant he had to give his com­pany car back. “I bought a Ford Es­cort es­tate, and at that point Vera was driving a Mor­ris Mi­nor, but it was dead – ba­si­cally it fell apart and kept break­ing down,” he re­calls. “There was an ad­vert in the pa­per for a Mini, and it just said ‘Mini 1000’. I rang the chap up and he was an Amer­i­can, work­ing at RAF Bent­wa­ters. He was go­ing back to the States, so I went over to have a look. It was white at the time, and when I opened the bon­net I im­me­di­ately saw two ex­tra studs on the cylin­der head, and the twin carbs. Of course the Mk3 Cooper S looked ex­actly the same as a reg­u­lar Mini 1000, so the seller didn’t twig it was a 1275, even though it had a Cooper S badge on the back. I knew ex­actly what it was, so I bought it for £500 I think.

“Vera used it for sev­eral years and I used it on the school run, when we used to take my daugh­ter to Sax­mund­ham,” Richard con­tin­ues. “We drove it ev­ery day for about three years, so I think that prob­a­bly put on about 20,000 miles. How­ever, in 1983 one

of the doors started to fall off, so I looked at it se­ri­ously, and it was rotten. It was re­ally bad all round, the sills weren’t very good, and even un­der­neath the wind­screen was rust­ing in­side.”

Al­though appreciation for the Cooper S was in­creas­ing by this point, in re­al­ity it was a rusty 12-year-old Mini, and many would’ve just scrapped the car. Richard opted to keep it, but re­pair­ing the ex­ist­ing body would’ve been un­eco­nom­i­cal com­pared to the price of a brand new fac­tory shell, which would al­low the orig­i­nal identity to be re­tained even un­der cur­rent rules. “There was a garage in the vil­lage, John Balls,” re­calls Richard. “I got rea­son­ably friendly with him due to var­i­ous cars, and he said he’d get a new body. So we bought a brand new shell, which was an orig­i­nal, straight off the pro­duc­tion line. It had the square tun­nel rather than the ear­lier round one, but he man­aged to fix that up with a bracket and make it work. He then painted it black, as I wanted to re­vive my mem­o­ries of D.L. Wood­ing.”

The vast ma­jor­ity of the parts from the orig­i­nal car were trans­ferred over, so it still re­tains its orig­i­nal Cooper S spec­i­fi­ca­tion. “When it was be­ing re­stored I did have the en­gine stripped down,” says Richard. “We had a cus­tomer who looked af­ter light air­craft, and one of his cus­tomers was a chap from Colch­ester. I got talk­ing to him, and it turned out he’d been rac­ing Minis and do­ing en­gines for years. I told him that my en­gine was now a bit smokey, so he

“He painted it black, as I wanted to re­vive my mem­o­ries of D.L. Wood­ing...”

of­fered to have a look. He took it away and said it didn’t need re­bor­ing, but he bal­anced the crank­shaft, con-rods and fly­wheel, and went right through it. It had done about 80,000 miles by that point, so it was ready.”

Once com­plete, Vera and Richard pressed the car back into reg­u­lar daily ser­vice for a while, and its mileage is now around the 92,000 mark – still very low for a 45-yearold car! “It was Hy­dro­las­tic, and it ended up with one of the units go­ing, so I had it mod­i­fied some­where along the line to dry, but that’s re­ally it,” Richard com­ments. “It runs re­ally nicely.”

Over the years the car has also been used for cat­a­logue pho­to­shoots, web­site im­ages, pro­to­type fit­ting and in­struc­tions, as well as ap­pear­ing at shows. “We did show it a cou­ple of times, in­clud­ing at the NEC in the early ‘90s when I was in­volved in do­ing re­builds with Her­itage. I must have done six or seven. We did two in Essen, where we built MGBs. So that’s when we would’ve taken the Cooper to shows, to fill the stand. That’s about when we started do­ing Mini trim, and now it’s our big­gest seller.”

BACK TO MY ROOTS

Come 2009, it was time for a re­fresh. The car was still rust-free and run­ning well, but the paint and trim were ready for up­dates. “I had it re­painted in time for the 50th an­niver­sary at Long­bridge,” says Richard. “This time I had a gold roof, and we changed all the trim, go­ing for the black with the gold pip­ing. I ac­tu­ally had the Wood­ing sig­nage put on the car too, along with a Wood­ing num­ber­plate on the back. At the show, a chap came along and said he re­mem­bered me from the Salzbur­gring. That was John Rhodes. He’d also raced for us twice at the Nür­bur­gring, and we helped to pre­pare a car for him to drive in the Spa 24-hour race, so we had a nice chat about that. In 2014, it also went to IMM in Kent to be dis­played on the stand there too.”

The in­te­rior is cer­tainly very smart with its S re­clin­ers and Moto-Lita steer­ing wheel, but there’s noth­ing to spoil the Cooper S feel. Like­wise the ex­te­rior – there’s a set of gen­uine Minilites as a nod to the days when Richard used to im­port them into Ger­many (and even did so for Porsche), but be­sides the paint scheme, a MkII Cooper grille and a neat re­vers­ing light, that’s it. Crit­ics may scoff at the re­place­ment shell, but this was done 33 years ago and is part of the car’s con­tin­u­ous – and very in­ter­est­ing – his­tory. In our eyes, it’s very a much a proper Mk3 S.

In re­cent years, the car has led a bit of a shel­tered life and spent much of its time garaged. “I don’t re­ally drive it much now,” says Richard. “It only does 3-400 miles a year. But it’s kept up and run­ning.”

With this mind, the car would be sold to the right buyer, one who will ap­pre­ci­ate it and look af­ter it. Who­ever ever does take own­er­ship in fu­ture will be get­ting an im­mac­u­late Mini with a pleas­antly sur­pris­ing back story. Oh, if only we had the spare cash...

The front grille is a MkII Cooper-style item.

Twin tanks and boot board re­main in place. Two very sought-af­ter la­bels side-by-side. Richard has owned his Cooper S for 37 years!

De­spite the later body and racein­spired colour scheme, this S re­tains many of its orig­i­nal parts.

The 1275 S mo­tor was re­built back in 1983, and still runs per­fectly hav­ing cov­ered only around 13,000 miles since.

Tech Del Minilites clad in Dun­lop SP tyres.

The in­te­rior was re­vamped in 2009, in readi­ness for the IMM at Long­bridge.

The D.L. Wood­ing black and gold colour scheme looks su­perb.

Unique Cooper S re­clin­ers.

Black trim with gold pip­ing to match the ex­te­rior.

Care­worn Moto-Lita adds a touch of patina.

130mph S speedo in iconic cen­tre bin­na­cle.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.