so we persuaded it to be the main sponsor. The plan was to get GF1 to GF4 plates for the cars, but there were no personal plates in those days, and whilst the Post Office would sometimes issue plates out of sequence (the plate range was GB at the time) they wouldn’t give us the GF plates, hence the GC plates as a compromise.
Anyway, Andrew duly arrived and the cars were taken to Woodhill Forest for a shakedown. Now, Andrew is a bluff Scotsman, and after only a few kilometres in the designated GC1 Marina he got out and said, “I’m not driving that heap of s***. I’m driving one of the Minis.” That was a problem, as he was contracted to drive the Marina as part of the launch promotion, and all the marketing had been done around that. Anyway, Andrew refused point-blank to drive the Marina, so in the end it was agreed he would drive the Mini, and the rest as they say is history.
At the time, NZMC had 146 dealers from Kaitaia to Invercargill, and all the dealers on the rally route were asked to open their parts and service departments when the rally came through and provide any parts not supplied by Abingdon for the service crews. Now as anyone [who] has competed knows, at a service stage, there is no time to formally check out parts from a store and document what’s been used. The upshot was that we were still getting invoices from dealers six months after the rally for parts they say were used. I suspect this was when they did their usual stocktake and found Marina and Mini parts missing from stock, but we paid up anyway.
On another note, regarding the Marina Leyland, Australia decided to build a coupé with the 2.6-litre ‘tractor’ engine, threespeed manual box, and four- wheel drum brakes, the 1.3 and 1.8 being far too gutless for the Aussies to sell. We imported some as part of the swap where we sent them XJ6S, Triumph 2.5 TCS, and Rover 3.5 V8s from the Stoke, Nelson plant. My boss offered me one of the Marinas as a company car. Being young, I thought great. Two weeks later, I asked if I could have a Mini Clubman 1100, my previous drive car. The Marina was a death trap. Quick in a straight line, lethal on corners, and stopped like an ocean liner.
Grant Diggle, Auckland