It went out in a blaze of glory...
W ay back in 2016’s issue #91 we covered the Australian-built Morris Cooper S in great detail, from the road cars to the boys in blue and, of course, the mighty Mini’s giant-killing racing exploits in the 1966 Bathurst 500.
In that issue’s Whaddayaknow section we pondered the fate of the winning Bob Holden/ Rauno Aaltonen #13C Cooper S, as well as the other eight Cooper S entries that nished second through to ninth. Sadly, not one of those nine cars is known to have survived. And that latest request for info, not surprisingly, drew a complete blank.
Thus, some two years later we are no closer to nding one of the magni cent nine from ’66. Yet at least we can report on the spectacular demise of one of these super Coopers – the #16C car raced by Barry Arentz and Barry Seton that nished ninth. It’s a car that competed in two vastly different legendary motorsports events on consecutive weekends.
Issue #102 outlined Northern NSW-based Arentz’s racing career. It told of the succession of Fords he drove through the 1960s as his father Martin sold the brand through his dealership, Enterprise Auto Service, in Casino. Barry had starred in a Ford Cortina GT on both the 1964 Ampol Trial and the 1965 Bathurst 500, impressing one Harry Firth. However, the 1966 Bathurst 500 would be a Ford-free race, at least for outright honours. To stay in the game Arentz needed to nd a different ride.
“I bought a second-hand British Racing Green Cooper S from the Casino BMC dealer in early 1966,” recalls Arentz today. “It was my daily driver, but I raced it consistently up at Lakeside and Surfers Paradise as well as hillclimbs and sprints. It was very successful.
“I was friendly with (’65 Bathurst winner) Bo Seton and, one day, he suggested we run the Mini at Bathurst. I thought, ‘What a great idea!’, so we did.”
The Arentz Cooper S was ‘prepared’ by a local Casino mechanic and then driven to Bathurst for the big race. Problems started in practice with a strange noise from the rear of the Mini.
“I was complaining about a thump in the back during practice,” Arentz recalls. “Someone left a toolbox in the boot, which punctured a hole in one of the fuel tanks!”
The hole was patched overnight and the Arentz Cooper S started the race running comfortably with a pack of swarming Minis in the top ten. Manic slipstreaming down Conrod was a feature of the race and it caught out a number of Minis, including Arentz’s, which overheated badly.
“I didn’t quite make it to the top of the mountain and it all but seized. I accosted some ag marshals and conned them in giving me all the ice and water out of their eskies and packed that around the engine and waited a few minutes for it to cool before it red up and we got it back to the pits. We lled it up with water and some additives that xed the leaking head gasket. We must have lost over 10 minutes.”
Despite the setback, two Barrys nished ninth outright completing 125 laps.
The following week Arentz teamed up with good mate and Ampol Trial navigator Geoff Stock and entered the inaugural Southern Cross Rally.
“That was a non-event,” remembers Arentz. “The Cooper S wasn’t a good rally car. It was too low and fragile. It didn’t take us long to realise we would destroy the car if we continued, so we retired.”
A year later that punctured fuel tank from Bathurst would come back to haunt Barry.
“We took the Mini to a gymkhana at Lismore it late 1967 or early 1968, I can’t remember. We had a picnic basket in the boot which fell over and a fork fell out. One end of the fork touched the battery and the prong touched the solder on the repaired fuel tank. The hot fork melted the solder, fuel ran out and it ignited. I tried to drive it down to a creek, but I got out of it and it exploded. Friends following me tried to put it out with blankets. I got quite badly burnt and ended up in hospital. It burnt to the ground. “It made the front page of Brisbane’s Courier
Mail newspaper the next day. The worst part was that I had just sold the Cooper S to a guy in Brisbane. I had to call him and tell him he couldn’t buy it because I’d just burnt it.” Paul Newby