Good feel­ing with Toy­ota

Australian Muscle Car - - Mail -

The Samp­son fam­ily busi­ness did work for Austin Dis­trib­u­tors, so it was log­i­cal that young Brian raced a num­ber of their prod­ucts, in­clud­ing Austin A30, A40, Lancer, Mor­ris Elite and Mini – and he found him­self bat­tling for vic­to­ries with the likes of Mini king Pe­ter Man­ton and VW spe­cial­ist Ge­orge Reynolds. He even raced the Ap­pen­dix J A30 at the very rst meet­ings held at Calder (be­fore it was sealed) and Sandown in 1963.

For the Arm­strong 500 at Phillip Is­land, though, Brian ac­cepted a drive along­side old army buddy John Con­nelly in a Re­nault Gor­dini en­tered by John’s em­ployer, Caul eld garage owner Rex Em­mett. They won their class in both 1961 and 1962, en­hanc­ing Brian’s grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a skilled driver as well as car pre­parer.

Around that time, Samp­son’s own Mo­tor Im­prove­ments busi­ness be­gan do­ing work for Aus­tralian Mo­tor In­dus­tries (AMI), which had be­gun as­sem­bling cars for a lit­tle-known Ja­panese brand named Toy­ota. Want­ing to pro­mote their wares in Aus­tralia, it made sense for Toy­ota to turn to Brian to de­velop and race their prod­ucts, start­ing with its pretty lit­tle Spit re sports car.

Samp­son turned the Spit re into a gi­ant killer and the AMI Rac­ing Team quickly ex­panded. In 1965 they went to Bathurst for the rst time with Coronas, which were slug­gish but re­li­able, then things im­proved with the smaller but faster Corolla in 1967.

Although the works Corol­las were dis­quali ed – Samp­son main­tains they were le­git, but that the scru­ti­neers made a mis­take mea­sur­ing the rear leaf springs – Brian and co-driver Barry Fer­gu­son bounced back in 1968 with se­cond in Class A be­hind team­mates Bruce Hind­haugh and Bob Mor­ris. The fol­low­ing year, Samp­son was paired with Mor­ris and they won Class A, beat­ing the ri­val works Dat­sun 1000 of Bill Evans.

Samp­son raced stan­dard Corol­las at Bathurst for an­other two years (when they were beaten by Dat­sun and Mazda), but was now thrilling lo­cal race fans with his ex­ploits in a modi ed Corolla in Im­proved Pro­duc­tion rac­ing, as well as his rst se­ri­ous open­wheeler – an El n 600 F3 car pow­ered by a Mo­tor Im­prove­ments-de­vel­oped 1100cc Corolla en­gine.

AMI-Toy­ota also im­ported from Ja­pan a new fac­tory-built 1600cc twin-cam Cel­ica (be­low), which be­came a crowd favourite in two-litre Sports Sedan rac­ing. Brian even man­aged to nish se­cond out­right be­hind Bryan Thom­son’s fear­some Chevro­let V8-en­gined To­rana in the 1973 Toby Lee Se­ries at Sandown.

Samp­son loved the white and or­ange Cel­ica so much that af­ter AMI dis­banded the team at the end of the year he took it over and raced it for an­other two sea­sons. About a decade ago he bought the Cel­ica again and had it re­stored over seven years by Paul Trevethan, who died re­cently.

Above: Samp­son (third from right), with fel­low AMI driv­ers (from left) Bill Evans, Dick Thurston and fa­mous ac­tor (in Homi­cide and else­where) and driver, Leonard Teale. Samp­son was a key mem­ber of the Toy­ota works team in the ’60s.

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