Good feeling with Toyota
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.