Camping by the roadside, we took seven days to reach our destination. However when making a big push one evening to attain our time schedule we rode well into the darkness down in the West Country, until we were fit to drop. Next morning we were awakened in the early hours to the sounds of car horns blaring past our tent. On casually taking a peek at what all the noise was about; can you imagine our embarrassment to find that we had pitched our tent in the middle of a dual carriageway. Within 5 minutes flat, we had hastily packed up and were on our way.
Boy were we glad to see Penzance; needless to say we came back on the train.
I joined a newly formed Knutsford & District Motor Club in 1958 after which I was eventually persuaded to take up the map side of Rallying. And so my next aim was to find a good Driver and I was cajoled by my cousin Geoff to approach a local chap George Hulme whom I knew. I knocked on his door one Sunday afternoon and enquired whether he was after a Navigator, "how good are you" he asked, "I don't know" was my answer.
So a suitable 20 Mile test run in his Renault Dauphine was arranged on a November night after my compulsory night school. It had snowed during the day and froze in the early evening to provide a treacherous route on the by-roads; not forgetting that gritting machines were a rarity in those days and that the minor roads were usually ignored in the 1950's. However with these drastic conditions I soon developed a fairly safe system of calling distances and bends which I continued to use throughout my Rallying career with devastating results. Feeling quite chuffed with myself and that we had agreed to do a few rallies together I joined the Lancashire & Cheshir Car Club to gain more experience. This preparation and much more led us to entering our first Rally together in January 1959.
We spent the remainder of 1959 picking up the odd win, team and class awards amongst our tougher opponents on restricted Rallies, but the main object was to beat our arch rivals and competitive friends Reg and Terry McBride.
So I joined Stockport Motor Club, based at the Fiveways Hotel, Hazel Grove and the Cavendish Car Club in Macclesfield, where I learnt more skills which led to being invited on the odd occasion to navigate for some top class drivers.
On a small Stockport MC evening Rally at a Time Control we were given a Route Card with a straight Line with other Lines drawn at 90', I hadn't a clue what this meant and so we could not proceed any further, so we retired to the nearest pub; inside we found other bewildered competitors and someone suggested it was called a Herringbone Route Card. Anyway, no one had a clue and after asking around during the following week I finally discovered how to read them, and that's how one progressed in the early years, you simply learnt by your own mistakes of not being prepared.
I then teamed up with a Macclesfield lady hairdresser, Pam Haggie, 105e Ford Anglia. She needed a lot of encouraging, but with my system and her driving we put many a good all male crew in their place on numerous occasions.
However on the 1960 Mini Miglia which finished at Capesthorne Hall, Near Macclesfield and with a lot of pressure from me, we finished a magnificent 3rd overall from an entry list of the Country's finest crews; there being only three cars without Fails. This pressure was obviously too much, she entered few events afterwards. I also did several Rallies with Ronnie Wilson, Arthur Hobson, Phil Simister, Frank Grange and Geoff Haggie entered under Cavendish Car Club and Congleton & District Motor Club.
Having had many battles with Reg McBride made me appreciate what a good driver he was and that I wouldn't mind teaming up with him, so I decided that when he would next ask who was I navigating for, I would answer by saying "I am navigating for anybody". Well sure enough he answered the bait and asked whether I would do a few events with him? Needless to say I jumped at the chance!
Starting at 09.01hrs, one of the questions en-route was, what was the date and inscription on the front of a farmhouse headstone. Imagine this, we arrived at 09.30hrs on maximum revs in a cloud of smoke, parked in front of this roadside farmhouse which still had its curtains drawn. Bill dashed to the centre of the front lawn and with hands on his hips, started to shout out the answer. Before he had finished, the curtains were snatched apart, the window thrown open and an irate farmer still in his night gown wanted to know, "what the hell do you think your doing". Bill replied "we're on a Rally, I'll have you know", at which the farmer started to raise his shotgun. Meanwhile back in the car I had sunk well below the dashboard through embarrassment and urged Bill to "lets get the hell out of here, fast". Needless to say, we left with the rev counter well into the red, in even larger clouds of smoke.
What's more to the point, he couldn't remember what the answer was!
I started to keep a logbook of all the Rallies that I had competed on, showing the Rally, Driver, Date, Car and Result. This was kept religiously until I retired from competition and unfortunately I accidentally burnt it when I was clearing out all my Rallying paraphernalia in 1976! Thus my autobiography is fairly sketchy. If any kind soul has any historical records of certain years of my Rallying, I would surely like to hear from them.
At this Time Control, my girl friend Gill (later my wife) is just getting a 'polite' rocket for not hurrying up when Marshalling.
Events like the Greenhall Trophy and the Black Trophy rallies were organised by the Cavendish Car Club based in Macclesfield and were nearly always run on Derbyshire, they were terrific thrashes from start to finish and attracted great entries. Local competition was very intense on Derbyshire and to achieve a win was a good ego booster.
In 1960 I joined Knowldale Car Club which was the current top Northern club which opened up a wider choice of events and drivers. I won the 1960 Morecambe Illuminations Rally with Roy Kirkham in his MK1 Sprite, he was also brilliant at Driving Tests and always had a steering knob on the steering wheel. This was put to good use on a plot & bash section where I had given him his instructions down a fast B Road, I was plotting away when I realised we were doing a wall of death along the outside of a long right hand grass banked bend. When the car touched down onto the road he had to resort to a touch of the Fred Dibnah's in using the steering knob to eventually bring the car back into a straight line.
Being a young lad of 23, I visited Reg at his Home and I remarked about the Birthday cards on display, yes it's my 50th. And although we worked extremely well as a team, it was difficult to make conversation going to and from events.
As a Driver he was very forceful and once an event had started you could switch Reg on and off like a light with devastating results. Reg was totally committed to achieving the best possible result and although nothing was ever discussed prior to an event; I became similarly minded and found that preparation was the secret to any success.
We won many a Rally by being fully switched on from the start - many other drivers had to warm themselves up before they could really get going - and by feeding Reg with the section times just prior to our start, like we have 6, 4, 4. 7, 6 minute sections from the drop of the flag, we would be on maximum attack to stay 'clean' (not losing any time) thus gaining a moral advantage over everyone else.
The Bolton National rallies were organised by Bolton-le-Moors Car Club, and always had two starting points which would then converge at a point somewhere near to where the rally proper would start. The Bolton nearly always started at Bullough's (Jim's family business) TV repair factory (they had 63 retail shops in those days) and the use of their works canteen and catering facilities were put to good use. The Bolton always attracted a full entry around the 180 mark and was fiercly contested from both the Northern brigade and the Southern brigade which started from Oxford.
They always came up with some form of a novel idea to present their route which would be handed out as you would leave your starting point, this would be in the usual form of six figure map references which were plotted en-route. Some of the plots would be on unknown white roads causing quite a bit of confusion among the navigators.
The full route was given to the navigators as you would leave the common start control, usually folded inside out in a large sealed brown envelope requiring plenty of high speed 'plot & bash' where you would eventually find out that some of the earlier unknown map references were simply dummies.
Way before Allard's homologated their Allardette both Reg McBride of Middleton and Phil Simister (Main Ford dealers in Macclesfield), unbeknown to one another were experimenting with 105e engines for their rally Anglia's.
As well as producing 105e Anglia's, Ford produced an industrial engine (109e) supplied in a wooden crate, it derived from the 105e but it was a 1340 cc with 109e cast on the side of the block. These were what they were using, however before the engines were even fired up they were bored to their max, fitted with Holbay cams and and internally modified original carburettor supplied by Solex Comps dept. The final bit of tuning was done by grinding the 109e off the block and by placing plasticine over a 105e block to create a female mould, fill the mould with epoxy resin and stick it back onto the 109e block, wait 24 hours and spray over, this is the only reference scrutineers looked for. However the 109e blocks were about 10mm taller and were very hard to identify. They always used loads of oil when peddled very hard because no one realised at that time that the block side walls were distorting when the head bolts were torque'd down, they were the correct fit at the top and bottom of the strokes but obviously not so half way down the bore. And being the riding mechanic, as well as rolling fan belts on, I also had to dash out and top the engine oil up at any controls we were early at, the car interior always had a foul smell of engine oil mixed with Reg's cigarette smoke, yuk. Fuel consumption was also a problem and making the half-way on a Motoring News 200 mile 'Grand Prix' required carrying extra petrol in 1 gallon cans in the boot, Reg also experimented with compressed air to pressurise a new tank and making it bloated thus allowing extra fuel to be carried safely.
Reg had a selection of camshafts from Willment, Holbay, Supersport etc and would try them all in every engine against the stop watch, (rolling roads were hardly known in the late 1959-1960s era) his man would simply remove the grille, radiator, engine front cover and rocker arm assembly. Then lift out a push rod and put a blob of Marfak (This was a heavy jelly type of grease with adhesive qualities like epoxy resin) on the end and re-insert and stick to the tappet, once all in place they would all be raised and using a wooden spring clothes pegs round each rod, they would hold the push rod and tappet clear of the camshaft enabling the camshaft to be removed and another quickly inserted, well 9 out of 10 times it worked.
Sorting the engines out with the extra power was only half the problem, getting them to stop was even worse. Reg would often leave four Consul MK1 brake drums with me so I could take them to the engineering shop, B&S Valves Ltd in Alderley Edge, to have the drums re-drilled (Anglia wheels were 4 stud and Consul wheels 5 stud) they were the same diameter but the shoes and drums were much wider and gave better stopping power, until a drum would crack and then the wheel would lock up when least expected, this really taught the driver when to 'lift off' at the strategic moment to get steerage on the front end. Later on Allard's produced a Disc Brake conversion which when peddled hard screamed their heads off, you could here one approaching for miles. You did not have much choice with the rear axle ratio, the standard 4.1 was replaced with the 4.44 van type.
Around 1961 they both pooled their knowledge to produce some great cars and Simister's built many rally cars and they were known Nationally as the Macclesfield Anglia's.
As time went by Allard's homologated their version of the 1340cc, disc braked car called the Allardette, this was done in conjunction with the hordes of rallying folk who had followed suit by creating their own versions, because Allard's had to prove that the minimum amount of vehicles had been produced, everybody who held their hands up was rewarded with a set of homologation papers and Allardette badges for their cars.
When the Cortina GT was produced with their 1500 cc (120e blocks) the same route was taken to produce some bigger engines and the reference to the 'Special Engine' on the 1964 Manx Rally was in actual fact was one of these with a 'standard' internally modified Weber downdraft carburettor, although it may have been showing 105e on the block!! These engines had the 'give away' 45mm exhaust systems, which Reg had developed in Middleton - I know what you are thinking, but everyone was at it - There was no limit on modifications for the MN rallies.
In the year of 1961, Gill and I were married and in the same year I competed on 42 events, OK some were small mid-week Clubbies, but needless to say I was extremely unpopular at Home. However Gill would sometimes spectate at various Time Controls on local events.
Events were mainly 'Plot & Bash' where the unknown route was presented to you as you departed from a Start or Time Control. The secret to success on this type of event was, on Friday nights prior to Saturday's Rally, I would plot up Map References in a darkened room as fast as possible to polish up on the art of 'Plot & Bash'. Come Saturday night I was still all switched on and ready to go utilising Reg's famous plotting 'Tent', I consider I was one of the fastest plotters on the move. The events in this era were nothing short of 200-250 mile Grand Prix's, run at more like 40mph averages rather than the legal maximum of 30mph, using every narrow and roughish gated cart tracks the organisers could throw at you. Which when added to the 'to and from start' mileage could add up to a 500-600 mile trips.
Fortunately 'office hours' Rallying had not yet been invented. And all credit must go to the Drivers who could drive in anger and yet drive that fine line of not pranging their cars, well most of the Drivers I Navigated for, slotted into that category. The modern luxury of service crews and trailored cars to and from events was unheard of. Most Rally Drivers competed simply because they could afford to and most Navigators like myself had to have a free ride (Phil Simister used to say, who is doing who a favour? - in most cases it was the Navigator!), times were hard, I was very lucky if I could muster' Ten Shillings', (that's 50 pence in today`s money - mind you Ten Shillings would buy 6.5 pints of beer) to take as spends on a Rally.
Another famous Macclesfield Anglia, complete with it's Cavendish Car Club badge was Ron Wilson's. Ron and I competed on the Hagley 12 Hours Rally in his twin Webber engined (with re-cast 105e logo) Ford Anglia 105e and there were four clean sheets at the finish, so as a tie decider the four navigators were seated in a closed room and given a sealed envelope with a route card to plot with questions relating to the route, the first one through the door with the correct route and answers was the winner. Needless to say Ron and I won.
Ron was a well built guy and a forceful driver, after one event he found his brake pedal was not fully returning to it's upper most position. At Simister's they found that the drop forged pedal assembly had actually bent.
Fords visiting technical representative could not believe his eyes when he saw it and took it back for further inspection.
1961 was the inauguration year of the Motoring News Rally Championship of which we finished 3rd overall.
One vivid memory was the London Motor Club's, National 'London Rally' which had 240 starters, starting at Chateau Impney in the Midlands. It was also a round of the Motoring News Championship. The organisers had stipulated in the regulations that no seeding would take place; however there was no mention of 'handicapping'. And prior to the October event, Reg and I had been on a great winning streak.
However when the entry list appeared, the first twenty starters read like a 'who's who' of Southern Rally crews, three pages later we found ourselves at 199, yes One Hundred and Ninety Nine! We left the start three hours and nineteen minutes after the first car and 350 miles later, we promptly 'stuffed it up em' with a clean sheet (on Marshal's clocks, at that!) and Ftd's on the Selective Sections, a brilliant win.
Quite how they managed this I don't know but they stipulated in the regulations that SD34 must be totally ignored. From where we started there were a great number of VW Beetle's and Austin A40s and I lost count of the number of them that we passed. With not having to bother about the three quarter rule, we could press on regardless. At the re-fuel halt we had to wait nearly one and a half hours for our schedule departure time, thus allowing a large batch of VWs and A40s through, only to be passed once again. Occasionally one or two of them had to be reminded that we needed to pass them, hence the drooping front bumper.
November saw us retire from the RAC Rally with engine problems.
In 1962 the 360 mile grueling Shunpiker Rally started in Blackpool, amongst the entry was a Sunbeam Rapier entered by Gerald Ormsby-Williams. Attached to the rear bumper was a home made wooden sign with some white plastic letters (like you would use to screw onto your garden gate). The sign read 'Disk Brakes' it looked like a right 'Promenade Percy' job. Prior to the start over our evening meal Phil Simister was trying to find a suitable anagram using the letters, after some 5 minutes he found a cracker that would suit. So after scrutineering Phil, Reg McBride, Arthur Hobson & Ron Wilson and a few others stood around to shield me while I altered the lettering.
Those in the know and other folk that had noticed were splitting their sides, so some 40 minutes later, little did the driver know, that when the Lord Mayor of Blackpool flagged him away, his wooden sign read 'Skid Arse'.
The 1963 Shunpiker Rally, organised by Brian Melia was a typical long distance MN thrash, this one was about 380 miles long with two starting points, Newton-le-Willows for the Northen contingent and Bromsgrove for the Midland entrants.
The routes converged at Sutton Colfield with a Special Stage on private land, from there it ventured into the depths of Wales via every muddy road that BM could find. Using many unknown tracks and a devilish 200 mile night section using some cunning routes. Seeded at No 1 once again, we were the mechanical hare for everyone to try and follow, however Reg always used to switch off all the rear end electrics to prevent this happening.
From 1966, Forest Stages were also included together with a 5 lap Stage around Oulton Park Race Circuit. Not content with sapping all the stamina from everyone, from Oulton Park the route went up the M6 set at 60 mph. With Time Controls at every Service Station restaurant which were situated on the other side of the carriageway. So being absolutely whacked from the gruelling night sections, you had to run across the Motorway bridges to find the TC in the farthest point from the restaurant entrance. After clocking in at the final Main Time Control at South Shore Motor Club headquarters in Blackpool, needless to say I simply fell asleep, like all the other crews.
Magnificent events indeed and worthy inclusions in the MN Championships.
In 1962 Reg commissioned Downton Tuning to produce the best possible engine for his new Mini Cooper which we were going to use in the Motoring News Championship. It was a fearsome machine, Reg gave Downton an open cheque to produce their most powerful engine, it was hellishly fast but too fragile for rallying.
Up in the Lake District we retired going over the same cattle grid on 2 consecutive weekends, the first was the exhaust being ripped off, the other one was a sheared vertical oil drive shaft (so I was told). Personally I did not like it but we got some reasonable results, I never really liked Mini's. One event the Welsh National in 1962 was in very snowy conditions, prior to the event, Ron Wilson from Macclesfield told Reg about some mini sized snow tyres he had bought, so Reg got the same guy to fit two to two spare rims. Using these we had a puncture going down to Church Stretton which was the converging point of both starts. Frantically Reg managed to find a tyre repair shop while we had a meal in a cafe close to. Within 5 minutes the guy came running into the cafe to inform Reg that no bloody wonder you had a puncture, both front tyres have been fitted with Lambretta inner tubes !!
On the Yorkshire Rally in Reg's Mini cooper, there was a special stage in Catterick camp. We were running about car no 6 and when we got to the stage finish, we were told the stage timing had been cocked up and we need to do re-run. Well as always, a little knowledge is a bad thing. On the second run Reg let the back end hang out too much and the rear wheel clipped a high kerb and bent the rear suspension arm. Needlees to say we had to retire although it was still mobile. Can you imagine all the folk on our way home, blowing their horns and pointing to the rear wheel which was bent out at the top by about 45'. We made the 70 mile trip back home OK.
Reg fitted an oil cooler to the front of the grille and made a right mess by bending the chrome slats apart for the pipework.
Eventually after a disappointing half year, Reg returned to his more rugged 105e Anglia's where we had some epic battles in the 'MN' series and by now Reg was on his third, Ford 105e Anglia suitable prepared for the job. With umpteen wins to our credit we finished 2nd overall in the 'MN' Championship and 1st in the BTRDA Silver Star Championships. Once again we retired from the RAC Rally when Pam Haggie & Sheila Taylor Anglia 105e, one of our Macclefield Anglia's Team hit our stationary car from behind at a great rate of knots, rendering our vehicle into an ultra 'short chassis' 105e. I suppose you could say she gave us a 'short back and sides'.
During March 1962, Phil Simister (Main Ford Dealers of Macclesfield) took delivery of a revolutionary Ford MK1 Cortina 1200, this was kept in his home garage and every night after 23:00 hrs he would take it out to clock up some miles to ensure it would be a competitive car. Not wanting to ruin the surprise World announcement of the MK1 Cortina, it had been arranged with Reg McBride that Reg and I would enter the Broughton Bretton MC, Gold Leaf Rally, on March 24/25th in Reg's Anglia. Thus creating a smoke screen for Phil and I to turn up at the start in Phil's MK1 Cortina that had only been announced the day before. So running as car 1 on standard road tyres and no sump shield we simply romped home with an emphatic win, which was the very first win for the Ford Motor Company's latest creation. However history is distorted because the report in Motoring News and other journals unfortunately used the info that was on the entry list, which obviously showed Reg McBride and I in a Ford Anglia 105e as the winners!
In early November, Stockport Motor Club ran their Regent Rally in the Peak District of Derbyshire, and I competed with Derek Astle of 'Austin Healey 3000' fame in his ex-works experimental Austin 1100. We were in scintillating form and leading the field of 180 starters by 1 minute at the half way petrol halt, until the gearbox cried enough and we retired at a TC in Staffordshire. We eventually cadged a lift to the Finish in the back of 'one of many' Austin Champ's which BAMA had entered. We were doubled up with laughing to ourselves, because we had to hang like two baboons from the steel hoop which supported the canvas covering. And with a Corporal on the maps and a Private doing the Driving - who answered every instruction by shouting, "SAH" (Yes Sir), the instructions went like this. "Driver turn Right at the T Junction", "SAH", "Driver turn Left at the next Junction", "SAH", eventually we came to a dead end, "Driver you've come down the wrong damn road", "SAH", "Hells Bells man, turn the bloody thing round", "SAH" "Yes SAH". A hilarious outing indeed, but as you can see from the photo, Derek is not using his seat belt. He hated them and always rallied in this fashion, unfortunately this led to him losing his life on the 1963 Tulip Rally when he went off in his Austin Healey 3000 and side swiped a tree. Roy Fidler & I were the next car up the Hill Climb and we wondered why he was not at the Special Stage Finish area. Needless to say we were both gutted to learn of the outcome a few minutes later.
Starting in Wolverhampton on the Express & Star Rally always drew great crowds of spectators simply because the newspaper gave it plenty of publicity. As you can just see, Reg always smoked cigarettes and I had to endure the car being full of cigarette smoke, which when mixed with the smell of the engine oil made you feel pretty queasy. However when the sections started to get tighter it was out with the cigs and down to some hectic driving, especially on Michelin Cross Ply tyres. The 105e engines when bored out to their maximum size always used gallons of oil in competition and it was another of my duties to dash out and top up the engine, if and when we had a spare minute or so at Time Controls.
Around this time, Reg picked me up en-route to a Rally Start and explained that he had managed to get round the 'emergency oil top ups' by using an SU fuel pump connected to an oil tank in the boot with a narrow tube running down the dip stick tube. Once the Rally was under way and after about 30 miles he would switch the pump on, which when pumping oil, ticked about every 10 seconds. Not realising that when the block was bored to it's maximum size and the cylinder head bolts were torqued down, the thin cylinder walls became distorted, the pistons being a perfect fit at both the top and bottom of the cylinder bore, but halfway up or down they were slightly slack, thus allowing engine oil to get past the pistons, hence the slight blue exhaust haze when on 'Max Attack' duties.
1963 was much the same as the previous year, but we triumphantly won the 'MN' and 'Silver Star' Championships convincingly; winning a Championship requires skill, determination and good teamwork. Attempting to retain your crown is even far harder to achieve.
One event, the Oslo Trophy rally was run in horrendous conditions which deteriorated even further as the event progressed. So much so the organisers stopped the rally at the halfway halt due to heavy snowstorms. We were the only crew that managed to complete the full route up to that point using 'early type' spikes on the front and chains on the rear, we simply powered our way through snow drifts that had blown across the roads. Needless to say we trotted off Home with the Trophies.
Barrie Potts who was navigating for Phil Simister was very concerned at the half way because his parents were out marshalling. Well when we were on our way home having just scrambled over the Horeshoe Pass in North Wales we were confronted by an enormous snow plough. A little further on I mentioned to Reg that the white road on the right would have had a Time Control half a mile along it, sure enough we did see a light, but thought no more about it. Guess what, a week later Barrie told me that it was his parents manning the control and the whole area was covered by about 24" of snow, it took them 5 hours to dig the snow out to allow their car to escape onto the main road.
The Yorkshire Rally, they were always long Rallies usually run on a Friday night and Saturday morning, 350 milers, using the most roughest rock strewn tracks that Mike Wilson (C of C) could find. The famous year, 1963, of the snow storms, the organisers altered the rules at the last minute with many roads being impassable. So what they did was to leave the TCs in their original positions and you could drive through them WD (wrong direction of approach), turn around just beyond and then return and book in using the correct approach with no penalty, this still caught a lot of folk out with WDs. Reg McBride & myself finished 2nd, much to our disgust!
Approaching from the South around the Ripon / Thirsk area, we encountered a ferocious snow storm which blanketed the whole Cleveland Hills and blocked even the main roads. You had to make a major decision to get to the TCs in the Grosmont area, I returned back to Helmsley and across to (totally convinced I was doing the wrong thing) Scarborough and up to Whitby then back towards Grosmont. These roads were only just on, there was a TC in the village on the West side of Grosmont, with Grosmont (O.O.B.) 'Out Of Bounds', and another TC, East of Grosmont, we were meant to use the white road which skirted to the North of the village, but it was blocked with 10' high drifts. With cutting out a large section around the Cleveland Hills, we naturally arrived in the Grosmont area with 55 minutes in hand and with the white road being blocked I walked through the O.O.B.s and could see the Marshals in position to the West, not wanting to be accused of walking through the O.O.B.s I returned and reported to Reg. We decided to wait outside the flag at the TC, to the East, for our due time and booked in on schedule time and then proceeded through all TCs to the Finish.
When the results came out, Geoff Allen & Barry Hughes were 1st, they got the TC, West of Grosmont and obviously drove through the unmanned O.O.B. in the village, we were furious and protested, but as there was no marshal on the O.O.B. there was no proof.
We also demolished the first Manx Trophy Rally in true Reg McBride - Don Barrow fashion. The Manx Trophy Rally being one of the events where we had a string of Seven Outright Wins, on Seven consecutive week-ends. Reg and I started at number 2 from Douglas promenade about 23:00 hrs and it was all short sharp sections, we soon found we were leading the field because the local marshals were doing their best to learn about rally marshalling, but were very slow indeed.
There was no let up in the constant pace and by about 05:00 hrs we were catching the Clerk of the Course Roy Fidler in the Works TR4a, in fact we drew alongside him at the final control of the night section. So off to bed for a few hours sleep.
The daytime stages were run on closed roads and every junction was controlled by the island Police force, we were very proud to be the first winners of the Manx Trophy Rally which was organised by Ecurie Cod Fillet under the guidance of Roy Fidler, Graham Robson, John Brown and John Hopwood.
The Morecambe Illuminations Rally was one of my favourites, they were great events and always well organised, I first won it in 1960 with Roy Kirkham in his MK1 Austin Healey Sprite and later years with Reg McBride in 1961, 1963 & Jim Bullough in 1966, 1968, 1969.
I got my first 'Works' Co-Drive with the Triumph Works Factory Team partnering Roy Fidler of 'Ecurie Cod Fillet' fame in a Works Team TR4 (Registration No 6 VC) on the Tulip Rally in Holland, finishing 3rd in Class and winning the team award.
I flew Home from the Tulip on Saturday evening, arriving in Manchester Airport at 18.45hrs and quickly left Home with Reg McBride at 19.45hrs for the start of the Bernie Rally at Queensferry, a round of the 'MN' series, which we promptly won. The scoring system on the 'MN' series, was 10 points for a win and you could only count your best 15 scores of the season, out of a possibility of 20 events. And to give you some idea of the 'steam rolling' which we crushed the opposition with, we won the Championship on 145 points! With 3 outright Wins, 3 Seconds and 4 Third overall placings, beat that if you can 'Gonga Din' !
I also competed on the Welsh International Rally with my old pal Phil Simister (Main Ford dealer of Macclesfield), the event featured some Stages on the Eppynt Military ranges. Halfway through the event we were approaching the Finish of one Stage at a high rate of knots at about 03.00hrs, not realising our speed and wishing to be a 'Smart Alec' I wound down the window and held out the Time Card to save those vital seconds when clocking in. To my amazement and total disbelief the force of the wind rushing by, snatched the Time Card from my grasp. We stopped at the Stage Finish and the Marshal assured us he would enter our Finish Time, if we could produce our Time Card. Well we searched with torches for 15 minutes or so, when I heard Phil shout, "hey come over here" he was shining his torch onto a RED sign displaying a 'Scull & Crossbones' with a caption saying 'DANGER KEEP OUT' 'MINED AREA'. I was a bit alarmed to say the least and casually mentioned, which way do you reckon is the safest way back, Phil replied, "your the Navigator mate, I'll follow you"! Needless to say with no Time Card we had to retire, most embarrassing. I finished out the year by competing on the RAC with Phil again in his Cortina GT. I think we finished about 12th overall.
Roger Willis was a good buddy and was the Castrol Competitions Manager who attended every round of the MN Championship, simply because Castrol were one of the main sponsors. His Castrol service vehicle was a large estate car and would turn up with loads of Castrol GTX and all manner of greases etc. He would attend the start, halfway and the finish where he would offload the remaining contents of his estate car into my care.
Roger always went courting afterwards and there was no way he wanted his left over samples rolling around in the back of his passion wagon.
On the 1969 Tour of Mull rally Castrol issued Roger with a small Castrol caravan and on the morning of departure after the rally, Roger found his caravan teetering on the edge of the harbour slipway, a gang of 'well oiled' competitors had manhandled the caravan over various obstacles, Roger was not best pleased.
Ecurie Cod Fillet appeared around the 1955 era and evolved around the Fidlers For Fish, Fish and Chip shop emporium in Stockport, Cheshire. Team entries on events were usually entered as ECF Team A, ECF Team B etc, needless to say that an Ecurie Cod Fillet Team would normally win the Team prize. During Stuart Turner's spell as the 'Verglas' Editor of Motoring News, (this was a sub-section devoted entirely to Rallying, which took up about half the news print in every publication) the MN Championship was launched in January 1961. The ECF powers of be, laid down that the criteria to become an elite member of ECF, was that you had to Win a Motoring News Rally outright in order to qualify.
Naturally there were very few members during this initial period and those that qualified could buy and proudly display an ECF windscreen sticker - as per the example above. Both Reg and myself qualified ourselves many times in this first year and the ranks grew even bigger as years progressed. The powers that be were inundated with pleas and requests to be allowed into the ranks, but no chance.
Over the years of course a few motor sporting celebrities were invited to become members, together with a string of personal friends who just happened to ask. About every 4-5 years there is a re-union where most folk attend, all trying damned hard to look their youngest and slimmest for the occasion.
As Raymond Baxter once said, we are members of the most elitist club of motor sporting personnel in existence, however as the years rolled by, the rules were relaxed. It was all a case of asking at the right time, especially if one of the hierarchy were stood at the bar about to buy a round of drinks; providing you picked up the tab, you were in.
It was founded by Roy Fidler and John Hopwood, John was the main driving force and produced his witty bulletin about twice a year. A very special Club, with very special members.
Sadly John Hopwood passed away on October 27th 2006, where about 300 members paid their last respects to a true Motorsport enthusiast at his service in his home Town of Hyde, Cheshire.
Just prior to the Start of the Welsh Marches Rally in Craven Arms, a local guy said it was snowing heavily on top of the Long Mynd, which is where the route went. So we took a gamble and fitted chains to the rear wheels, much to the delight of other competitors who were laughing their heads off. Well we left the Start and within 2 miles we encountered heavy snow which we ploughed through and left the others floundering.
It was a horrendous night and although we got good traction we came across many queue's of cars, caused by later competitors who had cut out sections to try and stay on time and not being able to climb the hills. One section alone caused a 15 minute hold up.
So all in all our best laid plans backfired on us.
The accompanying picture appeared in Motoring News and when Reg saw it, he was most upset, he could not believe how big he looked.
1963 - We scored a total of 168 points and you could only score on ten events, therefore we had to drop some good points giving us a grand total of 139 to win the 1963 Motoring News Championship.
Don Barrow the 'King of the Navigators' [Eric Bailey - Motoring Correspondent - The Daily Telegraph 16/12/95] © 1999 - Copyright Don Barrow
© 1999 - Copyright Don Barrow
However, other Copyrighted images used, are the sole Copyright of their rightful owners and are used as 'Free use' images.