The Favourite Car of The 1960s
Most drivers will have a ‘favourite type of car’ – although any car will give you the same sense of freedom that driving brings, forging a unique relationship with any car you drive is extremely rare.
The Mini quickly became a favourite of many people thanks to its ease of use; responding to the driver’s commands effortlessly. Brian and his wife, Heather, would use their Mark I to go about their everyday tasks (shopping), but after realising the motorsport potential of their nippy runner, they entered events such as auto tests, hill climbs and even circuit racing.
Small, swift and able to get the most out of a petrol tank, The Mini was a natural for auto racing. In 1961, famed racing designer, John Cooper, worked with the Mini’s original designer, Alex Issigonis, to create The Mini Cooper – a sportier version that was just as good off-road, than on. Sales of this new model were unprecedented by some members of the BMC’s board – one doubted that they would sell 1,000 units. They ended up selling over 125,000.
Spring 1964 saw Brian and Heather purchase a Downton-tuned 997cc Cooper, which they would enter rallies with, each sharing the piloting duties. The competition bug had bitten and soon enough, second-hand Mini parts filled the Harpers’ Lancashire garage – and eventually, the family home too. In need of a clear out, Brian advertised in The Morning News – what he was met with, was an unexpected response that has become so typical of The Mini.
Innovators From The Start
The overwhelming response that Brian received from that first advert drew his attention to the growing market for everything Mini. Whether people wanted to repair or replace broken-down parts or to improve upon the general operational capabilities of their Minis, they couldn’t get enough. This realisation, along with his own love for the marque, led Brian to establish his own business in 1967 – Mini Sport.
Moving quickly to establish the company as a reliable purveyor of spare parts, it was the innovative qualities of Mini Sport that set it apart from the competition. One of the first pioneering modifications for the Mini was born out of the car’s throttle linkage, which due to poor design, was difficult to operate and prone to sticking.
Using his astute sense of engineering, Brian created a rigid throttle linkage that was easy to fit and it gave the car a smoother, more progressive acceleration. It very quickly became a best-seller – creating more business for Mini Sport and sealing its reputation. In April 1969, Mini Sport moved to their first dedicated premises in Padiham, Lancashire.