The car you see here is the fastest road racing Morris Minor in the United States, which isn’t saying much considering it’s probably the only one racing in the country.
I bought the car from an employee of Huffaker Engineering in Sonoma, California, in 1989. I don’t know why I bought it, actually, except that having grown up in the Northeast, I had never seen a rust-free old car before. The gentleman who owned the car wanted $1200 for it, but after driving it around the Sears Point Raceway grounds on a test run, I noticed it only ran on three cylinders and it jumped out of third gear. I offered him $900 and he took it.
Now the problem was how to get it home. Luckily one of the NASCAR teams racing Sears Point that weekend had room on their transportor and offered to bring it back to North Carolina for $50! Sold!
It sat in the back yard for a year or two. At about that same time, I was searching for a car that could be converted into a vintage racer. When my racing mechanic Billy Coates gave the car a once-over, we realized a Morris Minor is just an Austin Healey Sprite with a sedan body on it. We converted it over the winter into a race car and began racing it in 1993.
It was instantly a hit with other competitors and fans alike. It was an everyman’s car, one that nearly everyone once owned, or had a friend with one, etc. Much more popular than those common A.C. Cobras and Ferrari Testa Rosas … The car also behaved very well as a race car, and has won numerous first, second and third-place medals, having beaten much more "racey" machines. It even won a couple of concours awards because of the slick preparation Billy has performed on the car.
I’ve competed in the car in dozens of races, from Lime Rock, Ct., to West Palm Beach, Fla.
Our trademark gimmick at vintage enduro races was always to wash, wax and detail the car right on pit lane during the mandatory five-minute pit stops! That stunt won us a prestigious Bob Fergus Big Fun Award at Savannah’s Roebling Roads track back in 1993.
I’ve also driven the car very competitively in close quarters with a half-dozen other cars, never more than a hair’s width from the other cars, but never touching either. Some of the races have been so exciting that all the guys with the Vettes and Mustangs and Jags dropped their tools and ran over to the fence to watch. It’s what racing’s all about!
We’ve just completed the seventh year of racing the Minor, and it continues to be not only one of the most popular vintage race cars in the country, but also still a pretty good racer, in a David –vs- Goliath kind of way.
The plan this season is to semi-retire Old # 16 for the time being. In 2000, the plan is to vintage race a 1964 Mini Cooper S, and continue working on "The Secret Weapon", a new Morris Minor Spyder race car.
I’ll tell you more about those two cars in a future installment.