Paddy

Car 28C had been in obscurity since the 1970s, hidden from sight in a farm shed on the mid-north coast of NSW.

The car, affectionately known as Paddy after its world famous BMC Works driver, was one of only three BMC factory-entered cars for the 1967 Gallaher 500 race at Bathurst. It finished a very credible 5th in class and 8th outright, but is best known for its vibrant shamrocks on its flanks, bonnet and roof.

It then passed through a few hands, seeing further competition in the ’60s and ’70s before becoming the family car for Chris and Irene Hannan. It retired from road service in 1978 and lay unmolested for almost 35 years.

It was always Chris’s intention to restore the car. However, ill health prevented this from happening and, after his passing, Irene felt that it would be best to have Paddy move on to a new home where it would be brought back to its former glory.

After weeks of correspondence and a multitude of offers, Irene selected my father and me as the next custodians. A long history of restoring Minis, particularly those with race history, and a promise that Paddy will not be hidden in a private collection, were enough to see 28C heading north to Queensland.

28C had been purchased sight-unseen along with a second Mini named Wendy, that had been owned and raced by Chris Hannan. With eager anticipation we headed south in a convoy of three cars and three trailers, one of which was in the hands of fellow Mini enthusiast, Dave Perkins.

Upon reaching the secluded farm we met with the proverbial barn find, although Irene joked that it was never lost; she always knew where it was! Paddy was sitting tightly packed in a dirt floored shed with Wendy alongside.

Closer inspection revealed that the important chassis numbers tied in with our expectations following examination of rego papers, photos, number plates etc, thereby confirming the car’s provenance as the Hopkirk/Foley car from the 1967 Bathurst race.

The car sat there in its unique shade of Castrol Racing Green and, while the outside paint was tired and faded, a quick look inside and under the rear carpet revealed original paint in excellent condition. This was a great find as there are no colour charts or records of this colour, and we can finally put to rest the debate on what shade it was that the Works cars wore.

There was evidence of rust setting into the roof turret, both front floors, the front wings and the front and rear aprons. The boot had minor rust beginning to take hold but the overall condition was excellent. The car had long been the home of families of rats, and smelt disgusting. Everywhere we looked there were rats’ nests and faeces or evidence of rat damage, but to our delight the car was incredibly original, a testament to its short life on the track and road.

The only major change from its originality was the fitment of a wood grain dashboard. There was evidence of 28C’s journey from the BMC PR department (which was responsible for entering the Works cars at Bathurst) to its first owner, in the form of a small sticker for Sydney BMC dealership Vaughan and Lane on the bottom dash rail, further backing up the detailed paper-trail.

Interestingly, the driver’s side seatbelt anchor still had the small plastic plug sealing up the bolt hole where a seatbelt would usually attach, as this car was fitted with a racing harness new from the factory….

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