There seem to be two main ways to overcome the change – become one of the growing hoards of Grey Nomads, or find a project to keep yourself busy.
For Brian Burrell from Newcastle, going from working hard every day to being on a permanent holiday came as a bit of a culture shock, as he explains. “My father and I had a trucking business, down on Lake Rd. I took over the business for about 10 years, then I went into the mines as a driver, driving trucks and all sorts of equipment. I retired in 2008, but after about eight months I was just bored.”
“My wife Pam and I were on a holiday, and I came across this magazine (TME). I saw all the restorations and most of them said they’d been three years, or five years, and Pam said ‘that would be a good thing, you’ve got two of Minis at home, why don’t you make them into road cars, that will keep you going for three or four years’. So that’s what I intended to do.”
Brian had been quite a successful speedway racer in the 1970s and 1980s and still had his last speedway Mini in the carport. It’s a bit battered and has a lot of parts missing, but there is a good history in the car. But the two Minis Pam referred to were both former Sports Sedan race cars, and neither had been used for many years.
Brian began his motorsport career in 1962, when he was 16, as he recalls. “I raced what were called TQ Cars – three-quarter speedway cars. They were run by a 500cc motorbike engine and gearbox. So, that was my first go at motorsport.”
“That was from ’62 to ’72 and we raced them all over the place – Melbourne, all the Riverina places, Young, Yass, West Wyalong, Temora. Wherever there was a motorbike meeting they had the TQs as a backup. We used to take off of a Friday night and drive to Toowoomba, then race at Toowoomba, then we’d come back on Sunday.”
“Then in ’72 they built a new speedway up here – they called it Jerilderie Park, which was the Motordrome, over at Tomago. The speedway’s been gone about ten years now.”
“So, we thought we’d go into something bigger than the TQs, and we decided a Mini was the way to go. We made a team; I drove and my father, Carr, did all the work on it. He was the mechanic. We were racing them all around and we were very successful.”
Brian had a few Minis over the next decade, winning regularly at local and interstate tracks. “From 1972 to about 1980 the Minis were basically unbeatable on local tracks. Then in the ’80s the bigger cars started to get more traction, more power, better tyres and everything, and they started to knock us around, so I got out of there in about 1981 and retired from motorsport.”
In the quest for more power, Brian said they tried just about everything. “We had scatter cams; we tried injection; we had a blower; we ran on methanol; we tried just about everything in the book. The only thing we didn’t try was turbo, because blokes tried them on speedway and they used to burn holes in the pistons all the time.”
After a few years retirement from the sport Brian got itchy feet for more competition, so in 1988 he bought a supercharged Mini to try hillclimbing. “I only had two meetings in that but, being used to having 20 in a race, one at a time just wasn’t interesting for me. It was too boring. You’d have one run up the hill, say 40 seconds or whatever, then you’d wait for two hours before getting another run up the hill. I couldn’t stand it, so I retired again.”
“We sat the supercharged car in the garage and I’ve still got it”, he continues. “That was how I bought it. Exactly the same as it is now. It’s a log-booked Sports Sedan back to 1976. I’ve got three logbooks for it and they have been validated by CAMS that they are genuine.”
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 28 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>50</plumshop> <plumshop>51</plumshop>