Oz50

The 50th anniversary celebrations of the Mini in Australia kicked off in fine style, with a Homecoming display at Zetland.

The site of the show was the last remaining vacant block on the site of the former BMC factory, where Australian Minis were made from 1961 to 1974.

More precisely, it was at the Western end of where the Body Shop stood – where huge presses had stamped out body panels down one side of the factory, which were then welded together to form complete bodies down the other side.

Now the event is over, I can reveal that it was a close-run thing to happen at all. The effort to meet local Council approval was almost too great at times, but we persevered and eventually met all the requirements, despite new conditions and obstacles being revealed at regular intervals.

It was therefore very gratifying to see the event be such a success, despite numbers of cars being around half what we expected – although we still had over 200 Minis and Mokes. Perhaps the threat of rain kept some cars away (we did have one or two very light showers), and perhaps the lack of trophies was another reason – this was only ever going to be a display, rather than a Show’n’Shine.

Despite the numbers of cars being down, we still had around 2,000 people in attendance. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day, and were pleased with the quality and variety of Minis on display. Food was available from the three food vans, supplied by John’s Food Express, who were able to attend at very short notice.

We were very pleased to be able to donate the gate takings of $1,510 to land-owners The Foundation For Aged Care for the use of the block. We also thank Landcom for opening up the block next door, for non-Mini and trailer parking.

Some of the remarkable Minis on display that deserve a special mention were: the former Brian Foley/Laurie Stewart racing Broadspeed (which sold that week for possibly the highest price ever paid for an Australian Mini); Don Holland’s recently restored Group Nc Cooper S (the very car he raced successfully in 1970); an electric Mini; two topless modified Leyland Minis; a former racing Cooper S of Peter Manton (recently restored); a freshly restored and immaculate Morris 850; a bevy of Minis from the Classic Rally Club (www.classicrallyclub.com.au); a pair of stretched Mini Limos (available for hire); Rae Witcombe’s one-owner 1963 Morris 850; TME Issue 23 front cover car; the list goes on and on…

I am indebted to the Mini Car Club of NSW, for their support and work for this event, without whom it simply would not have been possible. The two working bees to clean up the block – turning it from an overgrown plot to a pristine show venue – were followed up by invaluable help on the day, manning the gate, directing traffic and generally helping wherever needed. Each member can take a well-earned pat on the back.

The BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, made up mostly of ex-Zetland employees, was also on hand. Members Roger Foy and Chris Rogers received a lot of interest in information about the factory and the Group’s up-coming book on the history of the factory.

Former Quality Control manager John Lindsay offered to take people for guided walks around the site, showing where things used to be. The few people who took part in John’s free tours thoroughly enjoyed them.

ClubMINI was also there in strength, with a good array of MINIs, while MINI Australia had the latest offering on display.

I was also very pleased that Ian Bennett and crew from IB Images were able to attend at the eleventh-hour, and did a sterling job photographing every Mini as it arrived. Ian even managed to gain access to the high-rise building opposite and got some otherwise impossible photos of the overall site.

The photos were available to entrants as part of a commemorative certificate, printed to the highest quality on stunning aluminium archival paper. Unfortunately, a technical glitch caused a delay, but certificates not collected on the day were posted out to everyone who ordered them.

For those who didn’t order a certificate they are still available from Ian’s website – www.ibimages.com – as are enlargements of any of their photos from the day. To access the photos on the website, log in with the username Mini and the password 50.

Mini racing legends Bob Holden and Don Holland were wandering around during the day, and were happy to chat to many people, sign a few autographs and have their photos taken. There was another special guest who made a brief and unannounced appearance and the few people who got to meet and talk with him were quite chuffed.

Scotsman Andrew Cowan is best known in Australia for winning both the 1968 and 1977 London to Sydney Marathon rallies – the first in a Hillman Hunter, the second in a Mercedes.

Following his success in 1968, on which event he became good friends with Evan Green, he was invited to become a Works rally driver for Leyland Australia and competed out here in Minis and 1800s on many occasions.

If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 27 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>47</plumshop> <plumshop>48</plumshop>

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