Reunion

Greg Coates’ Mini is something pretty special. Between 1963 and 1976, 128 Minis raced in the annual Bathurst enduro, of course winning the race outright in 1966. Of those, twelve were Works entered cars, and of those only one, Greg’s, is known to still survive. 

This was the car which Brian Foley and Paddy Hopkirk drove to fourth in class, and eighth outright, in 1967. It is easy to understand why Greg, with help from his dad Richard, put so much effort into restoring the car.

When the opportunity arose for them to take the car to Wakefield Park racetrack in August this year and have Brian Foley drive it, Greg was understandably excited. But, as they say, the best laid plans…

It had been organised for Brian to drive the car at the lunchtime break on the Sunday, but the meeting was running late because of dense fog in the morning, so there was no lunch break.

Fortunately, as Bathurst in the 1960s was for standard production cars, Greg had ensured his Mini, affectionately known as Paddy, was road registered. This meant that we could take it out on Braidwood Rd, which runs past Wakefield Park.

It wasn’t quite the same for Brian or Greg, or for me taking photos, but there is no doubt the reunion was an emotional one for Brian.

Although he has been following the restoration through this magazine, this was the first time Brian had a chance to see the car in the metal. I’m sure I caught the hint of a tear as, sitting at the wheel for the first time in 48 years, he was momentarily speechless.

“It is incredible”, he said. “Just fantastic. These guys have done an excellent job, and taken it the whole way. All the details; everything’s been done, everything! It’s a credit to them.”

Once out on the road, making pass after pass for the camera, it didn’t take Brian long to get back in the groove. “Cars have come a long way since 1967. I had to get used to stopping to select first gear. The steering wheel was obviously very basic compared with today’s, but the car went very well. Driving down the main road there it just got faster and faster.”

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The BMC Experience Issue 16. Jan-Mar 2016 Magazine

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