MINI CLUBMAN NZ RALLYING SUCCESS
Two Mini Clubman GTs were built in 1971 at the British Leyland Abingdon Special Tuning Department in the UK to Group 2 specs for the New Zealand Motor Corporation to compete in the 1972 Heatway International Motor Rally.
The NZMC Team Manager was John Seabrook and the driving force behind the works cars entries (Seabrook Fowlds Ltd were the major BMC Austin agents in Auckland, which were integrated into NZMC). The building of the cars was done at British Leyland’s Special Tuning Department at Abingdon. As well as the two Mini Clubman GT’s, two Morris Marina Coupes were part of the team. NZ’er Peter Levet, a well-known Mini Racing car driver who was working for NZMC as a technical advisor, became involved with the cars and the team in NZ and had a lot of discussion with BL Special tuning’s Basil Wales over the cars' specs.
The cars were fitted with Cooper S motors, s/cut gearboxes, s/cut transfer gears. They originally had LSD's fitted with 4.1 ratio but they were unmanageable on the gravel with bad understeer on “throttle off”. Andrew Cowan asked for standard diffs to be fitted and that was how the cars were run, with 3.9 ratios. The motors had approx 95bhp at the wheels, 1293cc, and 12.5:1 compression. They were fitted with twin 1 3/4 SU carburettors.
The 1st car Reg GC3 was driven by Scotsman Andrew Cowan with NZer Jim Scott navigating. They went on to win the event against stiff opposition from Toyota, BMW, Ford Escort and Holden Torana cars. The car was also driven by Andrew Cowan in the 1973 Heatway Rally. The Peter and Annette Levet drove GC3 in many hillclimbs and rallies and only just missed out on the Goldstar hillclimb saloon championship to Doug Bremner in the VW Corvair in 1973-74.
The Mini Clubman GT of Andrew Cowan and Jim Scott in action
The second GC4 car was driven to 5th place by Angus Hyslop and Doc Langley. It was driven the following year event in 1973 by Reg Cook and also in the Safari Rally in New Caledonia by Peter and Annette Levet where it inherited the GC3 identity and fittings for promotional reasons.
The Mini Clubman GT of Angus Hyslop and Doc Langley.
After the major rallies, both cars were driven in local events by Peter Levet who was the custodian for a few years.
When the cars competed in the 1973 Heatway, they were owned by Brian Johns of A.R. Johns Ltd. Te Aroha and Morrinsville. They ran under the banner of "Leyland Dealer Team" and were eventually sold by Brian going through several hands before ending up where they are today.
Both cars are still located in New Zealand. Car #1 GC3 is owned by Kerry Mundell and in various states of disrepair and various bits and pieces have been changed. Car #2 GC4 is currently owned by Mini Clubman enthusiast Cam Luke in the South Island of NZ. GC4 is undergoing full restoration and has virtually all original fittings from it’s rallying days.
Story researched by Greg Wenzlick, 2007.