Whizzo Williams didn’t exactly have the most professional race team around, especially for the 1964 International Welsh Rally. Rather than white coveralls, much of the support team came direct from a wedding wearing tails and top hats, then after the rally they all set to the serious business of getting properly drunk, figuring they’d come nowhere close to winning. Instead, their new Mini Cooper S carried them to the model’s first major win, setting the stage for more celebrated rally victories for the Mini.
Up until January 1964, Barrie “Whizzo” Williams had raced and rallied on an amateur level while working as an engineer first at David Brown Tractors and later at the family firm, Bromyard Engineering. His father, Frank, had long before made a name for himself as a works rider for Sunbeam in the Isle of Man TT and as the founder of Fastakart, and Whizzo had started out racing karts himself. However, his early racing efforts didn’t amount to much – on track his Austin A40 Devon only sounded the part, and while rallying he struggled to keep his 997cc Mini Cooper out of the hedges.
Others had already had some minor success with the Mini Cooper – Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom won the Coupe des Dames in the 1962 Monte Carlo and then took another win in the Tulip Rally later that year while John Whitmore won the 1961 British Saloon Car Championship – but according to Jonathan Wood’s article on Mini racing in Automobile Quarterly 28-3, John Cooper felt BMC could do better with a racing special Mini that built upon Cooper’s experience building Formula Junior cars.
Along with a special 70hp 1,071cc version of the BMC four-cylinder engine, the racing special – which would be named the Mini Cooper S – used larger power-boosted disc brakes and optional wider tires to propel the car to a 95MPH top speed. To homologate the S, BMC had to build 1,000 examples, but by the end of production in August 1964, the company had put together more than 4,000.
One of those went to Williams. He’d ordered his in late 1963 and, after hearing of the six-month waitlist for the racing special, unexpectedly found it delivered three weeks later, just in time for the International Welsh Rally. “Some mates said you ought to do an International,” as Silverstone Auctions quoted him. “I said, don’t be silly, we’re only club boys.” He entered the Cooper S, plate number 120 MNP, nevertheless and, along with co-driver John Griffiths, found himself negotiating a “very wet, very foggy, very nasty” rally course in the middle of the night.
It was only amid the drinking afterward that Williams and the team learned they had beat the works teams, including half a dozen other Cooper Ss that either DNF’d or rounded out the bottom of the list of finishers. The Cooper S had just taken its first international victory, just a couple of weeks before Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon’s surprise win in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.
Cooper, always looking to improve the Mini’s performance, successfully argued for a 1,275cc engine to replace the 1,071 in the S, giving the little racing special the power needed to win even more rallies in successive years. Williams, pleased with 120 MNP’s performance in Wales, went on to take the Mini Cooper S to a first in class at the International Rallye Geneve and to race it in the Manx Trophy Rally and Swedish Rally. However, a couple years after he bought it he sold it to a friend, who sold it to another friend, who let the car outside to dissolve in the English weather.
Williams, who went on to become one of the most prolific British racing drivers, some years later sought out 120 MNP and found that even though its body was worse for wear, its paperwork had survived intact, so he set about rebuilding the Mini Cooper S around a new body shell, replicating it just as it appeared at the 1964 Welsh rally for occasional jaunts as a road car.
Along with 120 MNP, Williams’s collection included a 1961 Fastakart powered by a 197cc Villiers engine, a restored and documented 1972 Lancia Fulvia Series II HF, and his Gilera Stalker pit bike, all of which will head to auction following Williams’s death last September at the age of 79. The Mini Cooper S is expected to sell for £60,000 to £80,000, or about $75,000 to $100,000.
The collection will cross the block as part of the Silverstone Classic Auction, which will take place July 27 to 28 at the Silverstone Circuit. For more information, visit SilverstoneAuctions.com.