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There can't be many British motorsport enthusiasts who are not familiar with the name and exuberant driving style of the late Barrie Williams. Universally known throughout the motorsport world as ‘Whizzo', Barrie was one of the most versatile competitors of the last 60 years. From an early age, he wanted to be a racing driver and wrote from his boarding school to David Brown, owner of Aston Martin and Lagonda, asking to join the Aston racing team. Brown's reply was to suggest that Barrie became an engineering apprentice with David Brown Tractors, based in Huddersfield and subsequently, duly ensconced in West Yorkshire, Barrie soon found himself making friends with a group of like-minded enthusiasts, members of the Huddersfield Motor Club. As was possible in the late 1950s, the same car could be used for rallies, racing, autotests, hill climbs and sprints and before long he was hill climbing an Austin A40 Devon "It wasn't competitive, but it made a lovely noise with a tractor exhaust on". It was soon replaced by a Downton-tuned Morris 1000 (purchased from Peter Kaye, James Kaye's father) in which Barrie made his circuit debut at Rufforth in 1959.
In 1962, Barrie had to leave David Brown Tractors to return home to manage the family business, Bromyard Engineering when his father became ill (Barrie's father was a works rider for Sunbeam in the TT but perhaps is better known in motorsport circles for founding 'Fastakart' and running a very successful kart racing team.). Barrie maintained his involvement in all available types of motorsport, earning a growing reputation in the West Country as a young driver to watch but at this point, most of his success was in club rallying in a Mini Cooper. The smooth reliable style of Barrie's later years was not always evident at this point in his career and night rallies were occasionally punctuated by botanical expeditions through the scenery usually without a scratch. Ironically, it was a non-fault road accident that put Barrie in hospital in 1963 and it was whilst lying there that he heard about the newly introduced Mini Cooper 'S' (1071cc). Apparently there was a six-month waiting list which seemed quite a way off so one was immediately ordered, however, 120 MNP turned up three weeks later.
In Barrie's words; "We had a few wins, and I rashly put my name down for a brand new Cooper S. When it arrived I couldn't pay for it, but I got it on HP, and it was much better than the Cooper because it had brakes. Some mates said you ought to do an International. I said, don't be silly, we're only club boys. Anyway, we ended up doing the Welsh against the works teams. Our service crew were at a wedding all day Saturday and turned up in the middle of the night in darkest Wales to service us in tailcoats and top hats. It was very wet, very foggy, very nasty, and at the finish, we got very drunk, and then somebody said, you've won it. We'd passed all the works teams in the fog and we'd won our first International". The Motoring News on Thursday 9 January 1964 proudly announced "Outsiders Win First International Welsh Rally. This tough long weekender was made even harder by prolonged bouts of both fog and ice but Williams, accompanied by John Griffiths, and behind the wheel of his Mini Cooper S, finished just ahead of Roy Fidler, Phil Simister, Reg McBride, Eric Jackson and John La Trobe. Not bad for a driver on his first International".
Meanwhile, and also in January 1964, Paddy Hopkirk along with Henry Liddon, became national heroes when they won the 23rd running of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, beating a host of V8 Ford Falcons on handicap in the process, however, although the Mini Cooper 'S' won two International Rallies within a couple of weeks, and despite what you might have believed up to now, history is quite clear that the accolade for the FIRST international victory by a Cooper'S' belongs to Barrie Williams, John Griffiths and 120 MNP.
Through 1964 and 1965, the long-suffering 120 MNP was used in all the major rallies in the British Isles and several overseas events such as the Geneva and Swedish Rallies, however, eventually Barrie was persuaded to part with it to a friend, who in turn sold it to another friend. Sometime later the opportunity arose to buy 120 MNP back and, after some detective work, Barrie managed to locate all the car's original paperwork and photographs up in the loft of the previous owner's ex-wife, safe, dry and intact, which is more than can be said of 120 MNP which hadn't fared too well. With many offers of paid drives in single seaters, sports cars and saloons, it was not Barrie's intention to use the Cooper in anger but simply to return it to the way it was when he won the Welsh. A new shell was sourced and the car rebuilt using the original components as far as possible and the engine was fully rebuilt to the original 1964 Welsh Rally spec by Southam Mini and Metro Centre in Warwickshire. A roll cage was added and the seats and belts have been changed in accordance with changing regulations.
Over the last few years, the little Cooper has been used as a road car, taking Barrie all over the country to events and shows and up to the BRDC for lunch. He loved it, and whenever he felt the need would jump in it, like putting on a pair of your favourite slippers he would say, and be transported back to those carefree, happy days of the mid-sixties.
With some updates to the safety equipment etc, 120 MNP could well be a competitive historic rally car, however, we prefer to think that it will be preserved as it is, the first Mini Cooper 'S' to win an International Rally and the beloved favourite of a charismatic enthusiast, a crowd-pleaser for five decades, without whom British Motorsport will be the poorer.
It's a modest car for a modest man. When strangers would notice the logo on his jumper or the little shield pin on his blazer lapel and innocently enquire what the letters BRDC stood for, Barrie would usually reply 'Bromyard Rural District Council' and leave it at that. Now that's modest. Don't just listen to us, listen to the man himself, courtesy of Hagerty:
(Video credit:Video credit: https://hagertyinsurance.co.uk/articles-and-resources) )