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In Dad's Spotlight
Mini World

In Dad's Spotlight

Posted 07 February 2015   |   812 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (0) Built as a tribute to his father's early rally car, this modified Almond Green Cooper has found a special place in Ian Corkill's heart.

Faced with the collection of cars in Manxman Ian Corkill's large garage, which houses contours standard Minis and a good few Fords, you might be forgiven for overlooking this 1964 modified Cooper S lookalike. It's not contours but has that certain something that Mini fans find attractive in ex-rate and rally cars that can also be used as practical road cars. Certainly when you ask Ian which is his favourite Mini, he is quick to reply: "I suppose the green one really, because it means more to me, being a replica of my father's first Cooper 5, and it had the roof light on in period. I remember my job at 14 or 15 was giving it a wash and filling it up with petrol before the rally. I've got the same registration on the car now as the original had. So it's kind of special as my dad's no longer with us."

Ian tells us the story of the original 480 BMN: "It originally belonged to Mrs Doreen Mylchreest, wife of Brian Mylchreest who recently passed away. It was a regular car originally." Brian Mylchreest owned the main BMC dealership on the Isle of Man and was a pioneering supporter of the Mini and a team of early Manx Mini rally drivers. [see our interview with him in Mini World's September 2013 issue]. During Bert Corkill's time with the car it actually wore yet another registration number, 117 MAN, which had been on his previous rally car, a grey and white Mk1 998 Cooper. The registration 117 MAN was also used on Bert's next car, a Mk2 Cooper S.

Ian continues the story: "In some of the early photos from Mylchreests, rallydriver Eric Leece would have been driving it." Eric Leece was Glenn Leece's father, [see MiniWorld January 2014 issue for our interview with rally driver Glenn]. "He used it for the 1965 Manx Trophy Rally and some hillclimbs in the same period. Mrs Mylchreest donated it to him during May, to compete in the Trophy Rally. He was their 'works driver' I suppose at the time, them being the Austin dealership on the island. Despite being a very careful driver, Eric managed to crumple a front wing avoiding another competitor who had gone off on a stage in front of him. He wasn't offered it again. Shortly after that it was repaired and my father, Bert Corkill, bought it and he campaigned it for another couple of years, in the Trophy Rally in 1966-7, equipped with a Lucas roof light the same as this one. "The car originally had Janspeed equipment on it. I remember going down to Janspeed and picking up cylinder heads and steering wheels, it was a big thing in 1966-7 to go down to Janspeed, a tiny little shop compared to what they've got today, but it was great fun to pick the tuning bits up and come back and install them ourselves. Unfortunately, by the time I was 15 dad had decided that this Mkl had to go and got shot of it, before moving on to a Mk2. He sold it to a friend of ours because he didn't think I'd be up for a Cooper S at 16. And of course I started off with a Mini 850 myself and, by the time the first 10 months were gone, I traded that for an Anglia, traded the Anglia for a Cooper S, and I was back into one which was nowhere near as good as the one he'd sold to a friend."

So it was the car he always wished he had owned but didn't? "Absolutely! The car dad sold, he shouldn't have done. I had a chat with Glenn about it recently and he was also keen to get that number back. Of course it was his dad's number at that time. My father re-registered it in his own name. We've all got the same family history. It's hard to get away from it."
Did Ian ever find out what happened to the original car? "I tracked it back a number of years, I'm still friendly with the chap who my dad sold it to but it sort of got lost in time after that. He traded it for a Twin-Cam and I really don't know what happened to the original one. I'll have to do some more homework on that one of these days. It would be interesting to find out where it went." Could it still be alive? Was it possible that if a car was sold outside of the Isle of Man the registration number would go back into circulation? "Yes, you'd need to send it across to the UK on an export certificate. Unless you put the number on retention to swap onto something else it would just go back into the Post Office and be reissued if somebody wanted to buy it. So it could possibly be alive but then the chances were that the majority of those rally cars from the 60s were fairly well knocked about. It certainly wasn't when my father sold it."

So how did he get the registration number back? "Some years ago we got notice that the Post Office were going to bring out a new pricing structure and everything was basically going to go up between 10 and 50 fold, so we scurried around and I got as many reg plates back as I could think of, related to the Cooper Ss from the 60s. Ones that were important to us at the time. They were all f70 a piece and now the cheapest one is f750!" As well as 480 BMN Ian still has several plates on retention waiting for suitable cars to which they can be fitted.

Moving on to the story of the current incumbent of the BMN 480 plate, what's the story of the car itself? 'This has been with me for five years now. It originally came as a 1964 998 Cooper. I was looking for an Almond Green and White car to build into a tribute car and I'd got the number by then. It's still a bit of a work in progress. Although it came as a 998cc it's now got a 1275GT engine and head, twin inch and a quarters, so it looks the part, even though I'm not pretending that it's anything other than that. It was a clean enough car when it first came in. It was quite a good, strong shell. We painted it, but we've not really done anything with panels at all, which were all very good on it. We've rebuilt the engine and gearbox ourselves in the workshops. It's a red cylinder head so of course it gets nicknamed the Testarossa: 'red head,- Ian laughs. "It's running four and a half-inch reverse rims, which I don't particularly like. I think we pinched the four and a half standard rims for something else but I'll have to try and find out where they went to and reunite them with it some time. It's running an alternator rather than a dynamo because we're going to equip it with a full set of Lucas lights on the front, so it needs a bit more puff to get the candles lit. It's on dry suspension which it came with, being an early 1964 car. The cutaway front panel was on it. I really don't know whether it would have been wet at some stage or not to be honest. We fitted the second tank, and a new interior set, from Newton Commercial. We put the brand new recliners in. It had standard seats before but we've kept the original ones. The door handles were on it, they came with the car."
The Mini was in the UK before he bought it but does he know anything about its history or previous owners and does he have a Heritage Certificate? "No, not on this one, because with it being a Cooper and not really an S when it came to me, I didn't bother too much getting into its history." Cars in the Isle of Man do not have to have MOT tests unless they are imported second hand. "This passed its test four or five years ago when it came over to the Island and that's the only test it will ever have unless it's re-exported back to the UK. Road tax is now £15 on anything older than 25 years, which has gone up. I think it started off as f10, which was a concession for older vehicles, some years ago. We don't have a free historic tax like in the UK, but don't suppose it's too bad."

The thing that makes this car distinctive is, of course, its roof light, as did the one on the original BMN 480. "The search for a roof light took years. They're like hen's teeth. You think some things are, scarce but these are very scarce. I used to have the one that came off dad's car. You couldn't use them at the time. They were banned many years ago because of the height and all the rest of it. It sat in the office for years and years and years: 'Are we going to use this?"Nah, let's take the lens out and junk the spotlight.' So we did. Now they're of Man in the 1960s, The Manx National Trophy Rally, the forerunner to the Manx International Trophy Rally. The registration number 117 MAN is now on Ian's 1969 Mk2 f600 a piece. I spoke to a co-driver a week or two back who used to sit in with him. She was his secretary at the time. She said 'I remember using the roof light on the Trophy Rally. You're looking at maps. You're looking at Haldas, trying to work out times, and you're waggling this thing around, and trying to pick a corner out. It was a waste of time!' 1 Cooper S, which is a lookalike of the last Cooper S that his father owned which also bore that number for a while. The original Mk2 Cooper S itself now belongs to David Mylchreest. Ian sold it to him about 30 years ago. spotted this one on eBay about six months ago. It had been sitting on a shelf for donkey's years. It's not a reproduction, it's an original 576 Lucas. I'd looked everywhere. I'd searched two years, even on Australian eBay (I found one over there which made $700 to $800). There had never been one on English eBay until 1 saw this one. In the end I got it quite reasonably I thought, for its condition."

Ian still regards this car as 'work in progress' - an original Cooper S engine has been rebuilt and is due to go into it at some stage. "It really is just a pastiche but it's been regularly used for the last two years since we completed it. Although it's far from a contours car, it's the one I get most fun out of driving and the one that we use most really, when we go out for our Mini runs. It tends to be the default car to take out for a drive." In March 2013 Ian and wife Roz took the car on the Manx Minis Lakes Tour. "The drives over Hardknott, Wrynose and Kirkstone passes were very memorable. The snow had just cleared, we got some great photos of the Minis on the Hills. It's been good fun, a good car. It's different from all the red ones you find on the Isle of Man. There's only one other green one in the local club and that's Glenn's, which is a 1966 car. That's the genuine article but they always look good when they're sitting side by side."

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