How Two Rallying Enthusiasts Became World-Leading Mini Specialists
With the Mini celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019, we have been delving back into its history throughout the year, uncovering the people and stories behind why it is still loved all these years on. Being Mini specialists since the Mini’s heyday in the 1960’s, we too have our own story to tell. So as 2019 is slowing to a stop (going from amber-to-red, if you will), here is the tale of how we established our business and continue to be a leading light for Mini enthusiasts, seeking new parts and spares today.
The First Mini Specialists.
Once the first Mark I 850’s rolled off the production line at Longbridge, automobile-mad Brian Harper was there to take delivery of the car that was said to ‘get the most from a petrol tank’, whilst ‘still catering for booming families’. The Mini was an immediate hit; not only did the small stature of the car make for an economical drive and allow a family of four to fit comfortably within its frame, it also proved to be a thrilling driving experience for those with racing in mind. Brian and his wife, Heather, very much had racing in mind!
Noticing the potential of the Mini to compete in top-level motorsport, famed designer, John Cooper, lobbied his old friend, original Mini designer, Alex Issigonis, to create a new sportier version of the Mini. The BMC eventually gave the go-ahead and the result was the Mini Cooper; as good off-road than on, the original model ended up selling over 125,000 units and established the Mini brand as a ‘must-have’ for anyone who wasn’t a square. A member of BMC’s board famously doubted that it would sell 1,000!
In Spring of 1964, Brian and Heather were amongst the first in the queue to purchase a Downton-tuned 997cc Cooper, which they eagerly entered rallies with – sharing the driving duties like any good couple! Sure enough, the competition bug had bit and soon enough, their home was littered with numerous second-hand parts as they strived to make their Cooper run even better.
This would leave the Harper’s with a surplus of parts and so Brian advertised in The Motoring News in an effort to rid the household of all the spare parts they had collected. The response from Mini specialists was unprecedented. So large was the interest that Brian struck upon the idea of founding his own business based on the second-hand sales of Mini parts and spares. Mini Sport was born.
Establishing and Growing Mini Sport.
Although the company quickly established itself a reputation as being a reliable purveyor of spare parts, it was Mini Sport’s innovative qualities that set it apart from the competition. Noticing that the Mini’s throttle linkage was difficult to operate and prone to sticking, Brian got to work, correcting the poor design. Thanks to his astute engineering skills, he created a more rigid throttle linkage that was easier to fit, giving the Mini a smoother, more progressive acceleration.
The part very quickly became a best-seller, creating more business for the company and sealing its reputation as a leading name in the Mini parts and spares market. As a result, Mini Sport was able to open its first dedicated premises in Padiham, Lancashire – providing more space for the storage of parts, as well as the establishment of a workshop that allowed Brian to work on his competition Minis.
A Name In Mini Racing.
With the new facility allowing Brian’s engineering excellence to flow, the sheer number of parts that were created led to the production of the first Mini Sport Tuning Catalogue. As business continued to grow, the company acquired an even larger facility nearby its existing one; giving Mini specialists a one-stop-shop for their parts – allowing them to pick up everything they needed, as wheels, seats and other accessories were added to the stock lines.
As business grew even more, Brian and Heather had to put their love of Mini rallying on hold, but in 1975, Brian returned to competition; winning the SD34 Shellsport Rally Championship in his 1340cc Cooper S. His success saw further growth of the Mini Sport brand, requiring yet more space at HQ for the establishment of an Engineering Department and dedicated Mini fitting bays. The entire operation was moved to a new base in Padiham, consisting of 20,000sqft of space – a veritable Mecca for Mini marque enthusiasts around the world.
Such is our passion for Mini track and (especially) rally racing, we have established ‘The Mini Sport Cup’, the world’s largest Mini Championship. Run as part of the HRCR Old Stager, The Mini Sport Cup sees Mini crews from around country take to some of the most challenging courses across the UK and in continental Europe to test, not only their piloting skills but also the viability of their classic Mini’s. It makes for quite the spectacle!
Today: Still Looking To The Past, As We Drive Forward.
Over 50 years on from our founding, Mini Sport still abides by the same principles that Brian and Heather wanted to be the heart of our business – high qualities, great value and reliability.
We have embraced new technologies as they’ve transpired – aside from this online version of our store that gives easy access to parts and spares for Mini specialists from around the world, we have created new on-site facilities, such as a body refurbishment shop and state-of-the-art paint booth in a bid to expand our capabilities.
Thanks to the use of computer-aided design and constant upgrades in machinery, we are able to push the boundaries of automotive design, creating vastly-improved parts as a result.
Today, Mini Sport is operated by Brian and Heather’s three sons; Chris, Daniel and Jonathan who continue to run the company with the same principles that not only their parents established, but philosophies that can be applied to the Mini itself too – high qualities, great value and reliability.
So that was our story – why not be a part of it?
Got Any Mini Servicing Questions? Get In Touch With The Mini Experts Today.
So if you need parts to repair, restore or to reimagine your Mini, then please feel free to take a look around our website which gives you access to anything and everything you need to realise your ideal Mini. Our range of products covers all iterations of the Mini – from the original Morris Mini/Austin Seven to the latest MINI models.
If you would like to learn more about the company or any of our services, our Mini specialists would be pleased to speak with you. Give them a call today on 01282 778 731 or send any questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll be in touch as soon as possible.