Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Everybody that has a fondness for motoring and motorsport has that one vehicle they knew they shouldn’t have sold. We asked the team if they have any cars or motorcycles they regret selling and had a great response. See which vehicle belonged to which member of the HERO-ERA team and the memories that come flooding back below. Click on the photo to enlarge the image.
Chris Elkins – Route Coordinator – 1975 Mini 1275 GT – For most of my working life I’ve had company cars and have had little opportunity to get attached to them. One that does stick in my mind though was a 1988 Astra GTE 2.0 16V. It was at a time when the hot hatch suddenly moved up a gear passed the 150bhp mark. It was an awesome car for its day. But, the car that I really wish I hadn’t sold was my ultimate spec Mini 1275GT. Built in 1979, before I had properly discovered women and had lots of disposable income and time on my hands, I used it to great effect in South West regional road rallies and single venue stage events for 2 or 3 years. It was later re-shelled after a heavy accident and I sold it soon after buying my first house. If I’d kept it, it would be eligible for Historics now.
George Mullins – Senior Event Manager – 1995 Nissan Micra – There have been two cars that I wish I had never sold, well one I did not own so may not count! Car one was the Fiat Uno Rally car that I used in the mid 80’s. It was owned by Frank Ruzzuti of Avanti Tuning/Ruzzuti Bros Fiat Dealer. That car serviced me well, 2 x Lombard RAC Rallies, Fiat Challenge championship win 1989 and a second in 1986. We also did 4 European events and a season of BTRDA Rally championship. It was eventually sold at the end of 1989 and it was hanging by then! The next one was a Nissan Micra that I did own, in-fact I have sold this one twice! I bought it in 1996 as a new car (a special deal from Nissan at the time for competitors in the Micra challenge). It was then built by fellow Hero colleague Nick Reeves. Those of you who know Nick will be aware of his attention to detail and perfection, and would only agree to build it to his standard, and if he said it needed something, then it had to happen, no cutting corners it would have to be his way or the highway! So to cut a long story short he built me the best car I have ever rallied. The only problem was that it was also the most expensive car that I had ever rallied and felt that I could not commit as much as I would like to, concerned about the investment. I did the Micra Challenge with it in 1997, the Championship was well organised by Dave Whittock and was a competitive affair that produced a group N world Champion (Niall McShea ) and future works Peugeot Driver, the late and much missed Mark Fisher. After a year, I sold it for the first time. Fast forward a few years and the outbreak of “Foot & Mouth” and a year of virtually no motorsport (sounds familiar?) I bought the car back at a much reduced outlay. I then went on to use the car for the next 10 years or so doing a few events every year. Nicks hard work paid off because the car was still in great shape after 15 years of rallying. Eventually I sold it to a friend of mine for about the same money as I paid for it 10 years earlier. The car has changed hands a couple of times since then and is now owned by a Hero Competitor Alan Wakeman. So this is the car that I wish I had never sold!
Patrick Burke – Managing Director – Porsche 911 993 C2 manual – a great car and with the perfect colour combo …. But then someone up there decided I should have three kids… So the car went and I most certainly wish it didn’t. The Triumph Spitfire 1500 (AKA “Maggie” – she was conservative blue and rather loud and grumpy) was my very first car. I’m a sentimental and I have great memories of that car. Truth is, the car was in poor state of repair and I could only drive it in the dry otherwise a puddle would form under the passenger seat, the seat foam would soak it up and my girlfriends would often have a wet bum when coming out of the car….. That’s when I would offer to dry the skirt/trousers by the fireplace with a glass of wine or two. A sticker proudly displayed on the rear bumper said: “Passion wagon, don’t laugh, your daughter may be in it”. As I said, the car wasn’t in great shape…. But it was my first car… A classic car….. That sparked it all for me, hence I wish I never sold it for sentimental reasons.
Guy Woodcock – Competition Director – M69 SOL – Ford Escort Kit Car – I purchased M69 SOL at the end of 1999 from Chris Birkbeck, the car originally built by Paul Dyas, and we collected it on a Thursday night and went straight to an event at Ty Croes, the Glyn Memorial Stages, the first time I drove the car was on ss1. We went on to finish second overall behind Dave Willets the Ty Croes expert, the car was then used in the 2000 Safety Devices National Tarmac Championship with Hu Kent on the notes to finish up 3rd o/a behind two Metro 6R4’s of The Boss, John Price and Jon Mercer, 2001 was a write off due to foot and mouth but we ventured to do the South Swedish rally which was a great experience, we had two overall wins on the Trawsfyndd Events both by 1 second in 2000 and 2002 , the car was a joy to drive on tarmac, but a bit more challenging on gravel, I have never got to grips with FWD on gravel, with the arrival of the Maxi which I then campaigned, SOL as it was known was kept and hired out to a number of people over the next few years in Jim Brown, Richie Davies, Steve Quine in the Isle of man who tried to kill it ( see below ) I did drive it on the boat home! Before heading off to Cork when it was eventually sold to Aiden Dunlea. If the chance came to buy anything back it would be this one but sadly it was bounced around the Irish country side on all sides, top and bottom and I believe is now resting in peace!
Tomas De Vargas Machuca – Chairman – I bought this Merc Pagoda 1967 230 SL with a rare MFI and factory fitted A/C in 1997 from DB MacElroy who had been the Vice President of the Chicago Stock Exchange. The mouse grey Pagoda had been given to him by his wife. When I bought the car, I took off the hard top off for the very first time. He had never seen the car without it during his 30 years of ownership. The car lived in Chicago, New York and Florida. I bought the car and imported it to Europe with the idea of restoring it. Regrettably the budget was more than what i could afford and sold it to a dear Greek Friend who was living in Geneva. A decade later the car was stolen from him in Switzerland. He tracked it down after months of looking at websites and dealers and found her in the South of France being offered for sale. He enquired and went to look at the car, but when he got there the car had vanished and the dealers had erased all evidence of even having had it and the car was lost for ever. I never should have sold that car!
Brian Whyte – Operations Director – It’s more of the engine I should not have sold, rather than the car! I bought the MKI big winged Escort when my MK II 1300 Sport got nicked and stripped, before it was set alight. The MK1 came with a RS1600 BDA Engine! I test drove it, although the guy selling it would not let me drive it, I bought it on the spot and collected it the following day. Day two of ownership, the engine let go going uphill on a dual carriage way, in third whilst still spinning it’s wheels. I could not afford the cost to rebuild the engine and sold it for just enough to cover the cost of a reconditioned 1600 x flow engine, which I had to fit myself! At the time I didn’t have a choice, if I didn’t sell the engine and buy the xflow I didn’t have a working car. Now …… what a plonker! I kept the car for a further two years, did over 20 events in it, before selling it on.
Francesco Rastrelli – Blue Passion Photo – 1969 Fiat Bianchina Giardinetta – The Bianchina was my mum’s car since I was 5 years old and it became my “partner in crime” when I was 17 years old: I drove it without a driving licence, got chased by the police, I took 12 friends in it for a tour of the Amalfi Coast and, most of all, it was my “hunting transportation” for fish and women…. Used as a toy house by the family, and as doghouse by the dogs, over the last few years it was just taking a nap in our courtyard in Sorrento, dreaming about its former glory but, even if unused, I would have never sold it because it was still part of the family. When our dearest friend Ian Wallace (previously part of the Hero team), on a summer visit, fell in love with it and wanted to buy it, restore it, and bring it to London, I thought it was the best way to give it a brilliant future (look at the amazing new colours!), being anyway part of the family every time I am in UK. So keep your eyes open: if you see an Italian tiny bullet in London, you can be sure the Crazy Rastrellis and their Bianchina is in town!
Christian Von Sanden – Creative Director – In 1994 whilst I was a student in Pasadena, California, I used all my savings to purchase a matching numbers 1963 Porsche 356B Super 90. Maybe because the car was a ‘salvaged’ one, I was able to buy it. It was the dream car for a student in Southern California. Eventually I took it with me to Germany and since I did not have the money to restore it or repair it, I sold it for a ridiculously low price… well, that was the worst decision ever!
Tony Jardine – Communications Director – 1961 Isetta 300 BMW – I’d ridden some motorbikes and my ‘Mod’ brothers flag ridden Vespa at 16 but hit on a different transport plan with my mate Johnny Smith in the 6th Form Common Room. Johnny went on to become a top motoring journalist and Daily Mail sub. JS advised that we could get a provisional licence for a motorcycle and side car at 16 which would allow us to drive 3 wheel bubble cars once we’d passed the motor bike test. In particular he cited the chain driven Isetta 300 with the 300cc BMW single cylinder ‘thumper’ engine as it was the quickest. His was a red Isetta Plus with bull bars on the front, mine a light blue one from a neighbour who was going to scrap it as the engine had blown. JS and I also went halves on a third bubble car for spares, a rusty scrapper for a fiver each. I immediately had the engine to get mine running. JS had both bug eye lights off it two weeks later as he had rolled his bubble when our competition to get the highest onto two wheels went wrong at our favourite roundabout. I had some of the electrics and the bench seat from the scrapper after mine caught fire outside the bakers on the way to Oulton Park. Looking back it was quite funny watching the staff running in and out with buckets of water, but they were well practiced in dousing the ovens when the buns scorched, so this little fire was but a flicker for them. The big downer was the reaction of the ‘girl of the moment’ who was with us. We had all chased her at one point, yet she remained aloof until finally agreeing to join us squeezed between me and my mate on the little bench seat. I think she singed her miniskirt and certainly didn’t enjoy getting the bus home – we were livid that we missed the BRSCC Spring races at Oulton! There were other female targets though as the bubble car had a distinct advantage over my mates on motorbikes and scooters. I could drive front in to the kerb, the Isetta’s length the same width as most saloons, fling open the hinged front door with the dash and steering column going with it. I would step straight onto the pavement to make the appropriate invitation, no need for a crash helmet, although if they preferred two wheels I could do that as well on our roundabout. The top speed was around 55-60mph depending on the wind although it wandered a bit anyway. The BMW was a strong engine with the gear linkage culminating in a stubby little gear lever in the side panel on my right. Just like a single seater racing car! On my way to school for A level exams, I was waiting at a Give Way when a lady totally missed her brake pedal and hit the throttle instead, her Hillman Minx totally bursting my bubble. I was pretty much in tears. Bubble was rebuilt but had to be sold. It was so sad, I wished I’d never sold that unique fun machine. I keep looking for another similar Isetta but there is no way I’m going to pay the £15-20k which a good one will fetch now. The nearest I got was this model which my mate Julian from the bakery fire incident bought me for my 60th birthday. Just to make it accurate he knocked one headlight off just I had done against a bus! I will just admire the real thing from the pavement – front on to the kerb.
Roberta Rocatti – Blue Passion Photo – Beta 50 Enduro – My first motorbike will have forever a special place in my heart. The Beta 50 Enduro was my gift for completing my Law degree when I was 23 years old. In Italy, it’s the typical present for teenager boys but it suited me perfectly! I have been everywhere with it: High mountain trails, motocross fields, night parties… I then moved to bigger engines, road motorbikes, Supermotard (I actually drive a Suzuki DR400) but nothing gave me the same lovely sensation than hearing that mosquito sound climbing up steep mountain roads.
Craig Baker – Webmaster – 1973 Volkswagen Beetle 1303 – I knew from an early age that a Beetle had to be my first car and after searching high and low for ‘the one’ at the right price, I found the 1303 you see here. It was a completely standard car when I bought it and I put my stamp on it by making it unusably low*, plastering it with stickers and making various other changes to it, and it ended up exactly how I wanted it to look. This car gave me my independence and freedom, it was always a talking point between friends and random members of the public who all used to tell me that their relatives owned one at some point, it took me home and back to university and was often full of guitars and equipment that were undoubtedly worth more than the car itself. After two years of would you believe it, faultless motoring, I sold it on to buy something a bit faster and more practical. Biggest Mistake Ever! The car that followed on from this was the most unreliable car I have ever owned and caused me nothing but grief. Man I miss that thing! *unusably low is a matter of opinion. I would happily chew up speed bumps and drive around with no more than one passenger so it didn’t scrape the floor too much.
Mark O’Donnell – Arrive & Drive Manager – My father’s Mini Cooper S had to be sold when my brother came along circa 1968, and he had to stop rallying. He had a company car at the time and my mum had to use the mini for work, of course that impressed her work colleagues, but sadly it had to be sold for something more practical. I wish that car still belonged to the family.
Annette Daley – ERA Entries Secretary – 1968 MG Midget – This is the car we wished we kept, mainly because we would like to drive around in it now for fun. It was the car I went on the first date with my husband, it broke down, and I had to get out and push start it!