Tall stories, small car
Get the inside story on the 1968 Morris Mini Cooper S entered in RACQ’s MotorFest competition.
To celebrate MotorFest 2020, each week, RACQ Living will be conducting a Q&A with an entrant to find out a little bit more about them and their prized vehicle.
For the first instalment, John Shobbrook, a passionate Morris Mini enthusiast, shares the story of how his 1968 Morris Mini Cooper S rose like a phoenix from the ashes after it survived a bushfire in 2013.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of your 1968 Morris Mini Cooper S?
It has had quite a fascinating history and was saved from a bushfire. I was living in Coonabarabran, in north-west New South Wales in 2013, when a bushfire tore through our community. I was away in Brisbane at the time, but luckily my son-in-law, who lived nearby, raced over to save the car. He was courageous and drove out there as the fire was approaching the house. It was incredibly dangerous as 55 properties, including ours, were destroyed in the fire.
My wife and I were not able to recover anything from the house after the bushfire bar the Mini. You can imagine the toll that takes on you. We lost everything. I do not have photographs of when we first met, got engaged or of my parents. There are not many things in my life now that I owned before 2013 as it all went up in flames. But I still have my Mini, and I will always cherish it.
What makes the 1968 Morris Mini Cooper S so special?
Well, outside of surviving a bushfire, it is a loving tribute to Irish rally driver Paddy Hopkirk and his 1964 Mini Cooper S which won the Monte Carlo Rally. I have always had a keen interest in BMC (British Motor Corporation) works rally cars. They were regarded as giant-killers as the little cars used to beat factory-sponsored Fords. I have changed the look of the vehicle to that of a rally car. Even the insides are the same down to the instrumentation and carpet. It is not meant to be a clone of the car, because of the year difference (1964 and 1968), but more a loving tribute.
Do you have any future modifications or changes planned for the Mini?
None for this one. But my son-in-law is also mad keen on the Minis. So, the dream is still smouldering that maybe one day we can build an exact clone of the 1964 Mini Cooper S which won the Monte Carlo Rally.
We had begun work on building a replica of Hopkirk’s car, but it was also lost in the fire. I had a donor body of another Mini, sourced the right engine from England and found the right pieces from around the world to make an exact clone. I was in contact with Monte Carlo Rally BMC Deputy Competitions Manager who sent me the build sheets of Hopkirk’s cars, never-before-published images and layouts of where the instruments were positioned in the custom-built instrument panel. I had everything ready right down to the steering wheel and matching patterned carpet before the fire. It will be a mammoth effort to find all the parts again. We need to start from square one.
What kind of reaction does your Mini get from people?
It makes people happy. You always have little kids and their parents pointing, smiling, and waving at you. It just gives you a nice feeling when you are driving around. Guys on their bikes and people you would not expect pull up beside you and start talking through the window. Also, a lot of people come up and say, “Oh my aunt or uncle had a Mini,” everyone seems to have a relative in the past who had a Mini and they all love them.
Caption: Actor Paul Giamatti admiring John's 1968 Morris Mini Cooper S.
What would it mean for you to win the RACQ MotorFest Judges Choice award?
It would be an unbelievable and very humbling experience considering the quality of vehicles entered. I am a petrolhead, and I love going to MotorFest to look at all of them. I would be very proud and hug my little car and say, “Good on ya mate. You make people smile,” and isn’t that a good thing in this world.
For more details and to enter your vehicle visit racq.com/motorfest. Get in quick as nominations for the competition close at midnight on 31 July, 2020.
Caption: John Shobbrook with his 1968 Morris Mini Cooper S.