Although not really about a Mini, this story has many similarities to the building and maintenance of Mini derivatives.
I first met Tina on Valentines day in 1971, at a garage in Hull where her Brother-in-law was repairing her Morris 1100. I had not long finished my Mini Clubman and he wanted information about registration etc, as he was restoring a Standard Vanguard, which had no documentation.
I was really taken with Tina and the following week, on another, this time unnecessary visit to the garage she was there again, and I plucked up courage to ask her out. We were inseparable for a great many years and shared a love of cars and especially rallying, and frequently marshalled the Cropton forest stage together on the RAC rally. This was in the days of Roger Clark and the all conquering Escorts. Eventually, the 1100 became too much to contemplate repairing bodywise, and I suggested that we look around for a body-shell to put all of the very good mechanical parts of the 1100 into, as I had previously done with the Mini. We found a very lightly roof-damaged 1300 GT shell at a salvage yard in Leeds, I think for £85. This was delivered to my garage, where we straightened and re-vinyled the roof before painting the whole shell, inside and out, in Ford Electric Blue. During the building process, we shared the Mini for going to and from work and socialising, so it worked quite hard for its living during that year. When completed, we managed to get the authorities to issue a very similar number to the Mini, the GT being GAT 404L and the Mini was WAT 404J.
Wow!, that was taken 30 years ago, when I had hair!
We were fortunate to get hold of quite a lot of new old stock parts for the build up, such as sub-frames, suspension and a number of more minor parts.
During the build up, Tina said she knew of a breakers at Saltend, near Hull, who had recently started up, and whose prices were very reasonable. This for me heralded the start of a 30 year old friendship, with David and Pat Willingham and their family, at what has now grown into Willingham car spares, a company well known over the North of England and beyond, for their fair dealing and professionalism. I think we bought some of the doors for the GT, to replace a couple of the un-useable ones from the 1100, as well as other smaller items.
The 1300GT wheel trims were rather distinctive, but when we priced them, they were almost £6 each, so we went around to the Firestone tyre dealers in Hull and bought a set of brand new Dunlop Alloy wheels for £5.50 each! They had a very similar look to the trims, but of course were the real thing.
In 1975 I left Hull to go to Teacher Training College in Huddersfield, so Tina used to visit me in the GT occasionally, on the weekends that I couldn't make it back. Her Brother Maurice and sister-in-law Monica also lived in Huddersfield (still do in fact) and we became great friends, and I still drop in to see them now and then. I landed a Lecturing Job in Southport and the little blue car was pressed into service for frequent visits at weekends and one or two Holidays. Eventually it was sold to an ex-student of mine, who unfortunately had it written off in a rear end shunt, some time later. Tina and I gradually drifted apart, and I got married to Christine, who is also a car enthusiast and had a 1275 GT Mini when I first met her. She now also has a Lotus Elan plus 2. I have to thank modern technology and the wonders of the Internet, because Tina and I have made contact again after 18 years! and have met up a couple of times for a drink and a chat. Not surprisingly, she is still into cars and has a really smart BMW 3 series, in Mauritius blue with a nice plate to finish it off - still into numbers too! We are now both trying to find the photos which we took of the shell and the finished article almost 30 years ago - I'm sure some will appear soon!
You don't see many of these Austin 1300 GTs now, but there was a really tidy example at the NEC Classic Car show a year or so back, in Bronze Yellow, which was originally my Mini colour.
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