Friday July 13, 2018
The news that Paddy Hopkirk MBE will be attending the Lancaster Insurance Classic & Supercars Show at Sherborne Castle on 15th July has prompted me to re-watch some of the footage of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Of course, I could have selected news coverage of many other events but for me (and, I suspect, approximately several million other enthusiasts), the Morris Cooper S, registration 33 EJB, is one of the most famous vehicles in the history of motorsport.
Some 299 cars took part in the Rally, with Mr. Hopkirk and his co-driver Henry Liddon, the Cooper S of Raymond Baxter, the Ford Cortinas of Sydney and Alan Allard, and the Hillman Imp of Michael Frostick all departing from Minsk. To quote Christy Campbell in her indispensable book Mini: An Intimate Biography:
“The Cooper S would be aimed at the highest-profile international motorsport event of all, the Monte Carlo Rally. For 1964 BMC entered six Minis - and twenty-four more were entered by private teams, not all of them British. But three red-painted Minis with their white roofs would shine like stars, the Morris Mini Cooper S (33 EJB) driven by Paddy Hopkirk, LBL 6D with Rauno Aaltonen at the wheel, and AJB 44B driven by Timo Mäkinen.”
The rest is automotive history, and the reporter from Motor Sport noted that:
“The eventual winner came as something of a surprise to the rally world as well as to the successful crew, Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon, who even by the end of the last test did not realise that their performances had been good enough to secure first place.”
Indeed, such was the impact of the victorious Hopkirk/Liddon Mini on the general public that the car and its crew topped the bill on ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium, appearing alongside Bruce Forsyth, Kathy Kirby and Tommy Cooper.
And 54 years ago, the cinema was a vital way of vicariously experiencing the 1964 Monte for motor competition devotees of all ages. In a 2003 interview, Mr. Hopkirk reflected that ‘we didn't have the same TV coverage in our day. So the folks back home used to crowd round the wireless for news of our progress, which all added to the fascination of the event’. Equally, although a newsreel could not provide live material, it could and did convey the drama of the completion:
1964 Monte Carlo Rally
The footage is silent, but the images are priceless; the Metairie/May Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the
Verrier/Chopin Citroen DS19 and, of course, P Hopkirk and H Liddon in Car No. 37. There is also the "Flying Finn" Timo Mäkinen, partnered by Patrick Vanson in the Cooper S No. 182 and what strikes the viewer is the sheer variety of cars that 33 EJB had to beat. ThePathé cameraman captures Graham Hill at the wheel of a Falcon Sprint, Erik Carlsson in his two-stroke Saab 96 plus a Ford Zodiac MK. III, a Type 3 VW 1500S “Notchback”, a Volvo Amazon, an MG 1100 and so many other beautiful cars in full spate. And the dominant memory of this 126-second glimpse into the Rally is the sheer excitement of the event.
This newsreel merited an Oscar on the grounds of sheer brilliance. Firstly it co-stars Paddy Hopkirk with 33 EJB. Secondly, the footage was shot in brilliantly defined colour, allowing you to savour the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner in action, including interior shots and all of the background vehicles, from a MGB Roadster to a Vauxhall Cresta PB. And thirdly, Mr. Hopkirk uses a standard Morris Cooper S for a demonstration of everyday driving techniques; from dealing with the clot-like owner of an Oxford Series VI Traveller to praising a motorist in a Riley One Point Five.