The Monte Carlo rally often conjures up images of rally Minis with snow tyres tearing up the icy hairpins of the Col de Turini mountain pass and it’s for this very reason why the rally still resonates with historic motorsport fans. The Monte Carlo rally is still a jewel in the crown for what is the oldest event in the WRC calendar, with competitors starting off in different countries before ending up in Monaco. The Monte Carlo Historique follows the main event but with pre-1980 cars which competed in the original Monte Carlo.
UK cars start off in Glasgow, with only a handful of the hardcore vehicles making the journey up to John O’Groats, which was the original starting point in the ‘60s. Cars then make their way down to Harrogate and then on to Banbury, which for the third year running acts as the Passage Control for the Historique. Though the majority of the 75 or so cars chose not to use this stop, and continued straight to Dover en route to Calais, Car & Classic were there to meet, greet and see off the 12 cars that did make the stop.
Banbury was the original Passage Control for the Monte Carlo rally, so to mark the occasion, the 23rd event was celebrated in Banbury town centre with over 100 classic and rally heritage cars. It provided a rare but very welcome classic car meet and was well attended by many classic car fans.
The iconic BMC 25 Race Transporter bus is one of twenty specifically built for the BMC Competition Department. They were designed by Pininfarina and once BMC wrapped up their competition programme in Abingdon, they were sold off to private individuals. On the same Abingdon thread, this MGB was also seen at the recent HCRC event this time promoting WRC50; an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the London to Mexico rally.
An icon for the modern age, this is the Colin McRae Group A Subaru Impreza WRC. This car is part of the Banbury based Prodrive collection, who are associated with Subarus rally success. Several privately owned examples of the Impreza were also displayed, with all generations of the Impreza on display.
Organised by Cherwell Council, the market place and Bridge Street were shut down to normal traffic, as classics and rally cars took over for the day.
The Mayor of Banbury inspects a 1953 MG TD, one of the 100 or so cars on display. The turnout was excellent for a mid-week event in the middle of winter.
The Berkeley Enthusiasts’ Club displayed five cars, one of which completed last year’s Historique event. Berkeley cars were popular prior to the arrival of the Mini and Austin Healey Sprite, appealing to sporting motorists on a budget.
The Beetle also had a successful career in motorsports, winning several races in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They were tough, easy to tune and particularly reliable in either cold or hot conditions. Another VW icon is this original Golf GTI. This former VAG press car is thought to be one the first RHD examples in the UK. Owner, Graham, has spent at least 800 hours on restoration and is busy saving another early GTI.
Ford deployed a successful promotional motorsports campaign with their Cortina GT. Buoyed by a class win at the 1963 Monte Carlo rally, it paved the way for the Lotus Cortina. Surprisingly, there was just one standard Ford Escort at the event, but the connection was very evident. MK1 and MK2 cars are still popular in historic rally events and continue to appreciate in both value and credibility.
The Sunbeam Alpine was a successful competition car and contributed to Britain’s post-war achievements by competing in the Coupe des Alpes event with four cars driven by Stirling Moss, John Fitch, G Murray-Frame and Sheila van Damm. The later series had its most notable achievement at Le Mans, with this 1962 Harrington Le Mans model. This Harrington has led a charmed life, having been stored in a car dealer’s showroom until the early ‘70s. It has since been restored and is now regularly used at historic rally events.
This can only be one thing. Yes, that’s right a Listerbell STR. A ‘re-imagination’ of the iconic Lancia Stratos powered by a 350bhp and a 3.5 litre supercharged Toyota V6. Almost certainly better built and easier to drive than the original but fitted with so many authentic features, many people were fooled. Not to be outdone by the young pretender, an original Lancia in the form of the successful Fulvia lines up a row of BMC rally heroes.
This Daimler Conquest was driven by Robert Grounds, whose mother drove an identical car exactly 65 years ago in the 1955 Monte Carlo rally. In keeping with the theme of family, Brothers Colin and Richard Levin entered their Austin A40 as a tribute to their late father, who took part in the same rally in the same car 25 years ago.
First timers to the rally, husband and wife Doug and Ruth Martin used a beautifully restored Fiat 2300 S Coupe as their entrant to the rally. They are followed by another couple who are taking ‘Willow’ their Wolseley 1500 on a sightseeing tour including Paris and a skiing trip to the Alps. Each car is expected to cover a minimum of 1,500 miles over eight days.
Open top sports cars were a theme for the British leg of the Monte Carlo Historique event. Nuala Dowies’ Triumph Spitfire is a replica of the most successful Spitfire of the Monte Carlo. The 1936 Riley is the oldest car at the event, owner John Lomas specialises in Rileys and has successfully competed in every Historique in a pre-war Riley.
As the streets return back to normal, Car & Classic wistfully takes a few parting shots of cars going back home. This V8 Tatra was extremely popular with the crowds throughout the day. And to cap it all off, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture three Standard examples together in the centre of Banbury. A great day out with some amazing machines of all shapes and sizes. Here’s to 2021.