To the untrained eye this might look like a well-kept classic Mini estate, but lurking underneath is a highly-tuned race car that’s due to hit the track for the first time this month.
The 1964 Austin Mini Countryman – not a Traveller – has been saved from the scrapheap, thanks to one enthusiast who has turned it into the ideal classic competition car.
Stripped out to make it ultra lightweight, it tips the scales at just 630kg and has an upgraded engine to 130bhp. That means it develops 206bhp of power per tonne, which is quite a bit more than a new Volkswagen Golf GTI you can buy today.
Not your usual classic: This 1964 Mini Countryman was a rotten shell just four months ago but has been given a new breath of life as a finely-tuned period racer
The owner of this unlikely racer is Mark Burnett, director of Burlen Limited which makes carburetters for classic models.
To ensure the Countryman’s modest beginnings aren’t forgotten, Mark’s even going to fit the boot with a period-correct wicker picnic basket and blanket to cover the fuel tank and add some fun to the race.
The idea for racing a Countryman was formed in the paddock of the Goodwood Revival in September 2018, where Mark was racing.
A friend mentioned his family owned a stripped and rotten – but entirely original – Countryman that needed some TLC.
After a bit of research, it transpired that an individual had actually homologated the Countryman for racing back in the ’60s.
It’s not the first time an estate model has been used as a racer.
British Touring Car Championship fans can cast their minds back to the iconic Volvo 850 of the 1990s and, more recently, the Team Dynamics Honda Civic Tourer from 2014.
But this Mini is the first time an estate model has been built for the circuit to ‘Appendix K’ period racing specification.
Stripped out to make it ultra lightweight, it tips the scales at just 630kg and has an upgraded engine to 130bhp. That means it develops 206bhp of power per tonne
A roll cage installed inside means it passes the safety requirements to go on track and also improves rigidity so it corners with more stability
The project, started in December 2018, will be completed in time for the car to race at the Goodwood Members’ Meet on April 7 and 8
The project started in December 2018 and will conclude ahead of its competitive racing debut at the Goodwood Members’ Meet on April 7 and 8.
That means it has been transformed from a rotten shell to a perfect racing car in around 16 weeks.
The shell has beenm eticulously restored and remains as standard, right down to the correct wood trim
Mark Burnett, director of Burlen Limited which makes carburettors for classic models, found previous plans to convert a classic Countryman to a race car and followed those guidelines
The 1964 Mini Countryman weighs around a third of today’s BMW-made Countryman (left). The classic competition car has 130bhp, but being so light it has a power-per-tonne figure of 206bhp – more than the latest VW Golf GTI hot hatch (right)
The engine is a 1,293cc Swiftune racing unit which develops 130bhp and runs high-performance H4 SU carbs.
That’s quite a lot of poke for a vehicle with an overall weight of 630kg.
Not only is that almost a third of the weight of the current Mini Countryman produced by BMW, but the power-to-tonne performance of the 1964 classic is 36bhp better than Volkswagen’s latest Golf GTI hot hatch.
There have been examples of estate-car racers in the past, such as the Volvo 850 British Touring Car entry in the 90s
Team Dynamics also ran a Honda Civic Tourer estate in the BTCC in 2014
Not that you’d know it by looking at the collectible Mini.
That’s because the shell – though restored – remains as standard, right down to the correct wood trim.
However, inside it’s had all seats bar the driver’s stripped out and a welded roll-cage installed for safety measures.
The full running gear is pre-1966 Mini Cooper specification and even the paint is the original Tartan Red as specified when new.
Onwer Mark Burnett told This is Money that his Countryman should have a competitive advantage over the conventional Minis it will race against at Goodwood
The longer wheelbase will mean more high-speed corner stability and also makes the Mini more aerodynamic
As well as competing at the Goodwood Members’ Meet this month, Mark promises to race the car regularly in Appendix K events
‘Initial testing has been completed and the car is fast, strong and very stiff,’ Mark told This is Money.
‘Despite the Countryman running to the same rules as the Mini Coopers that it will line up against on the grid, the four-inch-longer wheelbase will be beneficial.
‘Also, improved aerodynamics provided by the longer, flat roof will aid speed and airflow and make it superior to the standard Minis.’
Post its Goodwood debut, the car will be regularly raced in eligible championships in the hands of Mark himself.
The engine is a 1293cc Swiftune racing unit which develops 130bhp and runs high-performance H4 SU carbs
Everything about the vehicle is period, right down to the buckled lock for the boot doors
Mark has promised to fit the car with a period-correct wicker picnic basket and blanket to cover the fuel tank in the back