With absolutely no mechanical knowledge I got advice from a friend of my uncle who had a garage in Kloof Street in Cape Town. His tutorage went along the lines of “undo these nuts and bolts, then come call me”. I slowly built up some understanding and eventually won the Class Z title in the GTR category – I entered the car as a 1000S (a South African homologation special) so that I could use the bigger-than-standard 1¾ carb.
Feeling more confident, I set my eyes on the series everyone wanted to be in – Argus Modified Saloons was the target for anyone wanting to race tin tops. Although the plan was to buy a race-ready Mini, I did not have that sort of cash. But luckily, through the likes of Rodney Goldberg and his modified-Mini racing cronies, I manage to get a partially prepared body (courtesy of the then-editor of CAR magazine), a scrapyard engine and Minilight rims. These parts and my limited knowledge came together in my garage.
Brian Johnston, who had the Victory Motors race Mini, was the most important person in my race career. He and I decided to race in Class F and go for the 1098cc motor, the short-stroke engine used in a few of the snub-nosed Minis and the Clubman. His mechanical knowledge was beyond anything I could even dream of but he guided me, and I built my own modified motor. However, as we were both in the same class, he held back on a few tuning details (as any wise racer would), so that I always finished second to him in class.