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Cross brothers’ racing Morris Minor ‘Bluebell’ – Man and Machine

Cross brothers’ racing Morris Minor ‘Bluebell’ – Man and Machine Classic and Performance Car

Raising a toast to the Cross brothers’ trusty racing Morris Minor, which regularly sees action at Goodwood and other events


‘I’m a big A-series fan, and we’d always had Minors,’ says Andy Cross of Bluebell, the Minor he’s owned for almost 30 years. ‘Mum had one, dad had a Traveller, my brother Mark had a saloon that he squeezed his drumkit in, and I had a van as I was into karting. So when I wanted to go racing, it seemed the thing to do.’
 
The Cross brothers found Bluebell in a London lock-up. ‘It’d been racing in the BARC Classic Touring Car Championship for pre-’59 cars for about 15 years, with no success. So we thought we could make it work a bit better and concentrated on making it more reliable.’ That worked, because they won the Championship in 1991 and 1993, when the overall winner was decided on class results. ‘It wasn’t a case of winning races outright, just how well you did in your class – although sometimes we were up near the race winners, too.’
 
Remarkably, the motor is a 1-litre, based on an overbored 948cc Morris Minor original, following the old club rules. However, Andy’s building ‘something with a little more torque’ but still within the HRDC’s 1200cc Class D. ‘We run a Weber 40, although we used to have to run a single 1¼in SU, as standard. I’m not sure if the car goes any better – it just makes more noise. 
 
‘We dyno’ed it at 65bhp at the wheels, and it’s all about conserving momentum, building up speed over the first few laps. We don’t slow down much and, before we had an LSD, that forced us to open up every corner, widening the radius as much as possible and treating them like straights so we wouldn’t pick up the inside rear wheel and waste power. But it’s frustrating when bigger, faster cars overtake and then brake in front of you. We’ve got front discs but don’t use them much – we’ve made two sets of pads last 30 years. Conversely, if the faster cars brake where we do, they tend not to make the corner.’

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Andy was delighted when Bluebell was invited to Goodwood in 2012. There, it was driven by BTCC ace Andy Jordan, whose father Mike had competed against this very car in the 1970s. ‘Mark is a TV producer and works with a lot of BTCC drivers,’ says Andy Cross. ‘We wanted to get them involved, so over the years quite a few have had a go. The Minor isn’t fast, but it handles well, even with lever-arm dampers, and is great fun. Andy said it was the best fun he’d ever had at a meeting, and that led directly to the Jordans getting involved in Historics, building an A40.’
 
There was another invite to Goodwood for the 2015 Members’ Meeting, and a further HRDC success at the Donington Historic Festival – Bluebell’s 38th class win. Then came the inaugural Chateau Impney Hill Climb in 2015, where Mark took fourth place in the Production Saloon Cars class.
 
‘With the 649 cam there’s nothing below 5000rpm, and it tops out at 7200, so we only go up to 7500 – though I worked out from Mark’s speed over the line that he must’ve been pulling about 7800, as he used only first and second.
 
‘We could really use a shorter diff for hillclimbing than our sole 4.875:1, but I’m hoping the bigger engine will produce more torque and so allow us to use a higher gear. At the moment, Bluebell’s a little screamer, but totally unsuited to both hillclimbing and racing…’

Words: Paul Hardiman

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