The History of our 1963 Austin Cooper S, “129 LNP”

This document is an attempt to organize the history of this car in a chronological manner. Just like the car, it is a work in progress. Contributions are greatly appreciated – if you have any information, photos, or corrections to this document please contact us.


Beginnings:
July 1st, 1963: a 1071cc Austin Cooper S in Surf Blue/OEW rolls off the production line.

July 8th, 1963: The car is dispatched to the Stour Valley Motor Company in Stourbridge, UK. Simon Wheatcroft, MKI Register for the Mini Cooper Register, confirms the MCR archives show that only one of the 32 Surf Blue Austin 1071’s manufactured by July 8th 1963 went to this area of the UK.

Steve Neal purchases the car and starts racing it. Steve lives not far from Stourbridge. He is racing with the Equipe Arden team/Jim Whitehouse.

Please visit the MKI Performance website for more info on Arden.


1964 : Steve Neal – British Touring Car Championship days
For the 1964 season, Steve competes extensively in the BTCC. August 4th, 1964: Mallory Molyslip Trophy race, Steve Neal is racing 129 LNP. In a rare colour photo, the car is clearly Surf Blue at this time.

Sometime after the Mallory race in August and before the 1965 Monte, 129 LNP is re-shelled. The donor body is a Tweed Grey Morris Mini Minor Saloon, Super de-Luxe, with a build date of July 31st, 1964. The Morris is dispatched to BMC dealer Appleyards in Bradford, who were closely connected to BMC Comps and employed ex BMC Competitions Manager Marcus Chambers in their Service Department and the legendary Tony Fall in sales. Appleyards supported a number of privateer rally drivers and supplied many race teams with cars (like Vita) and also purchased numerous surplus works rally cars from Abingdon, so it’s quite possible that the replacement body shell for 129 LNP had a “Works style” retrofit for the upcoming Monte Carlo rally.

Regardless of who did the conversion work, all the critical “S” components from the original body of 129 LNP were transferred to the Morris donor body, including the full interior, mechanicals, and things like the “magic wand” shifter blanking plate, door check straps and retainers, exterior badges, and the boot board brackets. A hole was also made in the roof for the rally spot light and for the RH fuel tank. Great care was taken to repaint the replacement shell inside and out, Arden blue with a silver roof.

When we began to restore the car, a careful examination of the body revealed the original Tweed Grey clearly visible under the layers of paint (metallic blue/silver and Kimes blue), Areas that did not have the Arden blue included under the boot lid seal, the insulation behind the door cards, headliner, & rear parcel bins, and under the lower dash rail covering. The engine compartment and underside also remained the Tweed Grey. Another early clue was that the boot had been re-drilled for “Austin Cooper S” badges, and the original Morris ones were welded up. In fact the re-badge work was rather crooked, and photos of the car from Steve racing it at Oulton Park were identically and uniquely mis-aligned matching up perfectly with later photos of the boot when Bob Kimes was racing it, and in it’s “as found” condition. Another more obvious clue it was not the orginal body was the partial chassis number stamped into the RH bulkhead stiffener. This information, combined with the unusual blue interior and silver roof colour, rally style dash & wiring, rally light hole in the roof, switches on the drivers door, and many other small details all helped bring together the pieces of the puzzle that the car was in fact 129 LNP, albeit not the original body shell.

What became of the original body shell for 129 LNP?


1965: Steve Neal – The Monte Carlo Rally and busy BTCC schedule
January 15 – 20th, Steve Neal and co-driver Norman Parrish start the rally from London. 129 LNP is entered as car #122 (this number matches the photo and starters list) and appears to be in Arden paint scheme, which is later confirmed by Steve via email to us in 2014. Sadly they DNF; Steve was the leading Privateer entry at Chamonix. Things went seriously wrong on the stage over the Col de Turini where they met heavy snow, and as Privateers were amongst the tail enders, none of who made over the pass.

For the remainder of 1965, the car is very actively raced by Neal in many BTCC events under the Equipe Arden team, in the Arden colours of  metallic blue/silver roof livery.

In the fall of 1965 at the conclusion of the race season, 129 LNP is offered for sale.

In late 1965 or early 1966, 129 LNP is sold and departed the UK. In an email to us in July of 2014, Steve Neal confirms he sold 129 LNP to Fred Opert Racing in New Jersey. Fred sells the car to Charles “Chuck” Dietrich of Sandusky, OH.

In a phone conversation with Fred Opert in 2014, he confirmed that he imported “all of Chuck’s race cars”. There are many adverts in Autoweek with reference to Fred Opert Racing selling, parts, engine performance kits, and race cars of all types, as well as importing rare and specialty street cars from Europe. Fred started his import business in 1965, and recently passed away in 2016.


1966: Chuck & Suzy Dietrich
After 129 LNP was imported by Fred Opert, it was sold to Charles “Chuck” Dietrich of Sandusky, OH. Chuck owned a busy VW dealership in Sandusky, and was also a dealer for Elva cars. He was an excellent driver and held many lap records at several race tracks in the US, and raced many different types of cars. He held the distinction of having SCCA licence #1, to honor his contribution to motorsport and for holding a continuous race license longer than any other member. He passed away in 2013, and Suzy passed away in 2015.

Chuck & Bob Kimes were good friends and racing buddies, and potentially they purchased race Minis at the same time from Fred Opert. On April 6th, 1966, Bob Kimes purchases a Morris Cooper S from Fred Opert, which he later sold to Roger Koch in 1968. In a 2014 email to us, Roger recalls these details about the Morris he purchased from Bob Kimes: “The car I bought from Bob Kimes was originally that blue-green, turquoise color (I can’t remember the OEM names of the colors).  It came to the U.S. as a race car…it was noted “Not for street use” on the bill of sale from Fred Opert Racing.  I was told that it came over along with another Mini race car which was bought by Chuck Dietrich, and that he raced it briefly.  That probably was about 1966″. 

It is quite likely the two cars (Bob Kimes Morris and Chuck’s 129 LNP) arrived in New Jersey around the same time, perhaps even on the same ship. The date on the bill of sale from Fred Opert to Bob Kimes is April 6/1966, which would have been just enough time to prep the cars to start racing for the 1966 season. Chuck may had decided to get a Mini after racing one in the March 1966 Sebring 4 Hour Trans Am race, where he co-drove a Mini with his wife, Suzy.

The first confirmed evidence of Chuck racing 129 LNP is from his personal record of class wins, where the Mini is listed as winning the national class 9/11/66 with an average speed of 65.99 miles per hour. The next positive record, with both photos and race results, is at the Nassau Speed Weeks event, December of 1966. The unique thing about these race results is that they actually mention the car’s registration, race number, and colour. Chuck finishes 18th. This photograph is the only colour photo of the car in Arden blue/silver that we have found to date.


1967:
This was a very busy year for Chuck, and he drove a variety of cars in several classes. In addition to driving 129 LNP in C-Sedan throughout the 1967 season, Chuck also drove his BMW-Elva and his McLaren Formula B. There are several references that his wife Suzy was driving the Mini as well. Chuck was regularly setting records at many tracks he raced at.


1968:
In July of 2014, Jane Dietrich, Chuck’s widow and second wife (after Suzy), tells us in a phone conversation that Chuck sold the Mini in late 1968. This was the same year that Chuck and Suzy parted ways, and Jane and Chuck got together. During a telephone conversation in 2014, Jane told us “the Mini was the family favorite race car. I recall it being blue in colour with a lighter colour roof”.

Legendary Mini racer Jack Baumgarder of Mansfield, OH, very kindly lent us some of his archived newspaper articles, race results, and photos from 1966 to 1968. Jack’s collection is a fascinating and detailed history of his success racing a Mini, and a number of the articles and results include mention of 129 LNP being campaigned by Chuck Dietrich, who competed in the same region as Jack. We think that one of the main reasons Chuck sold 129 LNP at the end of the 1968 season was that he was unable to compete with Jack and his team mate Don Schmitt, who dominated C Sedan in 1967 and 1968 in the NE Ohio SCCA regions.


1969 – 1976: Robert “Bob” Kimes
Bob Kimes from Dayton, OH was a very active, successful racer and well a respected member of the Western Ohio Region of SCCA. Before Minis, Bob raced a Series II Sunbeam Alpine that he purchased new in 1960. This car still exists – visit http://www.bobkimes.com/ for more info about the Alpine.

Bob sold the Alpine and began racing Minis in 1965. His first race Mini was a Cooper, possibly from Cooper Car Company. Over the years he owned at least four race Minis and several street cars, all painted his signature blue with a white and blue racing stripe. While the colour scheme is highly recognizable, it makes it very difficult to determine which car was racing from old photos, particularly black and white ones. We do know that in April of 1966 Bob took delivery of a Morris Cooper S from Fred Opert, and Bob may have raced both the Cooper and the Morris in separate classes (D & C Sedan) during that time period. In November of 1968, Bob Kimes sells the Morris S to Roger Koch. This is likely the time Bob buys 129 LNP from Chuck, probably at the end of the 1968 racing season, or possibly early in 1969.

In the early 1970’s, SCCA implements logbooks. 129 LNP is issued a logbook on April 11th 1972. The car is listed as being 1530 lbs, blue with dark blue and white stripes. The car number is #86 at this time. The last recorded entry in the SCCA logbook with Bob Kimes racing is October 1st, 1976. The event was the Western Ohio Region Games races.


1977 – 2012:
On March 17th 1977, Bob Kimes sells 129 LNP to Thomas Baggott of Dayton OH. Tom’s first race is recorded in the SCCA log book as May 7th, 1977 at a MAR Regional race. Tom races the car extensively for many years in SCCA GT classes, with the final log book entry being May 11th, 1994 at IRO. After this the car is put into storage.


2012 to present:  Toybox Racing
We purchased the car from Tom Baggott of Dayton OH in October of 2012. The car was specifically restored to compete in the 2014 Can-Am Mini Challenge Race, and was driven to an outstanding 2nd place overall finish (and new lap record!) by Nick Swift, an amazing achievement against the best and fastest Minis in North America!


 

Toybox Racing is very grateful to the following for providing information that assisted in verifying the history of 129 LNP:

Pete Flanagan
Mini Cooper Register/Simon Wheatcroft
MK 1 Performance/Mark Forster
Charlie Pollet
Tom Baggott
The Motor Racing Research Center, Watkins Glen, NY
The Ohio Mini Owners
Steve Neal
Fred Opert
Roger Koch
Jack Baumgardner
Randy McConnell
Mrs. J. Dietrich
Dennis Obee
John Hedeen
Paul Strieby
Family of Bob Kimes
Terry O’Neil
British Motor Heritage