Neals Motors rally Hillman Hunter
Andy Chapman – Rally Hunter report
The Hunter started life as a rally car in 1967. It was driven by Peter Janson and navigated by Ric Bainbridge in three events, and prepared by Neals Motors. Neals Motors had their work cut out just keeping the car running, and their lack of experience in preparation, plus a reluctance to seek and act on other peoples’ experience, meant that the car was never adequately prepared. Consequently it proved unreliable, it wore out faster and was damaged un-necessarily. To put it bluntly, the car wore out before Neals worked out how to prepare it. Examples include:
• Poor air cleaners that allowed dust to chop out the rings and bores;
• Exhaust system fell off in every event;
• Laminated windscreen was not fitted;
• Front suspension and brakes were totally inadequate;
• Sump guard bent the cross-member, engine mounting brackets and brake supports;
• Electrical wiring had continuous shorts;
• Engine performance in general, and valve bounce at 5,500 rpm in particular, not addressed;
• Handling balance (chronic understeer) not addressed.
Results and wear were certainly also affected by over-enthusiastic, indeed plainly destructive driving, for which Peter is notorious. At the end of 1967 Neals Motors, frightened by a bill of $1500 (which was real money in 1967) withdrew their support, dismayed at the ease and rapidity with which the car had been destroyed in only three events.
Blue Ribbon 2nd outright
Southern Cross 3rd in class. Car damaged extensively
Alpine Finished. Driven competitively but car left road
In Feb 1968 Surrey Motors and Andy Chapman took over the management of the car. To date the arrangement has been working satisfactorily. In every event Surrey Motors has been the nominated entrant, and over the period they have contributed $70 towards entry fees and spare parts. In addition they have supplied spare parts at 30% off and have made all facilities freely available.
By way of return the car has been campaigned in 7 events (4 Vic Championship, 1 National Championship 1 International event and 1 Open event). The highest outright placing gained was 4th (= third on points) in the Experts in July, with Clarke Ballard navigating. The lowest was 10th.
The car has Surrey Motors’ name written on it and has been prominently displayed at every opportunity. Considerable publicity was derived from the BP Rally including several minutes in the Movietone Newsreel, by leading the field for almost half the Rally and being first car into the crowded Stage ends at Queenbeyan and Merrimbula. The crowd at Merrimbula gave us quite a rousing cheer! After the BP, the car, complete with mud, was displayed in Surrey Motors for a week and drew considerable interest.
There was good radio coverage of the Midnight and the Hunter was honourably mentioned. The Australian Postal Institute magazine devoted a full page to the car and driver. The car has also been mentioned in the local press.
All told, Surrey Motors have been getting a good return on their money.
During the year Andy Chapman has spent a total of $1068 on the car without including entry fees, petrol or oil. The breakup shows that about $300 was sent on preparation, $400 on maintenance and $300 on running expenses such as tyres and brakes. Receipts are available to substantiate every item.
Condition of car
The car was in very poor condition when taken over. (50% of mechanical parts had to be replaced). Poor repairs after Southern Cross damage skewed cross-member and messed up steering geometry.
The present mechanical condition is good (far better than when received). The car has been extensively developed to the stage where performance, handling and stopping are excellent, and reliability has been achieved.
However the car is not eligible to compete in the Southern Cross (and certain other events) because of body strengthening that Neals Motors did in repairing the car after the previous Southern Cross.
At the end of this season the car will have deteriorated again to the extent that it is unreliable and uneconomic to seriously persevere with. It has been proved repeatedly in the past and also by my experience that the trial-life of any car is 12 months or less. Looking back now, it is clear that the car should have been written off in Dec 1967.
More is known now than ever before about the preparation and development that a Hunter requires. It is now possible to accurately estimate the preparation and running costs. It takes 12 months or one season to sort out a vehicle, and that applies to any person (Harry Firth included) or organisation. The groundwork on the Hunter is done, so now it is over to Chrysler!
The car has shown that it has the potential to win outright and Andy Chapman has shown his ability to put in winning times. His driving has been fast, consistent and reliable, and he has not bent the car.
Author: Andrew Chapman, tidied up by Clarke Ballard
Date: Original Dec 1968, tidy-up April 2014