Throughout the years I have come across a lot of Top Gear fans who have all been wondering the same thing – What happened to the Paddy Hopkirk mini?
Top Gear ran a competition called Restoration Ripoff during Series 5, back in 2004. In each episode, James May would introduce a car which was worthy of restoration and asked viewers to vote via a phone poll to decide which would be restored. The list consisted of James Dean’s Lotus Ten, the Adams Probe 16 from A Clockwork Orange, Keith Moon’s 1938 Chrysler Wimbledon, a Range Rover previously owned by Princess Diana and Paddy Hopkirk’s racing Mini Cooper “407 ARX”.
In the eighth episode of the series, the 407 ARX Mini was crowned the winner and would be restored during Series 6, using the money raised by the phone call voters. However, this would be the last time we ever saw 407 ARX on Top Gear…
A few years later, rumors began to circulate about the car’s fate. One such story was that the garage selected to restore 407 ARX charged exorbitant fees in an attempt to rip off the BBC, and refused to release the car until they were paid. Another story would have you believe that the whole thing was cancelled and that the car was never finished. So what happened?
Shortly after 407 ARX won the competition, questions began to surface over the car’s true originality. Eventually it was found that what the BBC actually purchased was a car log book, along with a body shell, an engine and a collection of parts which were required to restore it. The problem here is the log book and the body shell had most likely never met before in their lives – the same could probably be said for the rest of the parts. As a result, restoring the car using these parts would make it nothing more than a “log book restoration” or perhaps a “replica”.
The logbook had ties to Paddy Hopkirk, but the car itself didn’t. The world of rallying is a very harsh and punishing environment – so harsh in fact that back in the 60’s and 70’s it was common practice to re-shell a car in order to keep it as straight as possible. ID numbers and registration plates would be carried across onto the new shell – not to defraud anyone (as the team owned all the cars) – but more so because the body shells were considered as being just another part number. Some estimate that 80-90% of the cars were re-shelled at least once during their rally duties, not counting the ones which have been re-shelled privately since then.
The problem is that some Mini Works cars now exist that have been totally re-shelled using little of the original and leaving one to evaluate whether the sum of parts constitute a genuine car or not. All of these factors make it pretty much impossible to determine whether or not any parts on this car went anywhere near Paddy Hopkirk, or in some way were responsible for anything noteworthy in the world of rallying.
Because of these issues, the BBC failed to get authentication on the car which then brought on the initial delays. But the exact details on what happened next may always remain a mystery. What we do know is that the car was eventually restored, and was seen in 2006 – it “looked fantastic” according to those who saw it up close.
I am surprised that Top Gear has not been able to deal with this. Usually when things don’t go as planed, they just say it frankly and the story stays however at least as interesting as it could be for us !
For example I am pretty sure that everything didn’t happen as expected in Afghanistan, in Burma, in Africa, in India, etc… but they just improvise and it makes the adventures even more exciting and funnier !
In that case with the Mini, they could have restored it anyway and say that even if they can’t be 100% sure that it was the right car, it’s a beautiful machine anyway. Or if the garage didn’t want to give it back, they could have imagined some funny program to mock them, as they usually do with people they don’t appreciate.
Such a silent and secret story is unusual and kind of weird according to me…
I know this is an old article but seriously, I wouldn’t take Ian Walkers word for anything. It just so happens that this guy who’s dad owned the car on the most popular BBC TV show there is and he knows everything there is to know about it so he just happened to come on this blog to say it was his dads? Sounds like some one trying to get attention to me. The car might be a re-sheled Mini that has little to do with the Mini they aired but I don’t think this guy knows the Mini from Adam. Either way it is kind of Douchey they never let us in on the secret. I really like Mini’s and was glad that car took the win to get restored. The least they could have done was admitted a mistake and showed the car anyway just so we could see the final product. Looks good though, glad I finally get to see it done.
In reply to your comment that i’m “just trying to get attention” and “think i know everything” i’d like to say neither of these accusations are true. What is absolutely true is that 407 ARX was scrapped in the early 70’s and the shell shown on TopGear was not the shell owned by my Dad in the mid ’60’s as it didn’t have the very obvious modifications that were present when he owned it. Having been scrapped in the early ’70’s the registration number was then ‘re-registered’ with DVLA in 1989.
99ways2die, you do seem like a bit of a blowhard. Sorry about that. At least Ian Walker used a real name.
Thanks a lot for the extra background information on the car Ian – it pretty much confirms my suspicions!
If only the Adams Probe won the vote, eh 🙂
My father owned the car in 1964/65 and rallied it at the weekends and drove it to work in the week. It then passed into other people’s hands and i’m reliasbly informed that in the early 70’s it was broken for spares and all the rally bits sold. (Back then it would have been just a knackered old Mini, ‘works’ cars did not have the nostalgic value that they have today). In the TopGear broadcast it was stated that it was the original shell – it wasn’t as whilst in my father’s posession he carried out some very obvious modifications to the bodyshell that were not on the shell TopGear showed. The original 407 ARX no longer exists but in my opinion there does exist a very nice replica of a works rally Mini of the early ’60’s that even has ‘407 ARX’ as its registration number!