THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.3
  March 2000

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Leyland Australia Rally Cooper.

One of the last cars ever built at the British Leyland Competition Department at Abingdon was a car registered BLA-532. It was driven by Andrew Cowan in both Australia and New Zealand.


This one and another were built just before the factory decided to discontinue racing in England. These cars were built especially for Leyland Australia for the 1970 Southern Cross Rally but a shipping delay due to a dock strike prevented them coming by boat.

Having some faith in the durability, the cars were driven across Europe to Hamburg to enable shipment to Australia. The factory had fitted limited slip diffs but these were removed and replaced by standard diffs before being raced.

Brian Culcheth drove the car in the Southern Cross Rally but six days before he had rolled it and extensive repairs were carried out to just get a start. The car had led the rally, however and mishap caused by a rock led to the engine overheating and subsequent withdrawal from the event.

Andrew Cowan used it in a rally in November and in January 1971 rolled it eight times in a single incident: it was returned to be re-shelled with a local body.

Cowan had driven the updated car in the Heatway Rally in New Zealand where it scored the fastest time in thirteen special stages, but on the last day an electrode dislodged from a spark plug and ruined the head. Even so, it held on to second place. The running gear consisted of 1275ccs, full race cam and head. 1 ‘SU’s’ factory extractors, straight cut close ratio all syncro gearbox and either 3.9 or 4.1 to 1 diff. As usual in this form of sport, special seats were fitted along with a special harness that was obviously very strong. A roll bar was fitted in preference to a cage due to obvious weight reasons. The performance of the car was considered awesome and it flew the Mini flag with distinction.

Darryl Osborne.