MIKE Cowlam’s love of cars began in his teens.

“At the age of 14, I became a passionate enthusiast of rallying and, later, historic touring cars,” he says. “This developed into an interest in classic cars.”

That passion never waned and Mike now publishes a classic car magazine as well as organising classic car events. “I also write for and supply photographs for classic car magazines,” he says.

The former Bradford Council regeneration director who lives in Shipley, bought his first classic car in 1981. He still owns it. “It is a 1968 Lotus Elan I call Lottie - a tiny two-seater sports car, fast in its day, very lightweight and a beautiful design. Four years ago I had it fully restored and now it is like new,” he says. “It is the car of which I am most proud - it is great looking car and always draws a crowd.

“I also have a Mini Clubman 1275 GT rally car which I use for hill climbing and demonstration rallies. It’s called Hugo, as the number plate is UGO.”

Mike’s first car was a yellow 1974 Renault 5TL which he bought before passing his test. “Prior to that I rode motorcycles. I never had any driving lessons as I drove the Renault on L plates, with my girlfriend Jane - now my wife - and with a bit of guidance I managed to pass my test first time. I probably did a couple of thousand miles before taking my test.”

He adds: “ It had a dashboard gearchange which took some getting used to and it leaned precariously when going round corners but it was a great little car and it saw me through university and into work.

“It cost £750 and we bought it from a garage that was closing down. I remember the first time we needed to reverse, we couldn’t work out where it was on the dashboard change and I had to get out and push it back before going back to the garage for a demonstration.”

Jane “tolerates” his passion, “though she does enjoy some of the events that we attend. My son definitely inherited the car gene as he has a classic Fiat 126 and he currently works in America as an automotive design engineer.”

Mike has a soft spot for motorsport cars of the 60s and 70s.

Mike has seven cars. “They all have a purpose. One is the family car, one our second car, there’s a rally car, a restored classic, a current restoration project, a future restoration project and a race car build which I haven’t told my wife about. But I guess she knows now.”

Of all the cars he drives, the tiny red Fiat 126 attracts the most attention when parked at petrol stations. “Next to a modern car the difference in dimensions is huge, people are really interested.”

Mike holds a circuit racing licence. “I don’t currently do circuit racing but I do hill climbs and historic rallying and I am part of the service crew for Acespeed’s Historic Racing Team who compete at all the top circuits including Goodwood and Silverstone, so I get plenty of chances to drive fast legally.”

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