“IF YOU cut me down the middle I am like Blackpool rock - I’ve got Mini running through me.”

Andy Harrison lives and breathes Minis. He has owned around 1000 over the years. “You can turn up to any occasion in a Mini - from a trip to the supermarket to collecting an OBE from Buckingham Palace,” he says, “And everyone will love it.”

Not only does he work with the iconic car at his classic car restoration business in Shipley, he races them too.

“In a normal year I race between eight and ten times. It is my dream to race at Monte Carlo, and I hope to do that in 2022.”

Andy has loved cars from being a young boy, when he knew every make on the road. “As they came towards me I could even tell the different models - whether it was an S, a GT, an L or an HL. I could tell as it approached - it might have a different grill or different overrides on a bumper. I could even identify the trim levels”, he laughs. “I loved going to scrapyards. I’d look at cars and wonder what they had been like when they were new.”

His love of Minis was sparked by Graham Brayshaw, the father of a pal who lived in a neighbouring house. “He was into cars and was a Mini man. When my friend and I played football on the drive I would look at his car. I used to sit on the garden wall and know when he would be coming home from work. He used to take me out in his Mini and I learned a lot from him.”

Andy and his mate would sit on a park bench and watch cars. “On our way home we would pretend to be Bodie and Doyle from The Professionals and roll over car bonnets.”

After watching a TV programme about the British rally driver Roger Clark - who in 1976 became the first competitor from Britain to win a World Rally Championship - Andy went to the library and found out about his local motor club. “I wrote them a letter and despite being aged 13 I was admitted.”

After passing his test aged 17 he bought his first car, a 1967 mini costing £230. “It had been de-seamed to make it better for rallying,” says Andy. “It had terrible brakes and if it rained there was more water in the car than outside.”

Like his dad before him, Andy would pat the wheel if the car got him to work on a morning. “When I was young we had a Morris 1800 ‘landcrab’ called Bessie. If we went to the coast my dad would pat the wheel and say ‘thank you. Bessie was part of the family.”

Andy worked in engineering and on car restoration in his spare time. He worked at SPS Minis in Great Horton run by Nick Lawrence before taking the plunge and starting his own business, Acespeed. It celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

Working on vehicles from Minis to Ferraris, Andy and his expert team restore, service, repair and enhance classic cars and historic motorsport vehicles.

They have worked their magic on car sowned by celebrities including Geri Halliwell’s 1966 Radford Mini Cooper S, formerly owned by Ringo Starr, and chef James Martin’s car.

Acespeed is also well known for the classic Mini race cars it produces and for sponsoring racing teams such as Mighty Minis.

Andy still owns a Mini he bought aged 17. Dark grey, with a grey roof it is called Whizz after his hero and inspiration, racing driver Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams who died in 2018.

“I restored it three years ago. It’s a 1960 Mini and the first Minis came out in 1959 so it is one of the first ones on the road.”

Andy races Minis, as well as other makes of car, across the UK and Europe and has also raced at Sebring International Raceway in Florida “Just before I am really nervous and edgy and walk about a lot, but when I get in the car I am in my own tranquil world and feel calm.” Other racing drivers have said the same.”

In 2007 he emerged unscathed from a 100mph crash.

For many races he had been paired with Whizzo.

Away from the track, he has three cars in regular use. “My main car is a BMW Mini Cooper Works model. I have a Porsche 911 and a Bentley Turbo R - “That’s a posh Sunday afternoon going-for-a-meal-car. You feel like royalty but at eight miles per gallon you need a Royal pocket.”

Among his more unusual car is a Midas - a British made kit car initially using Mini running gear. “I brought my daughter home from hospital in it more than 30 years ago and still own it.”

He also owns a 1968 ‘landcrab’ that once took part in the London to Sydney Marathon.

Even Andy’s Patterdale terrier has a Mini tag - she is called Minnie Moo.

Andy has worked hard to follow his dream. “I remember at school a careers teacher came round and asked what I wanted to do and I said ‘build and race cars’ and he told me not to be silly. When I got my first professional drive I went to see him and he was really pleased.”

He says his work ethic comes from his mum Kath, “a grafter” and his competitive edge from his dad Peter, who was a jockey. He was not interested in cars but he loved to race.”


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