Mechanic restores classic car as a tribute to his racing champ mum

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Labour of love – Terry Cooper is restoring the Fiat 127 as a tribute to his autograss racing late mum.
Labour of love – Terry Cooper is restoring the Fiat 127 as a tribute to his autograss racing late mum.

A Vale of Clwyd motor mechanic is rebuilding a classic car in memory of his motor racing champion mum.

The late Sandie Cooper was North Wales Ladies Autograss Champion several times with many of those races won at the wheel of her beloved 1970s Fiat 127 Abarth which was finally written off in a massive shunt several years ago.  

Sandie, a district nurse from Nantglyn, near Denbigh, died of cancer three years ago but son Terry has almost completed a restoration of an identical 973cc model, believed to be the only one of its kind in the UK.

The car is locked away in a shipping container hired from self-storage experts Lock Stock at their Colomendy Industrial Estate site, in Denbigh, and Terry has been devotedly working on it.

He has already retored an Alfasud, another rare specimen of a car his mother raced in.

The mobile mechanic who lives in Llangernyw, near Abergele, said: “They’re a memorial to my mum who sadly passed away three years ago because one of our biggest memories of her was her autograss racing.

“I managed to persuade her to have a go because my dad and I were mad keen and once she started there was no stopping her, in the end the other ladies wouldn’t race her.

“On the road she was terrible, you really didn’t want to get stuck behind her because she was so slow but on the racetrack you wouldn’t want to tangle with her because she’d wipe the floor with you.

“She’d race against men and one guy said he was going to show her the way home. He rammed her on the start and she broke her thumb but she strapped it up and won four races in a row.

“Very few people could beat her. She was only five foot tall but she was a very, very determined lady and she lived life in the fast lane.”

The original car was bought for just £85 and was a wreck but Terry and colleagues put it into race condition and Sandie would regularly beat cars that cost thousands on the North Wales Autograss circuit.

Terry found the replacement Fiat badly vandalised in a barn on Anglesey and he bought it from its owner and has stored it in Denbigh while restoring it lovingly.

Stuart Bowker, Operations Manager for Lock Stock Self Storage, said: “It’s been a real labour of love for Terry and he’s done a fantastic job.

“It fits neatly into the 20 foot container and it’s ideal because it’s very secure and it’s completely watertight – it has to be because it’s come all the way from China exposed to the elements on a ship.

“We do find our containers are used to store all sorts of things, lots of businesses use them and I have known of classic cars kept in them before as well as machines like jet skis.”

Sandie’s trusty Fiat finally died a death and she continued racing an Alfasud but that was written off in a crash when it rolled several times before she emerged unscathed.

Terry added: “She did have a go in my dad’s Hillman Imp and he had been to the national championships a few times but the Fiat was her favourite.

“It was a tough sport and a few dirty tricks were played – she had sugar put in her fuel tank a few times – but she always seemed to come out on top.

“The restored car is a memorial to her and being able to store it in the container is ideal for storage. I have used it for other cars as well.”

It’s one of nearly 3,000 containers, all painted the company’s regulation dark green, that Lock Stock have across 18 sites across North and Mid Wales and the Border Counties.

The business was launched 20 years ago when Lock Stock was founded by the Powell brothers, Nick and Shon, when the family’s well-known Craig Bragdy ceramic design, manufacture and installation company needed extra storage space.

Lock Stock now offer almost four million cubic feet of storage space and they also operate a van-hire business, Take Stock, from three hubs at Llandudno, Chester and Rhyl – they also sell fireworks at Chester, Rhyl and Llandudno and on-line.

Their sites stretch from Holyhead to Bangor and along the North Wales coast at Llandudno and Rhyl, on the Dee at Flint and Chester and inland at Denbigh, Mold, Wrexham and Newtown in Powys, and at Oswestry and Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

For more information about Lock Stock go to http://www.lockstock.biz/