Mike discusses the "Ed Spreen Mini" and racing at the 2015 CSRG Charity Challenge
Nick Swift in the “Ed Spreen Mini”, VIR ca. 2008
For years I had wanted to buy a real period vintage racing Mini, as they are extremely difficult to find (hen's teeth), and cars with SCCA history even rarer than that (unicorn's teeth).
I was very pleased then (thrilled, actually) to have been given the custody of the "Ed Spreen Mini" this past August. This is one of only two existing C Sedan National Championship Minis that ran in the 1960's and 70's; Ed won the 1970 SCCA C Sedan National Championship in this car. Gordon King has been taking care of the Mini for many years, and he was kind enough to let me be the next-in-line for the opportunity to keep the car's spirit alive at the racetrack.
We always name our race cars, so from now on the #12 Mini will be known as "Eddie".
2015 CSRG Charity Challenge - Oct. 2-4, 2015
The CSRG Charity Challenge has developed into one of the premier racing events on the West Coast. This year there were 250 vintage race cars from all over the United States competing in 9 groups.
We were very excited to enter the ex-Team Spreen Mini in this event in group 2. One of the very best drivers in CSRG is Paul Quackenbush; at 72 he is still running first overall in his Super Seven, so we asked him if he wanted to drive for us. Paul has Mini racing experience, driving the Monte for Mini Mania back at the 2001 All-Mini race; 43 Minis competed in that event and Paul ran in the top 5 of the vintage racers.
When I got "Eddie", it had not been run for many years, but despite that the car was in fantastic condition, just needed everything done to prepare it for racing. It had a complete race motor in it, but I wanted to run our motor, and so did a swap, as ours had better gearing for the Sonoma hills.
The race weekend started out with a lot of excitement, but as it can happen there were new car issues. Test day on Friday turned out to be filled with small problems, and then in the last session a bigger one, a broken crankshaft! That was unexpected from a good race motor with a Moldex billet crank, as we won the 2003 SCCA National Championship with that same motor. I was not prepared to deal with that kind of failure, and so was thinking to just enjoy the weekend without racing our Mini.
It was not too long after the crankshaft problem was discovered that Nick Martin and Dennis Racine came by. This is an example of why I love to race a Mini, the comraderie is unlike any other car, we all help each other. Nick and Dennis convinced me to go back home (a 6-hour round trip!), retrieve the original motor that came with the Mini, and in the meantime, they would take out the broken motor and be ready when we returned to help put in the "new" one. My wife Mary was all for it ("Let's go!"). We got back to the track sometime after midnight, so we decided to see if we could do the swap in the morning. We just about got it done, too, for the 10:00 AM qualifying, but I felt we should not push our luck and just do the afternoon race.
We started 51st, last on the grid. Paul did a fantastic driving job: in a 20 minute race he passed 31 cars to finish 20th. We were set for the main race on Sunday; there were five Minis ahead of us, so I was just hoping to get by a few of them and get in the top 10. Robert Hoemke had brought out his #51 "Purple People Eater" to run; we did a full restoration to that Mini a few years ago , and it still looked great, very quick and finished 4th overall. Even with a tall final drive gear he ran a 2:00 minute lap time, which is very fast; the Seven Enterprises motor sounded fantastic. With our spare 1293cc motor and tall gears we got down to 2:02, so a good first outing for both driver and car, finishing 9th overall (not bad from 51st), and three of the five competing Minis were passed. As a side note, this was the first time the #51 and #12 cars shared a racetrack since way back at the ARRC in Riverside, California, in 1968.
2016 and Beyond
We have big plans for 2016; we are developing our own straight-rod motors for three customers right now, and hope to see good power numbers on the dyno in the Spring. I plan on entering "Eddie" in a few races next year, and continue our guest driver program, as well as develop the best parts available for the 2017 Can-Am Mini Challenge at our home track Sonoma 2017.