Classic car fans will most likely already know all about a very early 1969 Austin Maxi called Puff the Magic Wagon and its remarkable story. But for those who don’t, two of the all-female rally crew that started the gruelling 1970 London to Mexico World Cup in the car are planning to drive it to Mexico City in 2020, reaching the destination that eluded them 50 years previously.
Puff, so called because its original 1.5-litre motor struggled with the extra weight of all its rally gear, was one of the first 500 Maxis to leave the Cowley plant. It was co-driven on the 1970 World Cup Rally by Bron Burrell, Tina Kerridge and Patricia ‘Tish’ Ozanne, but they were forced to retire in Argentina after the Maxi plunged into a ditch. Tish sadly passed away in 2009, but Bron and Tina will be working with Rally Round to ensure Puff completes the final leg and finishes the journey to Mexico City.
This story is not just about finishing a rally, however. It’s also about inspiring others, and one why that Puff’s exploits will help to do just that is via ‘Puff’s Promise’ – a joint venture with the Heritage Skills Academy at Bicester Heritage. Part of the funding raised by the team to complete the final leg to Mexico will go towards putting at least one young apprentice through the three years of training in historic car maintenance.
“It is something I thought of as a way to put ‘something back’ into the historic car world, after all the help and advice that Puff and I have received,” said Bron. “Most of the people working on the cars are, to put it bluntly, getting on a bit – like me – and I do feel that it is necessary to get youngster enthused, and of course trained, to care for our old beauties.”
Puff’s was recommissioned at Project Shop in Bicester, with a heavy leaning on young talent. “One of the lads, Billy Earwicker, was 19 when work started three years ago,” added Bron. “With guidance from senior technicians he has all but re-wired Puff, making sure she is reliable and that the period features of her unique rally dash board work as intended. Now 22 he is fully qualified and is helping coach current apprentice Matt Dowell, who is just about to celebrate his 20th birthday. Zane Newall, a 24-year-old, is another brilliant young man who has cut his teeth mechanically preparing Puff for Rallies at Project Shop. He has been responsible for making sure that every time Puff heads out, she is in tip-top condition. All three of these young men have done wonders on my old Maxi, and should be rightly proud of their work, as they have made her sing again and she is a joy to drive once more.”
For more information on the mission to Mexico, and Puff’s Promise, head to www.puffthemagicwagon.co.uk.