The Story of Paddy Hopkirk’s First Car, Ross Brawn & Mike Clarke

You may wonder why Paddy Hopkirk, former champion Rally Driver is pictured here with Ross Brawn of Brawn GP Formula One is sitting squashed in this tiny vintage car. Well it it is a long story. Paddy, Ross and Mike Clare pictured with them, have agreed to become patrons of SKIDZ – The Wycombe Motor Project Appeal Fund; they were pictured at the launch. The vehicle is the very car that Paddy learnt to drive at the tender age of 9 years old.

The Harding

This very special little car is a Harding circa 1922 and was given to Paddy by his neighbour in Belfast who was the local priest. Paddy very quickly learned to drive it but was aware of the limited and primitive braking capacity – just a hand-brake! He successfully installed a rear brake that was operated by a foot pedal and so began his learning curve for operating more realistic car controls. Paddy’s skills for fast cornering were probably learned in this car.

For some years the car remained in Paddy’s possession but stored away once he went on to bigger and better cars. It was eventually given away and Paddy lost track of it – but never forgot it. Many years later Paddy mentioned it during a BBC interview. This led to the latest owner contacting Paddy who went to visit and found his beloved car in a very dilapidated state but complete with number plate. He bought it back again and once more stored it in his own garage.

The Resurection of the Harding

Paddy has supported SKIDZ for many years and one day during conversation floated the idea of SKIDZ staff and young people working on the Harding to restore it. After hours of patient work it has come out shining and looking much as it did years ago when Paddy first owned it. Tyres are still a problem as of course, these sizes are not made any longer. The bodywork has been restored to it’s original colour grey. The seat back is wooden and has been replaced with new wood that had either rotted or become damaged. The seat is a well-used black leather cushion with no extra padding for comfort; it would have been a fairly bumpy and rough ride even when new. It seems fitting that it was used as a focal point for the launch of the SKIDZ Appeal with two sensational people linked intrinsically to Motor Racing sitting alongside each other in this ancient vehicle.