Crew members with the world’s fastest Mini from left; Mike Wilson, Steve Tolmie, Paul Dowell, Garry Orton, Larry Mulholland, Bryan Hartley and Nelson Hartley. Photo: Mike Wilson.

World’s fastest mini

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A Nelson Mini has clocked an average speed of 235.9 kilometers per hour to etch its name into the world record books for a new land speed record in its class.

Dubbed Project ‘64, the 1964 Mini Cooper S driven by Nelson Hartley, the brother of former Red Bull Formula 1 prodigy Brendon Hartley, reached a top speed of 151.087mph through a three mile short course on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah last week.

It beats the previous record of 210kmh held by the Hudson Boys.

To break the record, the 1964 Mini had to beat the previous time in the second and third mile of a three mile course. It then went into “impound” for four hours, giving the crew enough time to correct any faults before taking to the salt flats for a second time. The Mini had to beat its previous speed in the second attempt and both speeds were then accumulated and calculated into an average over the mile.

The Mini was competing in the I/BGCC class, which is determined by engine size, in this case up to 1000cc, supercharged and competition coupe.

The entire crew included driver Nelson, who helped build the engine with his father Bryan, Nelson based race car and classic restorers Guy Griffith and Garry Orton, who work out of Victory R at the World of Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum, Alltrax NZ’s Garry Grant and Christchurch based Mini guru Larry Mullholland of Swift Automotive. In addition to the team, 25 supporters were in Bonneville for the record attempt. Most of those supporters came from Nelson but there were a handful from Canada and other parts of New Zealand.

Project spokesperson Mike Wilson says the group was “very happy” to have broken the land speed record, despite acknowledging that the Mini had potential to go faster. The crew celebrated with cheers, hugs, a nice dinner and champagne all round, the latter two courtesy of sponsor Peter Talley. “It feels very special, especially since we achieved it with a car that really shouldn’t have been able to do it. Minis have always been known for their cornering ability but never for their straight line speed,” says Mike, speaking from Utah. “On the morning of our first qualifying run the Bonneville Speedway radio station was playing some archive tapes of Burt Munro speaking and he was talking of the fact the anyone could buy a new bike and go fast, but to break records with an old bike was a much more interesting challenge.”

Next on the agenda will be plenty of sleep and spending time with their families, says Mike. There has been talk of other events such as Pikes Peak, but there could also be another return to Bonneville next year.