The Orangebox

Steve Enwistle is not only an acclaimed Mechanic, Rally Driver and Mini Sport regular but a serious contender in the historic rally scene with an impressive 24-year back catalogue of successes in a range of highly competitive rally championships. Supported by Mini Sport, Steve is currently amidst his second attempt at the HRCR Clubman Championship, preparing this week for the third round at the Ilkley Jubilee Historic Rally, which will take place on Sunday the 12th April. Walking away in 2014 as the winner of his Historic Class and 4th overall, Mini Sport have confidence that Steve will embrace the challenge of the championship this year, with knowledge and enthusiasm on the 20th anniversary of the Clubman Rally.

Aside from Steve’s extensive experiences in the Rally scene which branches across two decades; his presence in the championship can be identified by the distinguished ‘Orangebox’ – a BMC Marigold, 970 Cooper S. The ‘Orangebox’, as it is known, is a car that packs heaps of character and stacks of sentiment, dating back to 1960. In light of the Steve Entwistle’s passion for the Rally Scene and commitment to the car that never dulls; we decided to re-discover the history of a the Orangebox and explore it’s remarkable 55 years in competition with the man that kept it’s story alive…

Steve begins: “About 25 years ago I was at an auto-jumble with my dad when I bought a 1965 Castrol achievements book, in the back of which was the RAC Rally photo of the winning works car DJB93B and a photo of the 1 litre class winner Roy Mapple in his 970 NTD276C.’

Having caught his attention, Steve and his father tracked down Roy at ‘Georges Garages’ to see if he still had the car. Unfortunately, Roy had sold it on to a local dealer; who’s name he had forgotten. Ran by ‘Uncle George’, Georges Garages stocked a huge range of BMC boxed parts and in the workshop door window was a full-colour photo of the car fresh from the RAC with another Mini of the same-colour by it’s side. Roy informed Steve that it was ‘original’ Orangebox, but Steve, intent on finding the ‘S’ edition did not see significance in the original model.

Fast-forwarding a few years and Steve’s collection of old Motoring News issues had grown, reading each one from cover to cover. Time after time the ‘Orangebox’ and Roy Mapple continued to feature, a regular highlight in the ‘Verglas’ section – fuelling Steve’s fascination with a car that was gaining cult acclaim by the likes of John Davenport and Graham Robson.

 Steve continues, “By this time I was working for the local Ford dealership delivering new body shells all over the north of England. A certain Mr. Mapple bought a Fiesta shell and I jumped at the chance to deliver it. When I got there, I said ‘You’re the Roy Mapple of the Orangebox fame?!’ to which he replied ‘Bloody hell lad! You look to young to know about things like that!”

A few hours later Steve and Roy had bonded over the history of Roy’s cars and several cups of tea, cementing a friendship. Steve discovered that the origins of the car dated back to an early 1960 Marigold van that belonged to Guy Aspinall, who had bought it new in 1960. He was a popular Northern Rally man in the early sixties, but the car was damaged when a van ran in the back of it and so it ended up at ‘George’s Garage’. A little later Roy was approached by Graham Marrs, a navigator for a well-known TR Rally Driver named Leo Jemson. Leo was retiring and wanted to know if Roy would take his place in the driving seat. Roy was quick to agree but didn’t have a car – fortunately Uncle George had a plan!

The written-off shell of a Mini Saloon sat in the yard at Georges Garage. The vans front end was welded from the Mini Van onto the saloon, repainted in prominent BMC Marigold for Roy and his first rally. Seeded car 2 behind red McBride and Don Barrow, the top crew of the day, Roy was leading at halfway and over the next few years the car had an illustrious rally career, rolled and rebuilt virtually every month. “It even fell off a Welsh Mountain once!’’ recalled Roy.

Steve left Roy’s that day enlightened about the car that he had such great fondness for. The years continued to pass and Roy continued to crop up in conversation; although Steve began to lose interest in ever finding the car – still finding an excuse to drive past ‘Georges Garage’ when possible.

A few years ago, the news reached Steve that Uncle George had passed away and auto-jumblers has bought all the BMC and Lucas parts from the Garage before it’s demolition. ‘Slowboy’, a friend of Steve’s, recalled one of the Mini body shells that had been sat out on the roof of a building behind the garage – renewing Steve’s interest, he decided to pay an old friend a visit and went to see Roy.

“There’s only paperwork and a few bits’’ informed Roy when Steve enquired about stuff that had been left at Georges place. A logbook and some rally paperwork caught his eye and soon it transpired that the 970 had been dismantled in the late sixties after it had stopped being used in Rally in ’65 and was instead utilised in the ‘Quarry Bashes’ popular amongst car clubs in Morecambe and Kirby Lonsdale around these times.

It turned out that the body shell had been given to a member of the local car club who had auto-tested it with a MG1100 engine in it. Later, he had tried to re-build it as a road-car for his son, who later decided he wanted a more modern car but would use a bike-engine in the shell to go grass-tracking. The men couldn’t understand why Steve was so keen to have the shell and after he offered them a tidy, more modern shell; they were convinced.

The shell was put into a container and Steve got to work on it with ‘Slowboy’, piecing the build back together with parts taken from friends and other enthusiasts – the Sumpguard, for example, was found in the cellar of his neighbours house.

Steve reflects, ‘’Roy – a grand bloke but hard work to deal with! After telling me about the Derrington Weber it had on it, I got a manifold off Mark Forster and a carb from an auto jumble, for Roy to ring up two weeks later and say “Do want this carb or what?!” I now have a spare! The bonnet, which would be a nightmare to replicate, was another ‘By the way do you need this?’ It’s all steel and made by Roy.”

18 months later, the car was complete. Re-built to the original specifications as it was exhibited in those Motoring News issues all those years ago. The number plate reading GJM795, in accordance with Graham John Marrs, navigator to Roy Mapple.

Last year the Rishton-based Rally Driver took on the Clubman championship with co-driver Bob Hargreaves, for the very first time. Having already competed in the Tour of Cheshire and North Yorkshire Classic rounds of the championship for 2015, we await the results from his Ilkley Jubilee Historic Rally this weekend and will continue to Support Steve, Bob and of course, the Orangebox in another chapter of their Rally careers.

In light of the Steve Entwistle’s passion for the Rally Scene and commitment to the car that never dulls; we decided to re-discover the history of a the Orangebox and explore it’s remarkable 55 years in competition with the man that kept it’s story alive…

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