The recent passing of Mick Hill , aged 70 , in November ( 2014 ) didnt make any headlines in the press but as news spread through motorsport-based social network sites enthusiasts of a certain age and preference to modified saloon racing were left genuinely saddened to discover. Not only a prolific race winner but equally well known as the builder of some the most iconic modified saloons of that generation. For that reason as Racer/Builder , Mick Hill must surely rank at the very top of the men who made the sport the spectacle it was during the golden age of modified saloon racing in the 1970`s in Britain.
Mick was born on August 15th 1944 in Derby .In the 60`s Mick started work as a Post Office Engineer , married Pam and began his race career with first a Mini then a Lotus Super 7.
But the car that gave him the bug for racing saloons with over-sized engines was the famous `JANGLIA`. This being a Ford Anglia 105E with a Jaguar 3.8 bought from Richard Scantlebury in 1967. The car however was unreliable and broke 9 differentials in the 1968 season. This was Hill`s first big motorsport engineering job as he completley rebuilt the car for 1969 using a new shell from fellow Anglia racer Gerry Taylor. The next 2 season Hill gained his reputation on track winning his first race in 1970 at Thruxton. However a new challenge was on the cards...
Hill and long time friend and PO colleague Dave Steeples spent 6 months building the `BOSS CAPRI` for 1971. Using a damaged Ford Capri , suspension from a written-off Lola T70 sports car and a second-hand 430 bhp Gurney Weslake V8. The result was an almost unbeatable combination , winning its first 12 races. Hill taking the big class win in the BRDC Triplex Championship. For 1972 Hill got sponsorship from Tricentrol and by the end of the second season with the `Boss` had recorded 31 wins from 40 races. Hill won the BRSCC Hepolite Glacier title outright. There were many a great dice with the Vauxhall of Gerry Marshall and the two drivers would define this golden period of saloon car racing. The car continued into 1973 before being replaced by Hill`s next project the 6-litre CAPRI. The Boss was sold to Ireland but was soon back and in the hands of another rival Tony Strawson who won the 1974 BRDC title in it.
The new 6-litre Capri was an immediate success and kept Hill ahead of the pack. It won first time at Silverstone and in the process set the first sub one-minute saloon lap. Between the two Capri`s Hill won the 1973 BRDC Esso Uniflo Championship , 18 races and the Silverstone Driver of the Year award. The new Capri retained only the original roof , floor and pillars as was , as Hill described , a `semi-monocoque spaceframe` using glassfibre panels and Lola suspension. Hill`s dream of bringing all the top modifed saloons into a single , super championship came into effect in 1974 with the formatrion of the Super Saloon Association and the inaurgural Super Saloon series. The timing was perfect in that the British Saloon car championship had just downgraded from similary wide-arched Group 2 cars into sober stock-looking Group 1 cars. The wild creations entering Super Saloons were a huge draw to the enthusiasts over the next 4 seasons. Fittingly Hill won the 1974 Super Saloon series and his class in the BARC Forward Trust Special Saloons with 10 wins during the season. Lap records were set at Thruxton ,Snetterton and Castle Combe , all over 100 mph average.
With the Tricentrol-backing now over 1975 was by contrast a quiet year as Hill`s plans to turn the ex-Mike Wilds F5000 March 74A into Super Saloon was scrapped and he ran it in single seater form. The Capri was sold to Martin Birrane and became known as the `Adlards` Capri. Gerry Marshall took the Super Saloon honours in the new Baby Bertha Vauxhall Chevy.
A new monster car based on an old shape appeared from the Hill stable for 1976 with the creation of a VW Beetle like no other. Based on a F5000 Trojan T102 and powered by the 530 bhp Smith-Chevrolet V8 from the March , rebuilt by Hill. Its freakish body and overall statement caused a huge amount of interest. It took Hill back in Super Saloons for the next 2 seasons . It took a while for Hill to make it a race winner but he did , helped by sponsorship from track rival and friend Tony Hazelwood`s Templar Tillers company. At the end of 1977 he sold the creature to Doug Niven and the car continued to be a winner with a remarkable 47 wins before going onto Jeff Wilson.
With Hill setting up his luxury car business he saved time on his next track project by simply buying an existing super saloon , this being the ex-Hazelwood Jaguar XJ8 with its 7-litre Can Am engine for 1978. Of course Hill made a few changes with revised bodywork and that nose that had famously gone was thankfully restored with a Jag grill. The other develpoment was the emergance of the Donington Park circuit from decades of disuse. Hill loved the track which was only a few miles from his Draycott home and discribed it as the finest circuit in Europe !
With the Super Saloon bubble having burst the top drivers of the day gravited to the new Donington GT Championship. Doug Niven won the big class in the inaurgual season in Hill`s old Beetle and Mick was back creating his next monster to replace the bulky Jag for 1979. The Jag was wrongly reported in the motoring press as having been destroyed in a garage fire but in fact only part of the floorpan was damaged and the shell is now owned by Kevin Doyle who is currently in the lenghty process of restoring the old girl.
The new project was called the PHOENIX and was built from scratch by Hilll and chief mechanic Charlie Harris in 3 months and debuted in a silver livery during the 1979 season. The Phoenix used a Skoda wide-body on an aluminium stressed monocoque of the builders own work, the 630 bhp Chevy Can Am engine from out of the Jag and Lola suspension. `Motoring News` track tested the car in March 1980 now in white livery ahead of Hill winning the Donington GT outright after 4 race wins , 2 seconds , 2 thirds and 7 fastest laps. It must have been very satisfying for Hill to win at his favourite track in a car of his own construction. The Phoenix was offered for sale for 9K in new colours but Hill continued to enjoy her , winning the big class again in 1982 after 4 class and 1 outright win. John Salisbury bought the car as Hill launched his final creation for the 1983 season.
Mick`s last creation reflected a shift in the fashion in the Donington GT away from saloon-bodied monsters towards GT cars , such as BMW M1s / Lotus Esprits , or at least clones of them. The 1983 and final 1984 seasons Hill ran a BMW M1 clone on a 1975 Lola T400 F5000 chassis with the 7-litre Can Am engine. Now alternating the races with Kevin Riley the team had to settle for second best to the other BMW M1 clone of Jeff Wilson which used a Chevron chassis. There were some very rapid Esprit clones in the class below as the Donington GT reached its pinnacle. 1984 seems to be Mick`s last season racing with the M1 in Donington GT and 4 races in Thundersports.
In conclusion , an extremley impressive racing career made all the more so by the fact Mick won so much in cars of his own construction.
Honours in brief included :
1972 BRDC Triplex class winner
1972 BRSCC `Hepolite Glacier` outright Champion
1973 BRDC `Esso Uniflo` outright Champion
1974 BRSCC Super Saloon series winner
BARC `Forward Trust` class winner
1980 Donington GT outright champion
1982 Donington GT class winner
total race wins : 96