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Apache goes Rallying

Below, the Apache when used in the 15th Total International Rally as "Route Planning Vehicle" (Roete Bepalings Motor) donated by Leyland SA. 

According to information from Ryno Verster:

"The test drivers for the Apache were Peter Marle and Owen Keown. Sadly Owen was killed when driving the Apache in a dust test. He hit a culvert and wrote the Apache off."


I received this wonderful email from Mr Ephy Chesler recounting his time racing an Apache in South Africa.

12 December 2008

Hi Martin,

Via Ryno I have received your E-Mail regarding the Apache TC which I raced circa 1976 to '78. I was persuaded to do so by Tommy Gash, who was then a senior in the Leyland R & D section, along with others, such as John Brink, Eric Harwood, Dave Malan, etc

At the time I had never noticed nor did I know what an Apache was! Tommy arranged for me to "borrow" a demo model which I thrashed around Killarney Track for an afternoon. The car was a pig! Dreadful understeer! not helped by under-inflated front tyres! However they made me an "offer I couldn't refuse"; i.e. I could buy the car at a subsidised price of R1600.00 (new they were R3200.00), so I bought it, figuring that if I couldn't sort the handling out I could use it for everyday transport! (It eventually covered 400 000 kms, before the body rusted to pieces and it literally fell apart over about 15 years or more).

The brakes were the priority. It had to somehow slow down at the end of the straights. In this I was assisted by Pat Brown of CBS, who make up a special set of DS11 pads for the calipers. They worked, well! I was always known for late braking in the Mini I was also racing at the time. In fact the late Peter Burroughs once told me (he was an RAC Observer) that he was going to have me Black Flagged because my Stop Lights were not working, when he noticed that they were, only quite a bit later than the norm, judging by the other cars in the class. When I replied that it was probably because I was slower, his response was "at 1 min 50secs per lap?"!!

The big problem was the persistent and strong understeer. The thing only wanted to go straight! In those days we were compelled to use only original wheels and locally made tyres. I used Dunlop SP 99 (I think), 3.2 bars in front and 2.4 at back. I tried Firestone steel belts when they had just come out, they were awful! Couldn't handle the pressure: used to deform and it was then like skating on ice! Anyway I then got clever when one of the rear trailing arm bearings wore out! It was the left rear one and suddenly the car oversteered! It seemed that the loose bearing allowed that rear arm to swing inwards on a right hand bend, which caused the rear of the car to slide out very controllably and predictably! So I replaced the faulty bearing and put a shim on each side and VOILA oversteer! The rear wheels steered themselves out! In fact, one of the guys (I forget his name) who was part of "the group" who always positioned themselves at Damps Dip, a notoriously understeering bend, confronted me after one of the races, "how the h..l do you get your Apache to oversteer? You are sideways 100 yards before the bend. I've got one and I KNOW they don't oversteer". Anyway that was my secret!

Also front wheel bearings used to collapse after virtually every second race. The car was just too heavy for all that weight to be centred on the outside front wheel.. I solved that by fitting Timken Taper Rollers from the Mini GTS or Cooper S.

Next problem was the lower rear mounting point of the front subframe. The body was forever cracking at that point. It was obviously not designed for the excessive brake loading being experienced under racing conditions. This complaint I solved by making up 2 sandwiched plates, approximately 6 ins by 6 ins by 3 mm thick, which I welded to the inside and outside of the body where the mounting block bolted on. The factory subsequently adopted something similar in production, but improved it with diagonal ribs.

These were the only problems I can remember, after all it was 30+ years ago. The car won quite a few races in class "Y", where it's power to weight ratio placed it. Eventually Tommy Gash started racing a Leyland sponsored Austin Marina 1800, also in Class "Y" and he was about a second a lap quicker than the Apache TC. I also got a bit bored with being at the back of the field, even if I did win against the other tail-enders, so I moved back to my Mini GTS in Class "X", which was far more fun and competitive. We used to have a field of generally about 8 Mini GTS's and often more. Leyland gave us a great deal: spares at virtually landed cost, ie less 50% or even more! and we got to keep our cars.

Bear in mind that at that time a Mini GTS in standard Group N form was lapping consistently at 1 min 47 or 48, so 1 min 50 or 51 in the heavier Apache TC, with the same engine was not too bad at all! It was a pity there were never any other guys (or girls) racing an Apache, as I would have liked to have had some criterion against which to judge both the car and myself. The Marina 1800 being in the same class was , I still feel, a travesty. It should have been in Class X. Anyway that's motor racing!

At the moment I don't have a scanner to forward pictures of the car racing, but I do have a few and will organise something soon.

I hope this helps in your quest! As far as I know, no one anywhere has ever raced an Apache. In fact when I spoke to Keith Ripp when I started racing the car, I asked him if he had any information on racing an Austin/Morris 1100. To which he replied "we don't race them, mate, we throw them away"! Which I thought was not very nice of him! It was fun racing the thing though, but the Mini was more so.

Ephy Chesler

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