When Camaros Raced Against Minis and Sunbeam Imps At Crystal Palace In 1971

When Camaros Raced Against Minis and Sunbeam Imps At Crystal Palace In 1971

Before it was the Britsh Touring Car Championship, it was the Saloon Car Championship. The regs in place were FIA Group 2 and the field was diverse. Very diverse. Just check out what Crystal Palace looked like back in 1971.

Now, BTCC might not come to the front of your mind as a series worth exploring when the excitement of endurance racing, Formula One, and other more major contests typically takes all the coverage. And I get it. It’s not easy to delve into the history of a more minor series, especially one that you won’t see on this side of the Atlantic. I’m not exactly finding a lot to go off of either, but I know I need to know more. This is a series with Volvo wagon race cars, after all.

But I did see this video courtesy of darfader on Youtube. It showed me a race where tiny little Sunbeam Imps and Minis and slightly larger Ford Escort RS1600s were squaring off against Martin Thomas’s mighty 5.7-litre V8-powered Camaro, and even beating it.

With cars getting rather sideways on the tight curves and elevation changes that made Crystal Palace an exciting place to race, it’s hard to find more excitement than a spattering of cars of different sizes and power ratings.

And though it seems like the pecking order was set early, with Thomas leading the race in his far larger and more powerful Camaro, things changed towards the end. Mike Crabtree managed to eke past Thomas by dazzling him with the headlights of his Escort in the rear-view mirror of the Camaro, using the distraction to pull off a daring pass. Not long after, Thomas would try to take back pole position from the smaller Ford, but it was no use. That Camaro just couldn’t keep its tires planted and a spin did Thomas in.

Crabtree came through to win in his plucky little Escort, but the Camaro Thomas drove would remain an icon. If you want to see what it looked like in colour, check out this piece from carscoops.com that shows the car in its Ovaltine-liveried glory.