John Bolster: racing driver, journalist, legend in the UK pre- and post-war. Bolster’s fame was fuelled at least in part by spectacular exploits in a self-conceived racer christened “Bloody Mary” (it ran on methanol-based fuel). In the 1950s, Bolster racked up the column inches writing about new cars and motor races as a journalist. He also had a thing for vintage machines, and liked to take his 1903 Panhard & Levassor on the Brighton Run – before driving it home again in the evening. And his first meeting with a Mini is part of automotive folklore.
In 1959, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) waved its latest creation out onto public roads; from nose to tail, the Mini was revolutionary. Motoring journalist John Bolster had the very special honour of running a test Mini for a whole year and reporting back on his experiences at regular intervals. As a relatively hardnosed hack, Bolster was not given to easy romanticism. But it took just three months in the company of this pint-sized newcomer with a sky-high fun factor to convince him it was a keeper. The early batch of cars were never intended to find permanent homes, but a change of tack was promptly effected. Bolster was soon taking his new purchase out on the track in the journalists' race at Goodwood in 1960, having been quick to spot the rich sporting talents of the Mini. He later used it to follow the competitors in the Monte Carlo Rally, which was rather fitting given Mini’s own history-making feats in the event.
Its status as one of the very early press cars means the classic Mini with license plate number 981 GFC is all the more valuable today. As well as writing for motoring journals, its first owner also authored a number of books and possessed a sense of humour enjoyed by many. By the time of John Bolster’s passing in 1984 aged 80, his beloved Mini had long since secured a special place in automotive history – and promises to live long into the future.