Surrey racer revs up his vintage ‘Bimmer’ (updated)

Hobbyist Leigh Anderson at 28th annual running of British Columbia Historic Motor Races

Surrey’s Leigh Anderson with his race-prepped 1967 BMW 1600.

By Gord Goble, Now contributor

SURREY — Most folks who drop major coin on a BMW want all the perks. Moonroof. Heated leather seats. Blind-spot camera. LED lights. Force field and hood-mounted death ray.

Not Leigh Anderson.

When he last shopped around for a BMW, Anderson purposely set out to find the most spartan “bimmer” available. Indeed, “spartan” is a colossal understatement.

Anderson didn’t want a horn. He didn’t want a heater, either. He didn’t want annoying little extras like turn signals or door handles or window handles or a passenger seat or a back seat. He preferred plexiglass windows to safety-glass ones, and he loved the idea of no headlights and no emergency brake.

Twisted fiend? Freeway menace? Not quite. In fact, the long-time South Surrey resident is one of the most conscientious drivers you’ll find.

Anderson, you see, is a road racer – has been since 1981. And for a few weekends every summer, he lives his dream again on local courses in the gutted, race-prepped 1967 BMW 1600 he ultimately unearthed in 2009.

Last weekend (Aug. 22 and 23), he was part of the 28th annual running of the British Columbia Historic Motor Races, held at the only spot left for local road racing since the 1990 death of Coquitlam’s Westwood Motorsport Park: Mission Raceway.

Anderson competed in two “vintage” events Saturday, and two more Sunday. In each race, he finished in the top 10.

“I did fairly well, but we play down winning in vintage racing,” he said Monday.

“In vintage, if you finish, you win,” he added.

There was no money on the line – there rarely is for local racing – but that doesn’t faze this guy.

“I’m a hobbyist,” he said. “There are lots of people in the sport now with lots of money. But there are also lots of people who are hobbyists, doing it for the love of it.”

The cars are the stars of these races, he said.

“Drivers earn points for the number of laps they complete, and there are penalties for car-to-car contact. After all, some of these cars are irreplaceable.”

(Story continues below video)

 

No prize money? Fortunately, it doesn’t cost Anderson a whole lot to keep his feet in the game.

At the age of 70-something, he still performs all the repairs, tweaks and preparations his car needs between races. At the track, his wife Christine runs the show (“Without her support, I wouldn’t be doing it,” he says), and his son Pat, along with a grandson or two, lend a hand.

Born on Oakville, Ontario, Anderson first sampled motorized competition in his early 20s as a timer and scorer at famed Mosport Park. He soon got a racing license and a car – an Austin Healey – but “couldn’t afford to race.” He later brought the Austin with him in his 1981 move to B.C., saw a poster for a vintage race at Westwood, and has driven the vintage circuit regularly ever since.

He counts as his personal highlight a Tacoma Grand Prix in the 1980s when he went door-to-door with former F1, IndyCar and sports car stars such as Phil Hill and Bob Bondurant. The race was but one of many Anderson has enjoyed up and down the west coast of North America over the past 34 years.

As for his preference for gutted automobiles, Anderson says it’s really quite simple.

“The power-to-weight ratio is what you look for – the least weight and the most power,” he explained.

His BMW began life weighing 2,072 pounds; Today, it’s a svelte 1,850, and that includes a slew of gearhead modifications – stuff like a racing cam, dual Weber carbs, a roll cage and racing shocks and tires.

The Mission Raceway event was Anderson’s first of 2015, and he fully admits he’s winding it down a wee bit in his seventh decade. But he’s a kid again on the track, and that’s where you’ll find him this weekend.

For more info, drive on over to the British Columbia Historic Motor Races website at Bchmr.ca.

Goble@shaw.ca

 

 

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