THE HISTORY OF THE WEST SUSSEX MINI OWNERS CLUB

West Sussex Mini Owners Club was the brainchild of Aaron Foord who, with his then wife (Christine), formed a club for local Mini enthusiasts in May 1992 and set about recruiting members from Worthing and the surrounding West Sussex area by advertising in local motor spares shops etc. In designating the Club as a "Mini Owners Club" Aaron first had to seek the approval of the National Mini Owners Club, which at that time was run by Chris Cheal and his wife. Unfortunately that Club has since folded although Chris appears to still be involved in the Mini scene.

The first meetings were held at various local pubs but these were unsatisfactory as the owners felt that their cars were not secure but eventually settled at "The Roundstone
 Pub" in Angmering where they were able to obtain a separate room for monthly meetings and a large car park to accommodate the cars for a growing membership. A Committee was also set up by Aaron to run the Club recruited mainly from members who had previous experience in running clubs or committees.
Regular meetings were held on the last Wednesday in the month, a tradition that survives to this day. On the agenda were talks by local organisations and businesses eg. The Police, Car Hi Fi experts etc. They also held the odd Table Top Rally organised by Tony Gardiner (a well known local Mini Artist / photographer and author) he was a Mini rally enthusiast who was also a Club member at that time. Tony had many contacts amongst the Mini rallying fraternity and on one of the Clubs early stands at the "London to Brighton Run" on Madeira Drive Brighton was able to secure a couple of well known rally cars. He also had an unusual rallying Riley Elf that was rebuilt by Patrick Howe of "Raven Racing" (a founder member) and featured in Mini World.

Eventually the Club were told that their "home" at "The Roundstone" was to be no more when the pub was taken over by a chain of brewers and completely altered with no separate accommodation being available for the Club. The search was then on for an alternative but despite attempts by several members nothing could be found until Aaron happened to mention it to Michael Cooper who had a close affiliation with the Club in the early days, as did his father John. John Cooper Garages were then based in Ferring, West Sussex and both Michael and his father were made honorary members. Michael was at that time heavily involved with Worthing Rugby Club and suggested that they had a spare function room that might be available for meetings. A meeting was arranged with the Club Secretary and soon afterwards the Club moved its monthly meetings to the Rugby Club, which strangely is only a stones throw from "The Roundstone" in Roundstone Lane Angmering. It was here that the Club held its AGM in June and elected a new Committee for the following year. About this time and as the Club grew there were disagreements amongst members as is quite often the case with organisations and as a result a small breakaway group formed their own local Mini club but WSMOC soldiered on and set up a set of rules for future Club members guidance.

Fairly early on and before the upsurge in the Internet and social networking sites the Club set up a monthly magazine and managed to purchase a second hand photocopier to print these. Various members submitted articles and the editorial was by Aaron. By this time Aaron and his wife had split and he remarried. His second wife, Caroline (Cassie), was a club member and together they set about moving the Club forward. Many Club members attended their wedding and helped send them on their way with tin cans tied to the bumper of Caroline's lovely black custom built Mini cabriolet! Their wedding was even featured in "The Sun" newspaper.

As time moved on Aaron had one dream and that was that the Club should put on it's own show and this eventually became a reality in 1987 with "Wheels & Steel" held at Worthing Rugby Clubs ground. This did not just include Minis but also a Formula 1 car and a vintage monster race car from Beaulieu Motor Museum, not forgetting vintage buses, military vehicles together with assorted invited Mini Clubs and traders stands. There was also a Trad jazz band, which entertained the punters during lunch. Unfortunately the weather took a hand just as the show looked like being a success and down came the rain. There then began a steady exit of exhibits and very few visitors through the gates not to mention no further vehicle entries. Aaron and the Committee were distraught. The show turned into a nightmare and resulted in a severe loss to the Club and an eventual falling out with Worthing Rugby Club over various issues surrounding the organisation of the show which then resulted in the Wuzzies (group term for members) deciding to leave the Rugby Club for its monthly meetings. The hunt was on again for a new home. At this time the Club was in extreme financial difficulties and would have folded if it had not been for the resolve of the Committee and other members to keep it afloat. An amazing fund raising campaign was begun and with the help of raffles and car boot sales etc.. sufficient money was eventually raised to save the Club. Thereafter it was decided that never again would the Club get itself into such a predicament and a savings account was set up to hold a "float" for future events.

Eventually the Club managed to find a place for monthly meetings at the Arundel Football Club. This was not ideal and throughout the next two years or so the membership declined to the extent that it became obvious that the Club would have to move its monthly meetings again. At this time reconciliation came about with Worthing Rugby Club and the Wuzzies returned there for their monthly meetings. Unfortunately the hire of the room was no longer free and so a small entrance fee for members and guests to monthly meetings had to be charged and the selling of raffle tickets was intensified. (Fortunately, due to the financial stability of the Club, the entrance fee was discontinued in 2013).

Just as things seemed to have moved onto an even keel another bombshell was dropped early in the new millennium when the Club Chairman Aaron and the Club Secretary, Cassie announced that they had decided to leave West Sussex to move to the Shetland Island of Unst the most northerly inhabited island in Great Britain, to run a chocolate factory! (Foords Chocolates www.thenorthbase.co.uk ). At first it was thought that the Club would fold but again through the determination of the members an Extraordinary General Meeting was held and a new Chairman elected. This was Dale Goodchild, a long time member. Unfortunately after a few months Dale found that the job was just too much for him and stood down, as he was unable to give it the time and commitment necessary to maintain the Club. A further meeting was called and another long time member John Gray was elected and took over the reigns and so a new chapter began in the saga of WSMOC.

The Club continued under the guidance of John Gray who at that time was an avid enthusiast and had owned various Minis since the early 1960's. His many years of helping to run other clubs together with his enthusiasm brought fresh ideas and a renewed vigour to the Club. WSMOC continued to attend a variety of regional and national shows, often travelling in convoy as it still does to this day. In November 1999 WSMOC attended its first show since the retirement of Aaron and promptly won 3rd place at the Cool Yuletide Show, Sandown and continued it's success by coming 2nd in 2000. In the following years the Club decided to change it's Club colours from green and black to yellow and black as it was felt this would have more impact at shows.

In 2002 the Club voted on allowing the new "BMW" MINI to be admitted to its ranks with pretty much a majority and later in September of that year arranged its second national show "Mini's by The Sea" to celebrate it's 10th Anniversary. Wuzzies set about leafleting every Mini show they could get to and circulated details to the local radio and television. As a result, unlike the show of 1987, the sun shone and it was a profound success raising a large sum of money for local hospices St Barnabas and Chestnut Tree House. The show continues to this day and has become part of the national Mini calendar. By 2013 it had raised over £30,000. As a thank you for the shows contribution to St Barnabas they placed a plaque in it's "Walk of Life" path at the new hospice. This acknowledges the Club and the wonderful support of the Mini fraternity and the general public who attend these shows every year.

In 2004 John Gray stepped down and Martin  Black was elected to take the reins. Martin was a founder member and had served from the beginning on the Committee as both Treasurer and Vice Chairman. Martin's Clubman Estate appeared in the Mini Press on two occasions as a feature cover car and had been included in two hard back Mini books. In addition and over the years several other members and former members cars appeared as feature cars in monthly Mini publications, notably Dickie Dowsett, Tony Gardener (already referred to), Patrick Howe of "Raven Racing" and Ben Creasy. (Apologies for others that may have been unintentionally left out).

In the early 2000's Martin arranged the Club's first overseas adventure called "The Fizz Run". A trip with a dozen cars to the Champagne district of France staying in Avize courtesy of Champagne Pierson Whittaker. A fabulous long weekend of touring around quiet country roads and sipping lots of Champagne and eating some wonderful French food. Plaques were made up for the cars on the run and they caused quite a stir in Avize and the nearby towns of Epernay and Reims. On the way back the cars were well loaded down with bottles of fizz and other booty! The trip was so successful it was repeated. Laterly the owners of Pierson and Whittaker went there separate ways and so no further trips could be arranged.

In the later years Martin stepped down as Chairman through work pressures and illness and long time member Dickie Dowsett took over guiding the Club through some difficult times but always trying to push the Club forward with such events as breakfast runs and trips to the IMM in Italy and Hungary amongst others.  


In the summer of 2012 a BBQ party was organised to celebrate the Clubs 20th birthday

and a special souvenir T-shirt was printed. It was very well attended by members both old and new proving that even after nearly 55 years since its inception Mini ownership was still alive and as popular as ever!

WSMOC under Dickie Dowsett's stewardship continues to flourish with a stable membership a healthy bank balance and a full and enthusiastic Committee.

 

"Prepared by Martin Black. This account of the Clubs history is accurate to the best of his knowledge but he apologises if anything or anyone has been omitted or the there are any discrepancies"