I went to see the Grandtwins the other day, and realised halfway there that I was not going to make it home again without filling up with petrol. So before setting out for home, I asked Son No. 2 where the nearest garage was, and he said ‘Oh, there’s one right here, on your way back to the A1! You just have to go the long way round.’
He gave me directions and soon I arrived at a little two pump garage, where, just as Son No. 2 had said she would, a lady came out of the little building to fill my car up for me – a rare treat these days! She was very friendly, and we chatted a little as she filled my tank. She told me a bit about fuel prices and how long they’d been in business (over forty years) and I told her about the girls .. and then we walked over to the shop so that I could pay.
When I walked in the door, I said ‘Wow!’
See all those trophies? There are five hundred of them, although clearly not all of them are visible in this photo. See the shelf sagging under the weight? When they take all those shiny things down to dust, they turn the shelf over to let it straighten out before it slowly bends the other way again.
The lady’s name turned out to be Judy Cooper, and all of these trophies have been won by her family for stock car racing – her husband started in the game when he was sixteen years old. He no longer competes, but her son does. And does he race any old clapped out car, stripped, re-built and quickly painted up in the back yard? No, he does not. He races Reliant Robins1 and sometimes stretch limos. And they are not at all badly painted, because this family also paints stock cars professionally under the name K Cooper Racepaints. They have exhibits at the Birmingham NEC and everything!
The Cooper family have won so many awards between them that it almost doesn’t seem fair to let them continue to race … and yet, why the hell not? Since they’re so good at what they do, and they’re providing entertainment for people, asking them to stop would be like asking Mick The Miller’s2 owner to pull him from the Derby to give the other dogs a chance. Not gonna happen. So Allen Cooper will continue to burn rubber on the stock car circuit, and presumably, one day, that shelf will fall down3.
Behind the counter, and on the walls, there are various photos and Judy kindly showed me the calendar that some of the pictures here are taken from – the Trackstar Banger Racing Calendar from 2013 featuring her son, Allen. She’s rightly proud of her intrepid family.
If you are ever down that way, do pop in and get your fuel here: K Cooper Motors of Sawtry is the name. I’m told they only make 3p profit on each litre of petrol because they can’t compete with the supermarkets any other way. So, petrol prices are excellent, it’s a friendly little place and you won’t even have to get your hands dirty!
Oh, and if you want to know a little more about Allen Cooper, there’s a fun little article here.
1 Reliant Robins, in case you don’t know, are possibly the most dangerous car to use for stock car racing. Firstly, they are three-wheelers, which makes them very unstable when cornering – especially in slippery conditions – and secondly because they are made of fibreglass, which has a nasty habit of becoming a fireball if it catches fire in a crash. Like, for instance, when you mess up on the cornering. Crazy, huh? But hey – someone’s got to do it. Just think how boring the world would be if everyone went around being sensible all of the time. Seriously. We’d have no bravery, no space exploration … and probably precious little creativity.
2 Mick the Miller is considered by most people in the business to be THE all-time-great racing greyhound. His remains are now stuffed and on display in a natural history museum in Tring.
3 Because the sad fact is that even MDF has its breaking point, and gravity is no respecter of shiny trophies and has no compassion for owners who don’t want them bent out of shape.