Andrew Cowan - Autocross FRW 304C
Having my own Imp at home enables me to have a lot of fun competing in Autocross.
I find these a first-class way of keeping my hand in, in between rallies. Sunbeam Imp FRW 304C

The Imp Site

Andrew Cowan

13 December 1936 -

Co-driver: Brian Coyle

Andrew Cowan and Brian Coyle were a team since they did the 1961 RAC Scottish Rally in Andrew's Rapier. John and Anne Melvin won that time, but they did use a Sunbeam to do it. Cowan used to be a farmer in the Scottish borders.
In 1962 they were given Works support and finished 19th, proving that the combination worked.
Another source states that the team Andrew Cowan & David Thomson won the Scottish Rally in both 1962 and 1963 in a Sunbeam Rapier.

Name: DeLarge
Date: 22 Aug. 2006

Regarding your Andrew Cowan page, I now have two corroborating sources that Cowan did win the Scottish Rally outright in '62 and '63. The Scottish Rally's official site and the man himself, in an interview in the Scotsman last year.

Rootes noticed.
From then on Andrew had either a Works car or Works support for every international rally he did.
He started in Sunbeam Rapiers but also successfully rallied the Imp.


   Andrew Cowan and Keith Ballisat 1964 Andrew Cowan and Keith Ballisat in 4526 KV, #90 4526 KV, #90
Monte Carlo Rally, January 1964. Andrew Cowan / Keith Ballisat in 4526 KV (an unmodified Group I Imp) with competition no. 90. Of the eight Imps that were entered by Rootes Works, seven drove the 3,000 miles from the Oslo start and arrived safely in Monte Carlo.

RAC Rally, 1964 Production Touring Cars, up to 1150cc (Group 2) 1st: Andrew Cowan / Brian Coyle (Sunbeam Imp Sport 875cc modified)

14th RAC Rally: 1965. Tough rally - due to snow, ice, fog and pouring rain, only 62 out of 162 participants finished. Amongst these 62 were all three Works Imps. Andrew Cowan / Brian Coyle drove 4525 KV.

Andrew Cowan with co-driver Don Barrow drove a works Imp in the 1965 Scottish Rally (June). They had the dreaded transaxle trouble and retired on Special Stage 13. It was the first year Barrow had become involved with the Rootes Group Competition Department, mostly teaming up with Ian Hall.

In the 1965 Monte Carlo rally, Cowan and Robin Turvey came second, driving a Sunbeam Tiger - behind the Tiger of Peter Harper and Ian Hall.


RAC 1966. Andrew Cowan had to retire due to transaxle problems.


Monte Carlo Rally, January 1967
class: Production cars up to 1000cc
1st: Andrew Cowan/ Brian Coyle

Alpine Rally 1967: 9th overall

Scottish Rally, 1967. Andrew Cowan drove works Imp JRW 700E with Brian Coyle and came 2nd (?).

The 3rd works Imp at Coupe des Alpine 1967 driven by Andrew Cowan: registration JRW 701E.
(Information by Andrew Cowan himself, asked Ian Grindrod) - source:, posted 05-01-2009 @ 20:34:05 by 2000RS (Keith)


Monte Carlo Rally, January 1968
Andrew Cowan / Brian Coyle win the 851cc to 1150cc class Production Touring Cars and finish 22nd overall. The Imp is JHP 100E with competition no. 45, a modified Sunbeam Imp Sport 875cc.

Armstrong shock absorbers using Rootes

Scottish Rally, 1968. Cowan in LKW 700F had an accident and retired.

Lydden Hill, Andrew Cowan
Lydden Hill, Andrew Cowan
Andrew Cowan - Rallycross Lydden Hill
Photos for sale at

Andrew Cowan
Andrew Cowan in the Gulf Rally of 1968 (Swedish newspaper) driving JVC 123E
Ovan t.h.: Med sin lilla 1000cc Hillman Imp blev Andrew Cowan bäste hemmaförare = With his little 1000cc Hilman Imp Andrew Cowan remained the best driver

His greatest success was winning the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon with Colin Malkin (another quick Imp driver) and Brian Coyle in a works Hillman Hunter.


Scottish Rally, June 1969
The works Imp's last international event. (Hillman Imp, 1140cc)
From the Glasgow start 70 forestry Specials had to be negotiated. The forestry tracks were terribly damaging. Over half the field was put into the garage before the first 24 hours were over. 134 started, 71 finished. JDU 48E (with 3) suffered transaxle problems. Andrew Cowan replaced the unit with one from his own road Imp, kept on his nearby farm. One night their Imp looked a bit kit-car-ish, with a complete engine and transaxle perched where Brian Coyle normally sits. They swopped their damaged transaxle, without losing any road time, the next morning. Andy and Brian continued to finish second overall to Simo Lapinen's Saab V4.
JDU 48E was later owned and rallied by Steve Brew.

International Scottish Rally, July 1969
Andre Cowan / Brian Coyle drove a Hillman Imp with which they gathered 3782 pts - good for a second place.

Cowan, A.
"Why finish last?" / Andrew Cowan. - Queen Anne Press, 1969. - iii-xi, 129 p : 16 plates, illus., ports ; 21 cm
ISBN 362 002 2
ISBN 0362000522
Subject: London-Sydney Marathon

Author: Andrew Cowan

Book: Why finish last?
Chapter: A dozen years before Sydney
Page: 14, 2nd paragraph and further (edited)

In June of 1963 I was out on the International Scottish Rally again with the Rapier and for the second year running I managed to win. By that time Lewis Garrad was assisting the Rootes factory team and after my success I had considerable encouragement from him, but nothing concrete in the way of a drive, save the chance of competing on the Alpine Rally that year. Peter Procter of the Rootes team had broken the speed limit in the R.A.C. Rally the previous year and had lost his licence, but unluckily for me, he got his licence back just in time to compete. When the R.A.C. Rally came round again I still had my Rapier and again I had a factory engine. This time the gremlins struck once more for I managed to get up to the first twenty towards the end of the rally, when a valve spring broke. All was not lost however for a few weeks later I was approached officially by Rootes with the offer of a co-drive on the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. This was actually my second continental rally, as I had competed privately in the Tulip Rally and finished second in the private entrants class. But driving the Monte in a factory car was different.

I had been paired with Keith Ballisat, who had driven many events both with Rootes and Standard-Triumph, and I saw from the start that my role was to sit, look and learn. The car was one of the first Hillman Imps built and it was running in Group 3 form with a modified engine but the whole trip was a disaster. First of all I don't think Keith was happy with my driving and in my innocent enthusiasm I guessed he wasn't driving hard enough. Early in the rally we made a mistake in our choice of studs and decided to run on long ones just in case we hit heavy snow and ice in Northern France. However, there was very little and steadily the vibration created by these big studs shook the sump bolts loose and we started losing oil. We stopped and tightened up the sump and filled it with oil, but the damage had been done. The tinkle from the bearings told us all was not well and the gearbox began to act up.

With all this going on, we dropped further and further behind and I was thoroughly miserabie and cold. When I drove the stages I had a great time, but I had the feeling Keith wasn't happy at all and more than once he suggested we quit. However, as will be gathered later, I'm a stubborn kind of character and insisted we carry on to the finish, which we did. As the rally was run in those days you had to get to Monte Carlo to be classified and I was determined to get there. At one stage we stopped and realised one big end had gone completely, so I dashed into a garage and bought a gallon of thick gear oil. After draining the sump I started to pour this gear oil, but it was so cold, it took half an hour to put the oil in. It obviously helped, because it was thicker and gave the bearings a good larding. We eventually finished 133rd, but there were a lot of disappointments for me. I was disappointed in the preparation of the car, for instance, although it was the first time the Imp had been used and nowadays I'm glad I was able to see the Imps through these early teething days and into more successful times.

This Monte drive was a one-off as far as I was concerned and my next event was the Alpine Rally that year with a Ford Falcon Sprint [...]

 How do you mean 'a one-off'?

Page: 17, last paragraph

My last rally in a Sunbeam Rapier came towards the end of 1964 with the R.A.C. Rally. Rootes invited me to join them with a factory car, but by now the faithful old Rapier was getting pretty long in the tooth and you had to work hard with it, to keep up with the lighter and more powerful Cortinas. Rootes were developing the Imp and de-emphasising the Rapier and so, as new boy, I was given the Rapier to drive with Brian Coyle.

Page: 25, 2nd paragraph

Back in 1965 with the Monte over for another year, I was still without a full Rootes contract and it looked like I wouldn't have a drive that year until the Scottish Rally. This is a regular for the Rootes team as their Imps are made in Scotland and they get a lot of local support.

   Andrew Cowan - Scottish Rally
Andrew Cowan competing in the Scottish Rally with Hillman Imp JRW 700E, competition no. 7.

Page: 30, last paragraph

To my mind my best performance in an Imp was in the 1967 Scottish Rally when I was holding second overall to Roger Clark in a factory Cortina Lotus; it gave me a lot of satisfaction, put it that way.

Photo no. 4 from the book

Page: 31, first paragraph

During most of my time as a factory driver for Rootes, the Imp has been the only car in the range capable of being rallied succesfully and as I had been involved right from the beginning with the development of the car, I have a great liking for it.

 Right from the beginning? Which year, which month?
How big an influence did a 'new boy' have?
Involvement with what? Competition set up?
Examples? Which experience lead to what?
How did the involvement with the development take place? Meetings?

Personally, I think there are not many cars I would pick to rally before an Imp, and we have made great strides with the car from the early days with the original prototypes. What also encourages me, is the fact that the development engineers have learned a lot from competition and have improved the production cars accordingly.

 Which development engineers? Names?
How did changes happen?
How did the information flow?
From the drivers to team manager Des O'Dell to competition manager Marcus Chambers to Production, then down to the engineers?
More directly? How did that sort of thing come about?

   Andrew Cowan - Tulip Rally
In the 1967 Tulip Rally we were leading our class by eight minutes until we lost a rear wheel a few miles from the end.
Competition no. 110.

My biggest disappointment with the car was on the Alpine Rally in 1967, when Brian and I had been very confident with the car after our recce. We felt that the event was just about 'on' for us in terms of having a penalty free run and winning a Coup des Alpes is what everyone strives for. We went right through the event to the last special stage when a rotaflex coupling broke. And we had a coupe in our pocket, for the rest of the course was well within our capabilities. This would have been one of the few occasions on a recent Alpine where a car of less that 1,000 ccs had won a Coupe, but it was not to be; and this was probably my greatest disappointment in rallying. Not only did we have the class sewn up, but running GT, we were leading the entire GT class, which included Lancias and 904 Porsches.

   Andrew Cowan - Tulip Rally
One of out biggest disappointments was the cancellation of the 1967 R.A.C. Rally due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic. However, Indepent Television Authority held a special event for the drivers at Camberley for the benefit of T.V. audiences.

Probably the best Imp which Rootes have ever prepared was the 'hot rod' we build for the group 6 class in the 1967 R.A.C. Rally. This car never actually ran in the event, as it was cancelled due to the foot and mouth epidemic, but in a TV special stage, put on in an unaffected area, it went very well.

photo no. 8 in 'Why finish last?'

This car had a lightened body shell and a Group 6 engine with a very hot cylinder head and Weber carburettors. It was producing about 94 b.h.p., which was remarkable for a car of 998 ccs. And this power output was remarkable for an Imp at that time. At the special stage near Camberley, we managed to beat Timo Makinen in his works Mini and as I heard from Tony Fall -who had gone with him- that Makinen had been driving absolutely flat out, the car's performance gave me a great deal of satisfaction.
I drove this car on the Circuit of Ireland Rally, but it was short lived, as I was collected by a drunken driver shortly after the start and the accident put me out of the raly.

 What about the body shell?
What all was done to it to lighten it?
What about the engine?
Specifications of a Group 6 Imp?
What about the cylinder head?

Page: 37, first paragraph

It was during the Monte Carlo of 1968 that I first heard about the London-Sydney Marathon. We in Rootes were pleased with a good class win on the event with one of our 875cc Imps and we came back to find copies of a simple little information sheet with a map and some details about this Marathon.

When in the late seventies Competitions Manager Des O'Dell was developing the Sunbeam Lotus, Andrew Cowan did the competitive driving of the rally-prepared version, WRW 30S, with the 2 litre 230bhp Lotus engine. (Bernard Unett carried out development testing)

Nowadays Andrew Cowan is Team Principal of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe world rally championship team.

Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally 2008
Andrew Cowan rallied his Imp 27 September 2008. According to Duke Video: "British champions Russell Brookes and Malcolm Wilson were persuaded to dust off their helmets again, whilst inaugral London-Sydney marathon winner and former Mitsubishi Ralliart boss Andrew Cowan would steal the show with his immaculate Hillman Imp."
a full page feature 'Motorsport News' (of week 39) on Andrew Cowan and his Imp which he drove on the Colin McRae Forest Stages rally, tribute to the late McRae (5 August 1968 15 September 2007).
Andrew Cowan and Ian Grindrod HILLMAN Imp, class 12

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External sites:


  • newspaper article, November 2009: Former Duns rally driver Andrew Cowan was one of four more sportsmen to enter the Scottish Borders Sports Hall of Fame - taking his place alongside the 35 members already present.

© Franka


Non-Imp info

The Encyclopedia of Motor Sport / by G. N. Georgano:
born at Duns in Berwickshire, where he now [1971] lives and farms as his father before him.
He started rallying in 1959 with a Sunbeam Rapier and had considerable succes in local events. He entered his first international event in 1961, when he won the Scottish Rally: a performance he was to repeat [...]

In October 1970 he drove a Works mini (YMO 881H) in the Southern Cross Rally - he and R. Forsyth retired.

In 1979 he won his class (codriver Johnstone Syer) in the Safari Rally, driving a Mercedes 280 E. That same year he did the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire in a Mercedes 450 SLC 5.0 (codriver Klaus Kaiser), finishing 3rd in class.

Tjeerd van der Zee,

World Rally Championship Classifications

Pos Championship Points
8 1979 World Rally Championship for Drivers 22
36 1980 World Rally Championship for Drivers 6


EventCo-DriverMake ModelComp. #Position
1977 Safari RallyP. WhiteMitsubitsi Lancer 1600 GSR#34
1979 Safari RallyJ. SyerMercedes 280E#164
1980 Safari Rally K. KaiserMercedes 450SLC 5.0#56

Andrew Cowan's Rally Record

Cowan, Andrew