John achieves sporting dream

Feature on Toyota classic car enthusiast John Midgley. Picture shows a 1974 restored Toyota Celica ZA22GT driven down a lane in Grassington

Feature on Toyota classic car enthusiast John Midgley. Picture shows John with his 1974 restored Toyota Celica ZA22GT

Feature on Toyota classic car enthusiast John Midgley. Picture shows a 1974-restored Toyota Celica ZA22GT

Feature on Toyota classic car enthusiast John Midgley. Picture shows John with his 1974 restored Toyota Celica ZA22GT

Feature on Toyota classic car enthusiast John Midgley. Picture shows John working on the steering rack of a 1986 Celica Turbo - known as the Whistling Pig

Feature on Toyota classic car enthusiast John Midgley. Picture shows one of the Toyota engines

First published in News
Last updated
Craven Herald: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

WHEN John Midgley finishes rebuilding his latest classic rally car - a 1971 model - it will mark the culmination of an ambition to assemble a stable of iconic cars which have made their mark in the sport over the last 40 years.

And what makes them even more special is their make - every one of the famous models is a Toyota - because, like it or not, Toyota is in John's blood.

He started working for his dad in a Toyota dealership in Silsden in 1966 and went on to become a semi-works driver for the company and later spent a year following his passion full time.

This latest project to reconstruct the 1971 Toyota Corolla will bring to more than 10 the number of cars he has restored at his home in Wood Lane, Grassington.

When he gets behind the wheel of the little Toyota, in November 2015, he will set off on the gruelling, eight day test of car and man, the East African Safari Rally, a 3,000-mile slog from through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

He imported the four door shell of the car from New Zealand, deliberately choosing a four door version so he could get his tools and other gear in the back. He intends carrying out any repairs along the route himself.

John, who established Midgley Motor Cars in Skipton with his son Will, caught the rallying bug as a young man in his late teens and in 1984 crowned his career by winning Group A in the British National Rally, having been a class winner in the late 70s and early 80s.

Racing career over, he turned back to his motor trade business and it was 20 years later, upon seeing a Toyota model for sale, he got the rally itch again.

"I saw the car for sale. I said if it gives me the grin factor I'm going to buy it and enjoy myself again before I fall of the perch. So I did.

"And when I made my mind up to semi-retire a few years ago, I decided I'd have a go at building all those historic Toyota rally cars that came out of team Team Toyota Europe.

"Each of the cars pays tribute to Ove Anderen the top driver for Toyota and founder of Team Toyota Europe and his co-driver Henry Liddon.

"I wanted replicas of the Toyotas that were rallied throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s and that's what I've done."

The list includes a 1972 Toyota Corolla Levin, 1974 CelicaTA22, 1979 RA40, 1981 Corolla GT TE71, 1984 Corolla GT AE86, 1986 Group B TA63 Celica, known as as the "whistling pig" because of its looks and speed, 1991 Celica four wheel drive turbo, the World Rally Championship vehicle in 1992 and the 1996 Toyota ST205, WRC winner in the same year.

"It's been five or six years of hard work. The biggest problem now is finding places to keep them," said John.

As well as showing the cars at special events - examples will be displayed at Bradford Classic Car show in the city centre next Saturday, August 16 - one of the vehicles, a replica of the model he raced in 1984, is used for rallying - but more sedately.

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