The Imp Site

This Imp Sport will enter different 1975 championships with either drivers Derek and Ray Armes
 Charles Barter, 1976 Guyson/ BARC Hillclimb Champion
Charles Barter, 1976 Guyson/ BARC Hillclimb Champion

Charles Barter

Holder of UK hill records for 1000cc saloon and 1300 modsport classes
All using a Hartwell Imp engines.

Barter, a Dorsetman who grows watercress, followed his father's example and went motor racing. When your father has been a race driver and you have become one of Dorset's principal watercress growers, what else is left but hillclimbing? He took to the hills in the 1974 season.

It wasn't his first venture into motor sport by some 15 years - almost the day he passed his driving test he started running a Ford E93A Pop in Production Car Trialling, An outgoing, affable Dorchester resident (born and bred there).

As a youngster, Charles had always been involved with the sport -his father raced a Riley 2½ litre at club level, and every summer the whole family trooped off to the Continent to take in Grand Prix, Le Mans and the like. From the age of 17, his own career in the sport took in just about everything but circuit racing - PCTs, rallies, driving tests, anything in fact with a fun element. Autocross was included on the schedule too with a 1650 Anglia.

Charles was originally destined for great things in the British motor industry - after training in engineering at Loughborough College, he joined Ford at their Warley, Essex, headquarters as a customer relations man - "It drove me round the bend," he recalls, "I couldn't wait to get back to Dorchester to help run the family business, Golden Springs Watercress - and I've been there ever since."

He did not spent huge fortunes to enjoy his sport, yet reached the top enjoying it - says CCC. He is married to Bridget with two little Barters.

Charles Barter won national hillclimb championships in a Davrian Mk7 in the late 1970s


Then in 1974 he and Robert decided to try a season of hillclimbing. "We went over to Bristol to see if we could get some Imp bits from David Franklin's Huntsman Garage. (David was 1975 Guyson/ BARC Champion). Under covers in the corner was a pretty cannibalised racing Imp, and we went home with that. The first year we never did anything fantastic, although it had a mild 1000 with twin Webers and so on."


In the winter of '75/ 76, they went to Hartwell's Ray Payne with plans for a full all-out Championship season - Ray supplied the engine and a very special gearbox (a mixture of Jack Knight and Chrysler competition bits) and advised on suspension too.
Charles, Robert and Golden Springs mechanics Roy Kellaway and John Frampton rebuilt the shell.


"Nonetheless," continues Charles, "we started the '76 season haphazardly. We missed the first Harewood. It took six meetings to get the gearbox sorted out, thanks to Chrysler's slowness in supplying parts. And then with the gearbox set up properly, the car suddenly became a real screamer. We took the hills really by storm, and would have been quite happy to just finish the car in the top 10 by the end of the year. Instead we won and took 8th too."

His one litre racing Imp snatched him the Guyson/ BARC Hillclimb Championship by a whisker after one of the most exciting years ever on the hills. He was 33 at the time. Charles took his Hartwell-powered 1000 Imp to victory in the 1976 season with 7 hill records plus wins at every Guyson round he entered. His accountant brother Robert Barter shared the car to come second in class at most events, and he wound up 8th overall.

Hillclimb BARC (Haynes/Euroblast) championship, Davrian Imp

He reckons Devon's Wiscombe Park as his favourite venue, but recalls memorable drives at Loton Park last year when he beat his closest championship rival John Meredith's 1300 Mini and smashed the hill's outright record in terribly hot weather; and at Prescott when he finished high in the Gold Cup challenge, breaking the 1300 record by three seconds.

"I don't think I'll ever forget 1976. For 1977 Ray and I have a few ideas. We are keeping the car at 1000cc, but building a lighter shell.

The Solo Imp of Team Hartwell
Barter driving a spaceframe Stiletto with Hartwell engine
photos supplied by Ken Sharpe

At Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb 1981; Competition #16
Solo Hartwell Stiletto; 1200 cc
Sponsors: Golden Springs Watercress; MH Tools; Castrol; Haynes; Bradburn & Wedge; C. Collier (Covent Garden) Ltd.



Hillclimb BARC (Haynes/Euroblast) championship, Davrian Imp


Hillclimb BARC (Haynes/Euroblast) championship, Davrian Imp

Haynes Leaders champion (class?)


Charles Barter built a hybrid Davrian Imp with honeycomb structure panels for hillclimbs back around 1980, but it wasn't as sucessfull as his car with the standard Davrian grp monocoque.

A little advice from the champion: "If you're going hillclimbing, spend as little money as possible in your first season. You can enjoy yourself whilst learning the hills and seeing which way the wind blows.

"Once you're competitive", Charles goes on, "you have to drive as hard as you can. The whole run has to be on the limit. It's not like racing, where if you make a slip you have time to catch up again. On the hills you're talking in 100ths of seconds - one tiny slip and you can forget about that run. And to avoid slips you must be fit and alert."

By eating more watercress?


Speed, watercress and a cat called Cosworth : a tale of two champions / photography: Norman Hodson. - Cars & Car Coversions 1975. - p. 48-50


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© Franka
File started: 26 July 2013
File version: 26 July 2013


Historic Road Sports, Sunday 9 June 2006
Charles Barter won the 70s Road Sports event in his Datsun 240Z beating Peter Shaw's Lotus Europa by 14 seconds.