The Heinz 57 Story

THE CRAYFORD HEINZ 57 WOLSELEY HORNETS

Perhaps the most fascinating chapter in Crayford’s long history is the Heinz 57 story. There is so much to be told about the competition, the 57 Wolseley Hornet Mini prize convertibles, and what has happened to these 57 cars since they were won, it could fill a sizeable book.

Heinz Foods of Wembley had a history of giving away cars as competition prizes before and since, but the 1966 “Greatest Glow on Earth” soup competition would be unique in offering 57 bespoke convertibles that would never be available to the public by any other means. The competition was to have been launched in 1965. The Heinz marketing people had seen the attention the ground breaking new Mini convertible Crayford was getting. MGM studios had already cast the car in a starring role in a film with Albert Finney and Susan Hampshire, called “Night must Fall”, partly filmed in Westerham.

A meeting with the Heinz director’s, who turned up in a chauffeured Daimler limo had to be held in a local Tatesfield greasy spoon café as David McMullan and Jeff Smith were still running Crayford from their home garage’s. At the meeting several key issues were discussed. Firstly they agreed to postpone the competition for 1 year to give Crayford time to build not 1, but 57, BMC Mini Wolseley Hornet convertibles, this would be Crayford’s largest single order ever. The competition was set for early spring 1966 and the winners were announced in May 1966. The competition would be judged by, a Heinz director, Crayford’s Jeff Smith, and the well known food critic and TV celebrity Sir Clement Freud.

Because Crayford had already been producing the Crayford Mini convertible for more then four years, it was decided that the Heinz 57 prize cars would be based on the booted Mini, the Wolseley Hornet, with Crayford agreeing not to make copies for anyone else. All the cars would be registered consecutively as one block of registrations, this meant Heinz would have a truly unique prize car. The 57 cars would be produced in two colours, Birch Grey or Toga White, matched to standard Wolseley red leather trim. After the roof conversion, several accessories were then added including a built-in insulated food cabinet, front and rear seatbelts, electric kettle and power point, tartan rug, Brexton picnic hamper, radio, and built-in makeup tray that was fitted out by Max Factor. All of the Heinz 57 cars were then registered LLH 8 - - D, today the lowest number known to the club is LLH 808D and the highest LLH 862D.

At that time Crayford had no storage facility’s for such a sudden and large influx of base cars, 5-car transporters were turning up daily, looking for a non existant Crayford factory in, or somewhere around, Westerham. Eventually Crayford managed to store the cars, during the winter of 1965, at Tatsfield nudists colony, on their vacant tennis courts and car park.

One part of the competition entry form had two tick boxes, where you could indicate which colour car you would prefer to win. At the end of the competition two piles of entries, one grey and one white, were put before the judges, winners were then picked from alternate piles untill all the cars were won. Because those wishing to win a Birch Grey car were much fewer in number, the odds of winning were 4 times greater if you had ticked the “I want to win a grey car” box!

Nearly all the winners were ladies, who after all had done the Heinz shopping, one exception was a sixteen year old boy, David Halliwell, who at the time was to young to drive so his parents made him sell the prize car. One elderly lady winner telephoned Crayford to say it was a nice convertible, but could she have the roof welded back on it! With over one million entries it must have sold a lot of soup.

Today 41 cars survive around the world with about half of them still roadworthy.

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