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19 February 2018

Puff the Magic Wagon

The rally driver has returned to the sport she quit in 1972 but tells Anna Mikhailova her trusty old Austin Maxi drains her savings...

Bronwyn Burrell made her name as a rally driver nearly five decades ago but gave up her motor sport career at the age of 27— only to return to competing last year. Burrell, who is adopted, grew up in New Zealand before moving to the UK as an 11-year-old to go to boarding school. She took up rally driving as a teenager and began competing in the 1960s.

Bronwyn Burrell During her twenties, the driver and pin-up — she was once crowned Miss Castrol — brushed shoulders with royalty and celebrities. The Formula One champion Jim Clark taught her to race around the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent.

In 1970, Burrell and her all-female crew took part in the London-to-Mexico World Cup Rally, which covered about 4,600 miles in Europe and 11,500 miles in South America over 24 days. They were in one of four Austin Maxis taking part in the race — one of the others being driven by Prince Michael of Kent

Their car, nicknamed “Puff the Magic Wagon”, made it through jungles, deserts and mountains — before finally giving up the ghost in Argentina.

Two years after the race, her mother’s death prompted Burrell to give up rally driving and return, briefly, to New Zealand. When she came back to the UK, she began work as an interior landscaper — providing greenery for inside buildings — eventually running her own business called Decorfolia.

Well into her retirement, however, Burrell got back behind the wheel in 2013, reuniting with her old racing partner Tina Kerridge-Reynolds, 78, who had tracked down their old Maxi. After restoring Puff the Magic Wagon, the pair began competing again.

Last year they raced from London to Lisbon, finishing third in their class. They also took part in the Three Legs of Mann Classic Rally on the Isle of Man.

Bronwyn is now 73 and has no intention of winding down...

Reproduced with the kind permission of The Sunday Times. For the complete article please visit

Fame and Fortune - The Sunday Times.

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