Obituary: Historics and hillclimb star Charles Barter 1943-2022

Leonard Charles Barter – known universally by his second name – who passed away recently following a short tussle with cancer, was among Britain’s greatest sporting motorists of the past 60 years.

Obituary: Historics and hillclimb star Charles Barter 1943-2022

His nine championships across both hillclimbing and circuit racing reflected supreme skill and consistency, spurred on by younger brother Robert, who double-drove initially.

Charles’s starts on the hills were astonishing. Like the legendary Roy Lane, he rarely wasted a rev. Driving a Hillman Imp bought from David Franklin, and subsequently a new Davrian Mk7, the spaceframe Solo Stiletto and ultimately a Delta T824 single-seater, he showcased Ray Payne’s Hartwell Imp engines superbly.

Bolting through the timing beam and carrying mighty apex and exit speeds netted Barter four British Automobile Racing Club hillclimb titles in five years from 1976, in three cars bearing the colours of Dorchester-based Golden Springs Watercress, the family business he repurchased and grew into an international success.

He also aced the RAC British Leaders championship with the Davrian in 1978 and 1980, breaking a three-way tie with David Gould in his Terrapin-BDJ and future triple champ Martin Bolsover (Mallock U2 Mk18) in the former. The inaugural Midland title completed a 1980 triple crown.

Barter took to the circuits with a Team Hartwell-prepared Peugeot 205 GTI in the late 1990s, but it was in the familiar blue Datsun 240Z – his old pal Win Percy’s road car of yore – that he won the Historic Sports Car Club’s 70s Road Sports championship outright in 2001 and 2017.

After a back-to-front victory at Brands Hatch in April, Barter brilliantly won what turned out to be his final race at Oulton Park in August. Four other divisional wins netted yet another seasonal class title.

As vice-chair of the HSCC, Barter helped the revival of the 70s Road Sports championship

As vice-chair of the HSCC, Barter helped the revival of the 70s Road Sports championship

Photo by: Richard Styles

A first job with Ford brought little satisfaction, so Barter returned to the family fold in Dorset. Following in the wheeltracks of father Len – a sometime Riley racer who took him and Robert to grands prix in annual holidays – Charles started production car trialling in a Ford Popular E93A and became a stalwart of the Woolbridge Motor Club’s events.

Having autocrossed 1650cc Anglias with future triple British Saloon Car champion and international superstar Percy, bespectacled pipe smoker Barter also competed in winter sporting trials and enjoyed preparing his cars as much as driving them.

As in business, where he never lost sight of the big picture, his energy and vision meant he put a great deal back into motorsport: at Woolbridge MC, as a founding director of the Hillclimb & Sprint Association and throughout his vice-chairmanship of the HSCC, where his legacy is the revival of 70s Road Sports. Charles’s wit and wisdom will be sorely missed.

He is survived by wife Bridget, daughter Louise, son Julian, and doting grandchildren. “Since father’s passing, I have quickly come to realise that I’ve also lost my best mate,” said Julian, also a double 70s Road Sports champion in the TVR 3000M Charles also raced occasionally.

Lead image: PS Images/Shirley Woodall

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