Suppose you were regularly wearing out a set of tyres on your Mini Cooper in three miles. You’d certainly be doing something very wrong, wouldn’t you? However, this is the usual car tyre mileage on one of The Russ Swift Mini Display Team’s Coopers and Russ is doing something very right – in the eyes of his sponsors and spectators, that is.
The Team, part of Russ Swift Driving Services, was formed in 1981. Current British Autotest champion and England Autotest Team Captain Russ had often been asked to demonstrate his incredible, tyre-testing car control skills. He realised a gap existed in the marketplace and contrived to fill it.
In 1987, an advertising agency saw a video of Russ at work. This led to the renowned Montego “Car Park” commercial. Though this was aired in the UK for just six weeks, the squeal of tortured car tyres was heard when the performance was featured at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also voted by American judges as the world’s most imaginative car commercial.
Where did Russ go from there? A long, long way. Eight thousand tyre-munching displays in more than 50 countries and three Guinness world records (Parallel parking in the tightest space, J Turn in the tightest space and the fastest donuts) form just a small part of his CV.
Russ and Minis go back a long way too, starting with four British Autotest Championship wins and an International Rally win in Sweden in the early eighties, in a Cooper S. More recently, Russ was involved in promoting the remake of ‘The Italian Job’, performing at premieres in London and New York. He fulfils an advisory role with many police, military, royal and diplomatic drivers, also working closely with RoSPA, the IAM and various other road safety bodies to promote safe driving. A versatile player on the car world’s stage, Russ is committed to ensuring that it is only car tyres that suffer!
The tools of Russ’s trade are largely unmodified cars. Russ uses a Mini Cooper S, standard apart from a “piece of tape on the handbrake button”. Another Mini Cooper has one other mod – a locked differential – to allow for driving on two wheels (this is the one that gets 3 miles per set of tyres – should that be per pair?). Typically, a further Mini Cooper is used (all these are BMW MINIs). Often, an MR RS Mitsubishi Evolution undertakes power slides and donuts.
A typical show features reverse spins at 40mph, parking in a slot between two cars parked side by side, using only the handbrake. Similarly, ‘parallel parking’ involves a handbrake turn into the gap between two cars parked as though at the kerbside. Then there is a ‘dance routine’ to music, involving two cars and a ramp. This last – the ramp – is used for the business of getting the locked-diff Cooper up on two tyres. The show features music and commentary – and audience participation is encouraged. The tyres may be red hot but the invited passengers have been known to end up on the pale side!
Find out more – and see pictures and videos – at www.russswift.co.uk.