The restoration of a 1979 Mini 1275 GT is at the heart of a new narrative work by critically-acclaimed artist Stuart Whipps, looking at the history and heritage of the famous Longbridge car factory in Birmingham. Whipps has been commissioned by WERK, as part of the Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP), designed to support the ongoing regeneration of the former car factory site.
The 36-year-old artist’s work in Longbridge was deemed so significant that British Art Show (which takes place every five years) selected Whipps to be part of BAS8.
A ‘work in progress’ exhibition of Stuart’s work will be at an all-day event on March 13th at Greenlands Select Social Club in Longbridge.
The event will showcase Stuart's relationship with Longbridge, which began with a photographic exhibition of the derelict factory, created while Stuart was studying at the University of Wolverhampton in 2005.
Not a trained mechanic, Stuart is being helped in the Mini restoration by two former Longbridge workers, Keith Woodfield and John Baker.
Where possible, they are carrying out work on site or in the region; the engine is being rebuilt in Bromsgrove; the shell will be acid dipped in Gornal; the suspension and wheel hubs are being fitted to the subframe with help from mechanic students at Bournville College, which now sits on the site of the former car factory.
Whipps bought the 1979 Mini 1275GT, ‘a slightly contentious model with Mini enthusiasts’ through Auto Trader; tasks which lie ahead include replacing the wing mirrors with originals; attempting to trace a set of ‘optional extra’ gold alloys – and re-tuning the car using official guidelines, so that it outperforms the Mini Cooper, the car it replaced.
The artist sees this as a ‘corrective gesture’, to make it better than it was at the time.