Chris Charles knew from an early age he wanted to be in motorsport. From the day a neighbour took him to a Lady Wigram Trophy meeting when he was ten years old he read all he could about motorsport. He wrote to ‘The Secretary, Motor Racing Club, Christchurch’ when he was 14 to say he wanted to get involved in motorsport, and asking if he could help with the next Lady Wigram meeting. He received a reply that if he was at Archibald’s Garage at 8.30am on the Wednesday morning, he could make the tea for the scrutineers.

As a country kid whose family didn’t own a car, Chris had never been in the city on his own. He stayed with an aunt in St Albans. On her bicycle and reading a map as he went, he found his way to the garage and reported to the head scrutineer. As he met the drivers and looked closely at the cars, he knew this was what he wanted to be part of.

He subsequently took up a mechanic’s apprenticeship at Gibson’s Motors in nearby Darfield, where Pat Hoare was a director, and the pair talked motor racing almost every lunch time. Later, in Christchurch, Chris spent most weekends working on Pat’s racing cars. He had no burning ambition to be a racing driver; he was happy to be a spannerman. Later, in England, he discovered he got the biggest kick from building rather than maintaining, and felt he’d missed his calling slightly as it was the engineering aspect of motorsport that excited him and still does.

Bruce Wilson, Chris Charles and Chris Amon discussing details at the March Factory (Chris Charles Collection)

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