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Love story behind Northern Ireland's Crossle Cars to be told in UTV documentary

Documentary on UTV at 8.30pm

By Jonathan Bell

UTV is to screen a love story with a difference.

Made in Holywood tells the story of John Crossle who set up a car company in Co Down that went on to become famous the world over in motorsport circles and a name that continues to be relevant today.

The company helped launch the careers of Northern Ireland’s Eddie Irvine and John Watson, F1 world champion Nigel Mansell and countless others who saw the cars as the perfect vehicle to hone their track skills.

It’s 60 years since John cleared a space in an outbuilding in his Holywood home and decided he would make a race car as good - if not better - than what was hurtling around the race tracks of the day in what was a golden era for the sport.

Despite the decision to throw everything into his new company, John had no formal training in mechanical engineering, but a brain, his family say, that meant the quiet man was always trying to work out how something would work and put together.

And the results were incredible.

In the documentary, Irvine talks of how the quality of the build and the reliability of the machine meant you could just go round and round the circuit knowing it would never break down. He still uses the cars to train the next generation at his Kirkistown race school.

But ultimately John’s love of motorsport was what held the company back to a degree.

Crossle's wife Rosemary explains how young racers eager to get behind the wheel of a Crossle would offer to buy one, only for John to advise them to stay in the lesser-powered motor they had to help with their development. A move which often meant rivals got the business.

Broadcaster Plum Tyndall says the Crossle name deserves to be alongside the legendary names of Harry Ferguson and Rex McCandless, pioneers of engineering and motorsport respectively.

The documentary was produced by UTV Reporter, Richard Cull.

“Making a documentary is something I’ve always wanted to do. The only thing missing was that perfect idea or story that would make an interesting and engaging watch," he said

"I covered the Cultra Hill Climb for UTV Live in the summer and it was then that I was introduced to Crossle Cars and the company’s background. I was very interested, albeit slightly embarrassed too as, at that point that I didn’t know much about Ireland’s and probably one of the world’s oldest racing car companies that just happened to be on my doorstep."

Richard continued: "When I returned to the office I looked through UTV’s archive to see if we had any footage of its founder John Crossle and the cars themselves. To my delight I found we had black and white footage from the 1960s as well as a whole documentary made 30 years ago about John and his company.

“I then learnt that Eddie Irvine, John Watson and Nigel Mansell all raced a Crossle, confirming the cars’ star quality. After speaking at length with the family, I uncovered the human side of the Crossle Car Company, and the people that made it so successful. I soon realised this wasn’t just about cars but also one family’s desire to succeed against all odds."

On hearing his idea, UTV's head of news and programmes Terry Brennan gave the project the green light and helped put it on the starting grid.

“I had a wish list of interviewees - top of which was Eddie Irvine and John Watson. After multiple phone calls, emails, meetings and a good bit of luck, both happily agreed to appear in it," added Richard.

"Seeing how the Crossle factory works was a big highlight and how they produce these bespoke cars from the designs John made all those years ago was fascinating to see.

“Another highlight for me was filming with Eddie Irvine at Kirkistown. We were able to get Eddie in a Crossle and follow him around the track with a drone. Not only did it produce some amazing footage, But it was also great to get a unique personal insight into how he started his career.”

Made in Holywood is on UTV on Thursday night at 8.30pm.

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