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Longbridge Vicar revs up Channel 4 car series

05 April 2019


The Revd Colin Corke (right) with the team including the former Take That singer who was a panel beater and vehicle sprayer, Howard Donald (second from left), and the winner of the Indianapolis 500, Darior Franchitti (centre)

The Revd Colin Corke (right) with the team including the former Take That singer who was a panel beater and vehicle sprayer, Howard Donald (second fro...

A SELF-CONFESSED petrolhead priest has landed a dream part on a Channel 4 car-makeover show.

The Vicar of St John the Baptist, Longbridge, Birmingham, the Revd Colin Corke, whose parish includes the former MG Rover plant at Longbridge, appears in the show Mission Ignition, which started a four-week run last Saturday.

Each week, two teams race to construct a disassembled classic car. Mr Corke, who is 59, and was known for launching a fan club for British Leyland’s unloved 1970s clunker the Austin Allegro, presents a section extolling the virtues of the cars’ being rebuilt.

“I am quite well-known in car-enthusiast circles,” he said on Tuesday. “I am not a technical person; I am more a social-history car buff — more polishing cloth than oily cloth. What cars have done in society fascinates me; they are still the second-biggest purchase most people make in their lives after a house. The good — and bad — they have brought to society in Britain is just something which captivates me. I love ordinary cars. I am more interested in Allegros than Alfa Romeos.”

In the programme, he does not drive the cars; instead, he sits in his church in clerical dress, pushing toy cars around a table as he talks.

“Cars have always been a passion, and for a while I was a bit guilty about it,” he said, “but then I realised God had given me a hobby. I don’t do holidays; my time off is dictated by car shows and the money that would go on a holiday goes on the maintenance of my cars.” He currently runs two Allegros, three Austin Metros, and a Rover 75, all built at Longbridge, just a mile from his vicarage.

There was no car in his childhood home, and he was the first in his family to drive. “I got my first car when I went up to university and a friend’s dad generously sold me their decaying VW Beetle for 10p. After I left theology college, I got a job as a car salesman for a couple of years and got a company car.”

He admits that the notion of working near the plant was in his mind when he applied for the parish in 2001, but insists that the main reason was “the fact that St John’s is a lovely church with lovely people which just happened to have a car factory at the end of the road”. Later he became an industrial chaplain there, and still does a weekly half-day at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich works.

Asked if he sees a career in TV beckoning, he chokes back an enormous guffaw. But he does admit that “spending a solid day in church blethering about cars into a camera was enormous fun. The parish is quite resigned to me being a complete car nut. There has been a pretty positive reaction to the first programme; I think they were just pleased that the church looked so good.

“I hope I haven’t embarrassed the Church. I didn’t think it was my job to shoe-horn God in along the way. There wasn’t much opportunity to do much Kingdom stuff in two minutes about cars, but I am not guilty about that: I am a vicar, I love cars, end of.”

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