Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Le Mans Mini Marcos project gets ACO approval

Today is a grand day for the Le Mans Mini Marcos project as I received a parcel from France that had been eagerly awaited, putting things pretty mildly. It comes from the ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest), which is the organizer of the 24 hours of Le Mans race since human memory. It contains a copy of their full file on my car. This means all the documents are there, from the very first application form to all the official records that they took at the 12 different posts where they checked, verified, measured and weighed the car prior to the race on June 18, 1966. It's all dated and full of technical detail. It is a gold mine for the restoration.

It's even more than that as it also means the ACO have now officially approved my car as the real deal. And to say they take things seriously, certainly is no exaggeration. To get to this point, I had to send all of the possible evidence that I had over to an ACO jury. When the head of the club's Heritage Service contacted me six weeks later with the now classic words 'It's good' it made my day!
I'd like to thank Gérard Boulin for getting me in touch with the right person in the first place plus Stéphanie Lopé and Antoine Letrésor at the Automobile Club de l'Ouest for their support.

The filing map that came in the post today from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest
Picture Jeroen Booij

It contains all the official documents that came with the car's entry at Le Mans in 1966. Seen here is the 'Carnet de pesage', showing the approval signatures for all the 12 posts the car had to go through
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday, 21 August 2017

Hrubon Schmitt restored, now for sale

I received a message from Samuel Fanouillere, who just finished the restoration of his 1982 Schmitt. He wrote: "Hello Mr. Booij, I am French and a great fan of your books about Mini derivatives. My job is to restore, tune and service classic cars, mostly English ones and I am also a mini collector in a Mini collectors family... I have a 1964 Mk1 8-port Cooper 'S' under restoration and a Mk3 1460cc 7-port race Mini. My girlfriend has a 1998 sportspack Mini while my father's got a 1966 Mk1 Cooper 'S', a 1971 Mk3 Cooper 'S', three 1275 GTs and a 1991 carburettor Cooper. The most interesting for you, however, may be his Hrubon Schmitt on which on I just finished a restoration to make it look good and be reliable. As well explained in your second book, it is the one that was made in the Alsace and its 16,000 kms on the clock are certified from new."

As a fan of the late Jean-Claude Hrubon's work I certainly like it. Hrubon designed the thing as a cheeky little car to beat the parking problem in central Paris. But it proved popular outside the capital, too. Before selling the project to Bernard Schmitt in the Alsace, he had his hands full on building them. He told me: "There were some rich people who bought one, which may have helped. When I moved to Saint-Tropez there were more people wanting one and some ended up up on the decks of yachts." Perhaps this one will do just that? Samuel has asked himself the question what to do with so many Minis to play with…? And with the restoration job just finished, he  has now decided to part with this pristine Schmitt. You will find the ad here. Let's hope it will find a good home very soon. Perhaps just in time to enjoy some sunny Summer drives this year?

At 2,350 mms the Schmitt is the ideal car to park in congested areas. Or near the beach…
Picture Samuel Fanouillere

Samuel's example just underwent some major surgery and looks to be fit to enjoy now
Picture Samuel Fanouillere

The engine was totally overhauled with all new bolts, gaskets, seals, some of the bearings and more
Picture Samuel Fanouillere

This Schmitt looks like new. Carb has been refitted, as has ignition, clutch, brakes, pipes et cetera… 
Picture Samuel Fanouillere

Friday, 18 August 2017

Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (7)

It was already shown to you briefly in the video I posted yesterday, but here's the story in on the radiator holes in more detail. For anyone interested I once again publish some photographs in chronological order to fully understand the stages it went through.

The car is seen here in a very early stage, being build up at Jean-Claude Hrubon's workshop in Paris. 
A modest row of holes is made in the front of the car for cooling
Picture Guy Le Page

And here on its first outing at Le Mans test on April 3, 1966. Row of holes is still the same. It must have been a cold day as they were taped over later on the day
Picture Guy Le Page

But just three weeks later at the Monza 1000 kms race on 25 April it's quite different. The row is made longer with 10 more holes on each side. Plus the lower front is now heavily drilled, too. There is an added radiator placed behind it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Pit street of Le Mans prior to the 24 hours race on 18 June 1966. Holes are all there, clearly visible in this photograph
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

1968: Magny Cours. Top row of holes is untouched. Bottom front is blanked off. 
The car is painted 'Bleu Ciel' (light blue) here with an orange stripe
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

1970 Treffort hill climb. The car is now much modified and road registered in Nice. Much of the lower front has now been cut out, as has the middle of the top, with just four holes left on each side
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the car is it is now. Front is still similar as in 1970, seen above. But the four holes on each side have now been closed with fiberglass
Picture Jeroen Booij

They are, however, still visible from the inside. These are the ones on the left hand side that became visible after having removed the paint
Picture Jeroen Booij

And these are the ones on the right hand side. We also located the holes were the added radiator was bolted on the body shell, one of them visible here on the right
Picture Jeroen Booij


Mores in this series here:

Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (2) - Holes for lights and details
Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (3) - Petrol tank, roll bar, pedals
Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (5) - Racing numbers and bonnet straps

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Le Mans Mini Marcos: body work in progress

Just back from Yorkshire to meet up again with Paul and Peter at Seventies Car Restoration. Have a look at the video below to see about the current affairs on the 1966 Le Mans Marcos project, with Peter showing some of the details. In the meantime I have also traced more parts for the car and have some fantastic news from France - more on that later. 

Video: Jeroen Booij

Monday, 7 August 2017

Maximum Minis meet up

A lovely little meeting of Mini derivatives took place during the Cambridge Mini Chill last weekend. With GTM Rossas Mk1 and Mk2, a Peel Viking, Ranger Cub, Domino Pimlico, Heinz 57 Hornet, Sabre Vario and Whitby Morrison 'Batman' ice cream van, several of them having been seen here before, this was an excellent turn-out of 'Maximum Minis'. Let's hope we can show more of them at other shows, too. The photographs are all by Steve Hudson.

Mini derivative owners and their cars came together at the Cambridge Mini Chill last weekend
Picture Steve Hudson

GTM Rossa from Germany, Sabre Vario, Peel Viking, Ranger Cub and Batman ice cream van
Picture Steve Hudson

And there's more. Pimlico, Rossa Mk1, Heinz Hornet. What to choose? He doesn't know!
Picture Steve Hudson

Interest in Mini based cars clearly is rising. We should display more of them at shows!
Picture Steve Hudson


Friday, 4 August 2017

Gyro-X to star at Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach, no doubt the world’s most prestigious concours d’elegance, will bring together another grand parade of prestigious four-wheelers on the 20th this month at the Californian golf resort with the same name. But there is always some unexpected stuff, too. Enter this year's class ‘American Dream Cars of the 1960s’ - all about future visions of days long gone, when the imagination of car builders went wild over shapes and technologies. And it's this class that will show a Mini derivative!

It's the Gyro-X, unveiled by Gyro Transport Systems, Inc. of Northridge, California, in 1967. Jeff Lane of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee has set himself to the task of restoring this most unusual vehicle after having found it in a rather horrid state with VW power and without the gyroscope that made it such an attraction originally. I asked Jeff to write down something on the car and this is what he sent over:

"The 1967 Gyro X is the brainchild of Thomas Summers and Alex Tremulis, respected leaders in their fields - Summers a gyroscope expert and Tremulis with automotive styling and design.
In California in 1961, Summers formed Summers Gyrocar Company as a subsidiary of Summers Gyroscope Company, which made instruments for the aircraft industry. Summers’ passion and dream was to build a practical gyroscopically-balanced car. In 1963, Summers Gyrocar Company received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build the Gyro Stabilized Cargo Carrier. In 1965, prototypes were completed and tested. It is believed about five were built, then the U.S. Department of Agriculture withdrew funding. Meanwhile, Alex Tremulis, acting chief of Ford’s Advanced Styling Studio, was also interested in gyroscopically-stabilized vehicles. In 1956, Tremulis conceived the Ford Gryon, and in 1961 it was built as a concept car. Tremulis wanted to make the Gyron fully functional, but a quote of approximately $135,000 (that’s over 1 million dollars today) to build the gyroscope and control system, stopped that from happening. Ford’s Gyron was displayed at the New York International Auto Show in 1961, remaining on display at the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn, Michigan until November 1962 when the building burned down, destroying the vehicle.
Around 1966, Summers and Tremulis joined forces to build the Gyro X. Summers Gyrocar Company raised $750,000 (5.7 million today) and construction soon began. Tremulis styled the car, and the shop of Troutman-Barnes built the complete car minus the gyroscope and control system, which of course was built by Summers’ company. By early 1967, the Gyro X was completed and shown at the “Wonderful World of Wheels” exhibit at the New York International Auto Show. The task of commercializing the car then started, but met with no success. Investors sued to recover the money spent to build the car, and Summers Gyrocar Company closed its doors in 1970.
Once Summers Gyrocar Company closed its doors, the next several years were filled with lawsuits. Tom Summers and Alex Tremulis remained close, as well as enthusiastic about the gyroscopically-stabilized vehicle concept. Summers retained ownership of the car and continued to promote it. He developed numerous projects around gyroscopically-stabilized vehicles in order to get additional funding; none of this work went past the concept stage.
The Gyro X appeared in Nevada in 1975, and from there Summers became involved with some shady Las Vegas promoters who promised to put the car into production. By now the car is a three wheeler (two in back) and the gyroscope is most likely gone.
The Gyro X reappears in 1994 when a Las Vegas company uses it as collateral in a business deal gone bad, and entertainer John Windsor obtains the car in that same year. The car sat on his property until 2004, when he gets it running (still a three wheeler with no gyroscope). He sold the car in 2009 to an eclectic car collector in Houston named Mark Brinker. Brinker planned to restore the car, but after two years decided restoration was unrealistic. In 2011, Brinker sold the Gyro X to Lane Motor Museum.
Lane Motor Museum spent the next six years reconstructing the car to its original configuration. Agency Impianti, an Italian company, built the gyroscope and control system that make the Gyro X a functional gyroscopically-stabilized vehicle once more."

"How a Gyroscopically-Balanced Car Works and Some Basic Specifications on the Gyro X
In the simplest terms, a large flywheel spins to balance the car. Sensors in the car measure its angle of lean, and when the car goes around a corner, a hydraulic ram moves the spinning flywheel on its vertical axis to change the lean angle of the car.
The 1967 Gyro X is 44” wide, 180” long, and 48” high. It is powered by a 4-cylinder, 80bhp Austin Mini Cooper S engine. The car was promoted as a 2-seater, but they would have to be two small people! The motor drives the rear wheel through a 4-speed transmission and powers hydraulic pumps driven by the engine. The hydraulically-driven gyroscope is in the front where one’s feet are.
Specifications of the Gyroscope:
1. Flywheel diameter is 17.1”
2. Flywheel weight is 230 lbs.
3. The flywheel must spin at a minimum speed of 2,400 RPM to balance the car, and its normal operational speed is 3,000 RPM. It takes about four minutes to spin the gyro to operational speed. Once the engine is shut off, it takes about two hours for the gyro to stop spinning. Spinning at 3,000 RPM, the gyro has as much energy as a 2,000 lb. car going 30 mph."

"Was the Gyro X Practical?
In theory, a gyroscopically-balanced car sounds great. In reality, it is a very complex system with a great deal of stored energy. If something goes wrong, it could be very dangerous. The 1967 Gyro X was a functional car, although it seems the high-speed stability was questionable. Even now, 50 years later, with more advanced electronics and a better control system, the car remains very complicated. The gyroscope and surrounding control system together weigh about 900 lbs., which includes three hydraulic pumps and 100 ft. of hydraulic tubing. It’s hard to see how this could ever be financially feasible as a mass market car."

Thanks so much for that, Jeff. Let's hope the car receives the attention as it deserves as this has been such a challenging restoration. For some original film footage of the car in movement, click here. Good luck to Jeff and the team of the Lane Motor Museum. The 'American Dream Cars of the 1960s' class boasts another 9 cars, all fantastic on their own:

the 1960 DiDia 150 built for Bobby Darin
the 1962 Studebaker Sceptre Concept Coupe by Brooks Stevens
the 1963 Tex Smith XR6 Custom Roadster
the 1963 Mantaray by Dean Jeffries
the 1965 Reactor by Gene Winfield
the 1965 Bugatti T101C Roadster by Virgil Exner/Carrozzeria Ghia
the 1965 Pontiac Vivant Roadster by Herb Adams
the 1966 Bosley Mk2 Interstate Coupe
the 1969 Farago CF 428 Coupe by Paul Farago

It worked! Gyro X prototype back in its heyday in 1967. Its restoration is a real challenge
Picture courtesy Lane Motor Museum

This is how the car looks at the moment, with under two weeks to finish it for Pebble Beach
Picture Jeff Lane

The Gyro X is known for its gyroscope, seen here as refabricated to the original specs by Impianti in Italy. Jeff wrote: "Even now, 50 years later, with more advanced electronics and a better control system, it remains very complicated. If something goes wrong, it could be very dangerous"
Picture Jeff Lane

But… what drives the car is a Mini Cooper 'S' engine, placed behind the seats
Picture Jeff Lane

The Gyroscope closer up. Once the Mini engine is shut off, it takes about two 
hours for the gyro to stop spinning
Picture Jeff Lane

The Gyro X under construction at Gyro Transport Systems, Inc. of Northridge, California
Picture courtesy Lane Motor Museum

With Alex Tremulis in 1967. He was a former designer of Duesenberg, Ford, Tucker, Cord and Chrysler
Picture courtesy Lane Motor Museum

Monday, 31 July 2017

The sun seekers (3)



I'm off for a holiday for some time, but not without leaving you with no Maximum Mini stories. So here's a little series on Mini based sunshine cars that I wrote some years ago for Mini Magazine. Enjoy!

Apart from the obvious Volkswagen based Beach Buggy, the Mini proved to be a great base for a fun car too. Jeroen Booij looks at the best-known Mini derivatives for sunbathers; only to find out they all came from the south coast. Evidently not a coincidence.

The majority of the sun seeking Mini derivatives came from the UK's south coast. No coincidence?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


That same year, however, the Mini fun car was given a new lease of life by Domino Cars Ltd of Southampton, once again in sunny Hampshire. The company was formed the year ahead by aeronautical engineer John Chapman and GRP-expert John Ingram. By 1986 they introduced their Domino Pimlico. A bit of a cross between the Mini Beach Car and a Mini based Beach Buggy! The design of the car came from Richard Oakes who did numerous kit cars before and Fibretech GRP that also did Beetle replicas built the car’s open body. The Pimlico was immediately recognizable as a Mini but came with lots of differences too. The body was completely seamless and came with high sills, no boot lid and no doors and a ‘T-bar’. It had large incorporated wheel arches; distinctive side skirts and ‘frenched’ rear lights. Simple doors that required external door hinges were available at extra cost but most customers ordered their Pimlico without. Standard, the cars were painted in a two-tone paint scheme. After the Pimlico-success the Domino-range was quickly broadened with more models. From a Hard Top version to a Pick-Up and from the Cabrio to a lightweight racer with space frame chassis and carbon composite body shell. Domino Cars and Fibretech went into receivership in the new millennium and the assets were taken over by Domino Composites, which changed its name to Composite Designs before going into liquidation in late 2007.

An early sketch of the Domino Pimlico. It became a best seller
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thanks to an enthusiastic importer, quite a few Pimlicos sold in The Netherlands
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Although some went further abroad, to sunnier places, as well. This one is in Florida
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Life's a Beach! Some Domino Pimlico's even ended up with gullwing doors
Picture source unknown

There were plenty of others, too. Ranging from a Stimson Min Bug copy called the Luna Bug (this time it came from Portsmouth) and another from Scotland called the Dougal Bug, to the Cirrus – a buggy with a swoopy design of which a prototype was shown only once in public (in an incredible metalflake paint job) before disappearing forever. There were many more unofficial Beach cars built in small numbers from Portugal (Arco Iris Beach car) to the UK (Crayford Carnival; Tigmark Mini Millé), France (Fayard Mini; Jacky Mini Plage; Many Mégo Mini), Germany (L&H Mini Beach Car), Venezuela (Mini Cord Beach Car) and there was the unique Gran Turismoke from Australia and Ed Roth's Surfite from sunny California. Except from the Pimlico perhaps, all Mini based sun seekers mentioned here are all pretty rare though. Even the Stimson Min Bug of which reputedly 180 were built you don’t see on the roads anymore. So if you do know of one that’s been parked in a shed way too long, get it out before the summer is gone and the sun disappears again!

The Luna Bug turned up in 2013 (story here), only to disappear again very soon after!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The Cirrus Mini buggy remains another mystery. This is the only photograph I have of it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Hot Car magazine

Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth's Surfite was a bit of a film star before it ended up in a museum
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The 1998 Tigmark Mini Mille - 'the Mini Beach Car for the new millennium'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The sun seekers (2)



I'm off for a holiday for some time, but not without leaving you with no Maximum Mini stories. So here's a little series on Mini based sunshine cars that I wrote some years ago for Mini Magazine. Enjoy!

Apart from the obvious Volkswagen based Beach Buggy, the Mini proved to be a great base for a fun car too. Jeroen Booij looks at the best-known Mini derivatives for sunbathers; only to find out they all came from the south coast. Evidently not a coincidence.

Not too far from Barry Stimson’s workshop, another two Mini derivatives with bold Beach Buggy styling were conceived at around the same time. From Poole came Neville Trickett’s more traditionally styled Siva Buggy. Trickett had been responsible for the sporty MiniSprint in the mid-sixties. By 1970, however, he came up with his Mini based Buggy. It hadn’t gone unnoticed to him, too, that Volkswagen based Beach Buggies were becoming a hit and as an answer he made his own version. For the price of £195 the customer bought a kit to build one himself. It included a fibreglass body and a steel tube chassis frame that carried most of the Mini’s suspension. Radius arms were lengthened while the Mini’s suspension trumpet cones were shortened. Headlights and rear lights were included too. The complete front subframe with engine from a donor Mini could be bolted in, and some more Mini-parts like instruments, pedals and wheels could be re-used. Bucket seats, a flat windscreen in an aluminium frame and black vinyl hood all were extra’s, as were 13-inch wheels that gave the Buggy a better appearance then the Mini’s standard 10-inchers.

A great example of the British-built Siva Buggy in typical seventies fashion
Picture Siva Moonbug Skyspeed register

And another in 'Beach Patrol' livery. Pity it was photographed on the tarmac though!
Picture Siva Moonbug Skyspeed register 
The Siva Buggy was marketed by Skyspeed limited of Feltham
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


These two drawings come from the rare British brochure
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


Trickett was soon fed up with his Buggy customers and decided to have the car distributed by a motor accessory company who offered it as the Skyspeed-Siva Buggy. They sold quite a few before the moulds and production rights were sold to Euromotor in Amsterdam who had been Siva-importer for some time. Euromotor started building cars offering them as the Siva Moonbug. By now purple had become the standard colour with other colours available for extra money. They carried on production until 1976 when a fire destroyed the Amstelveen (close to Amsterdam) premises and the original moulds.
Dutch-built and Dutch-registered Moonbug was built under a license in Amstelveen
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is another Dutch car, found much modified on a Dutch scrapyard in the 1980s
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Extract of the even rarer Dutch brochure of the Siva Moonbug
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


Then there was illustrator Mike Jupp, just further eastwards along the south coast. Jupp was asked to design a car in 1969 that had to be based on Mini-mechanicals and was supposed to be a beach buggy-style fun car too. He liked the idea of what he now calls a ‘Juppmobile’ and started drawing. Intrigued about World War II-machinery he says he was influenced by the Volkswagen Kübelwagen and Schwimmwagen so perhaps it is not surprising the Nimrod he designed had some similarities with amphibians. The Nimrod-name derived from the famous Nimrod fighter planes. Together with carpenter Ray Jay of Hunston he started working on a prototype from his parents farmhouse, but when he was half way finished the men who had come up with the idea for the car withdrew from the project, leaving Jupp and Ray behind with nothing but a half-finished car. The two now decided to put it on the road themselves. It wasn’t until 1972 that it actually was ready. The ladder frame chassis came with a floor of plywood while the roll bar was made from a scaffold tube. The fibreglass body was an open two-seater with high sills and no doors. Between the windscreen and the rear screen there was a bar to give the body a bit more strength and a black vinyl roof was attached to it. Headlights and rear lights came from the Hillman Hunter and a Minivan petrol tank was fitted. Jupp admits that he wanted to give the car as much ‘Beach Buggy looks’ as he could and designed chunky rear mud flaps to add to the impression of wide tyres! Jupp took delivery of the car and even drove it to Transylvania in 1974 with a trailer behind it to carry tent and gear. When a friend asked for a second car Jay began to think about limited production, eventually building another four Nimrods. Years later the car was offered again in 1979 by Nova Cars, but it is unknown whether they ever sold any cars. Nigel Talbott and his company ‘T.A.C.C.O.’ in Wincanton did build a few another two years later, but it is believed not more then fifteen Nimrod were build in total by 1986, by which time the car had disappeared.

The Nimrod prototype being evaluated at Ray Jay's workshop in Hunston
Picture Mike Jupp / Jeroen Booij archive

Mike Jupp looking at the Nimrod he has owned for many decades now
Picture Jeroen Booij

And the same car seen where it belongs: on the seaside. Here towing a small hover craft!
Picture Mike Jupp

Nova Cars marketed the Nimrod for a while, but they didn't produce many
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 21 July 2017

The sun seekers (1)


I'm off for a holiday for some time, but not without leaving you with no Maximum Mini stories. So here's a little series on Mini based sunshine cars that I wrote some years ago for Mini Magazine. Enjoy!

Apart from the obvious Volkswagen based Beach Buggy, the Mini proved to be a great base for a fun car too. Jeroen Booij looks at the best-known Mini derivatives for sunbathers; only to find out they all came from the south coast. Evidently not a coincidence.

First there was the Beach Car. An open top Fiat 500 or 600 named ‘Jolly’ with pastel paint job, wicker seats and a roof like a Wall’s parasol. They were totally distinct from the Beach Buggies that came much later. Beach Cars were there to carry rich people from their hotel or yacht to the Mediterranean beach or boulevard, and back. They oozed an atmosphere of Brigitte Bardot, Monte Carlo princesses and Cannes Film Festivals of the sixties’ heydays.
A Beach Buggy, of course, is for burning up and down dunes. More Steve McQueen then Grace Kelly; macho instead of elegant. The two are miles apart. But other then the coachbuilt Fiats or the Volkswagen based buggies, the Mini could be both. Styled by BMC’s chief stylist, Dick Burzi, an official Mini Beach Car went into limited production in Longbridge. No more then 16 were built, with most going to more suitable climates. Survivors are rare.

The south of England still sees of course slightly less sun than Barbados or Florida
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

John Reymondos' beautifully restored Mini Beach Car prototype at the beach in Greece
Picture John Reymondos

This example of the Beach Car series was a Motor cover car and was used by the Queen!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Another Mini Beach car on Monaco plates. It still resides in southern France today
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And its interior. Note colour coded telephone!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But then there was the other side of the scale, as the Mini proved to be a terrific base for a Beach Buggy too. When the American Beach Buggy craze reached the UK in the late sixties, some folks decided to come up with a design for the home market, based on the good old Mini. Funnily they were all created on the south coast. First of them was stylist Barry Stimson, who’d happened to have seen a Volkswagen based Myers Manx buggy in Canada when he was there in 1968. He immediately liked it, saying, “I thought it was so refreshingly different so I decided to design one myself. Not Volkswagen based but around the Mini.” In the plane back to England Stimson made a first sketch and back home in Chichester he started working on a prototype. He rented a hangar in Brighton and started on a tiny budget. Stimson: anything that vaguely had the shape you needed was used. The headlamp pods were moulded from a bra.” When the first Stimson Mini Bug was finished in early 1970 the result looked surprisingly like his early sketch. Reactions were quite overwhelming and the little Bug even appeared on national television. Under the car’s doorless and roofless fibreglass body lay a simple square tube frame to which the Mini’s front subframe was mounted. The rear used the Mini’s trailing arms and motorcycle coils springs and damper units, while the floor was plywood. It was sold as a basic kit less engine for £170 and a complete car was offered from £295. Initially the car was offered with a low perspex windscreen as an extra, but when this was found illegal a more conventional glass screen was offered.
The famous first Mini Bug sketch that Barry Stimson made on the plane
Picture courtesy Barry Stimson / Jeroen Booij archive


From the Stimson photo books: traveling with the Mini Bug prototype to France
Picture courtesy Barry Stimson / Jeroen Booij archive

Sheep do not stop a Stimson Mini Bug on its way to southern France!
Picture courtesy Barry Stimson / Jeroen Booij archive

And plenty of attention for the car in the villages, too
Picture courtesy Barry Stimson / Jeroen Booij archive

By 1972 Barry Stimson found it time for a second model and suddenly there was the Stimson Safari Six: a twelve feet long six-wheeled pick-up, based on the Mini too. According to Stimson it was a bit of a mix between Mini Pick-up, Moke and Traveller but also Range Rover and Renault 4! It was offered for sale in 1972 at £800 all in, which meant it was even fitted with a hood that covered not driver and passenger plus the complete rear end. Like the Mini Bug, the Safari Six was based on a tubular chassis to which a Mini engine-subframe and the fibreglass body was attached. Body panels were colour impregnated in ‘pirate red’ or ‘golden yellow’. The rear four wheels used Mini swinging arms with Girling spring/damper units. It had a zip-up side screen that could be used as a door for the driver. Stimson used the Mini’s standard windscreen for the Safari Six, but placed it in a new frame to which the weather equipment could be attached with push buttons. With twelve extra inches the rear track was considerably wider then that of a Mini helping the designer to create a large pick-up rear deck with fold down bench seat and lockable under floor ‘boot’. Unfortunately, the Safari Six had been a rather big investment for Stimson and after only a few were made the company went to the receiver. The rights for building the car were taken over by a Welsh company that planned to relaunch the car with Ford Fiesta- or Peugeot engine but it never happened.

The Stimson Safari Six in its natural habitat: on the beach with at least one bikini clad girl
Picture courtesy Barry Stimson / Jeroen Booij archive

And this is the Safari Six from Maximum Mini 1. I found the car at a Buckinghamshire farm
 in 2005 or 2006. I wonder if it's still about?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Caroline and Barry Stimson in August last year with Barry's new camper. Very sunny people indeed!
Picture Jeroen Booij