Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Codford Mini - where are you?

Did I ever mention the Codford Mini here? I don't think so, which makes it about time. The car, built in and named after the village of Codford Saint Mary, certainly looked good. No surprise perhaps, since it was designed by Neville Trickett, following much of the lines of the MiniSprint, but with different nose and rear (hatchback!) sections in fiberglass. You can read its full story in Maximum Mini 2.

Only three were built, and as a matter of fact one of those three cars has disappeared from the radar since ages. It was red; wore the registration number '31 TKT' and was supposedly Cooper 'S' powered. Where did that ever go?

I know the other car - metallic green; registered BPR 2B; 850 power - was crashed and scrapped in the early 1970s, while the third was actually never finished and survives as a badly corroded body. Also: a stack of professionally made pictures of BPR 2B is believed to may well survive - anyone who knows more about these?

The missing Codford Mini was red and supposedly used Cooper 'S' power. Where could it be?
Picture courtesy Chris Rees

Number 2 was crashed and scrapped but a number of glamourous pictures of it could survive
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Codford Mini number 3 was never finished, but the body does survive - only just
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Driving a Scamp with blindfold

Ever drove a car with a blindfold on? I haven't but I understand you can if you like to. Just book a Team Build day with Mithril Racing and you can take place behind the wheel and trash a specially prepared car into a slalom at Goodwood grounds - blindfolded. It's a modified Mk1 Scamp! Not a Moke as the website mentions. Sounds like fun to me.

Modified Scamp Mk1 comes with instructor and emergency brake in the back
Picture courtesy Mithril Racing

Friday, 5 September 2014

Mystery Mini derivative (37)

This has been a while - no mystery motors have appeared here for some time. But the Mystery Mini derivative is back with a funny four-wheel steered creature which made a brief appearance in two advertisements, supposedly dating back to 1969. At first thought I believed it could have been Mobi-One in a much chopped-up state. Fortunately it isn't. Mobi-One creator Morris Bishop (who is still looking out for the car) told me it could well be 'one of the many copies that there are around'. That leaves us with the question: which one? Do you know it? Share your knowledge here!

Square tube frame, aluminum body, Mini mechanicals. But who built it? 
Picture courtesy carandclassic.co.uk 

Full four-wheel steering would make it a winner at every auto test 
Picture courtesy carandclassic.co.uk 

Morris Cooper S powered, too. Please do not scrap it for the engine alone 
Picture courtesy carandclassic.co.uk 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Maximum Mini 2 in reviews

Slowly but surely the reviews for Maximum Mini 2 drop in and I wanted to share some of it here with you. The current issue of The Automobile is my favorite so far, describing some thoughts that I can only endorse. A quote about the cars: "The reasons for their obscurity are obvious in many cases, but handsome little GTs like the Lawther or the Neville Trickett-designed Codford surely deserved a better fate than as mere footnotes."I was also flattered by: "The level of information offered on each vehicle is a testament to Booij's diligent research. In nearly every case he has tracked down a (or more often than not, the) surviving car and has interviewed many of the people who helped create these curious orphans."

Like I did with the first Maximum Mini book, I will upload all of the the reviews that I receive on a separate page (find it here), have a look if you haven't got the book yet and want to know what others think. Click here to buy it directly.

Meanwhile, if you want a Maximum Mini sticker - buy the latest copy of Mini Magazine, which will have one included!

The Automobile's view on Maximum Mini 2, click up for bigger view

A Maximum Mini sticker is included with this month's Mini Magazine
No awards for guessing the car it's on here!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday, 1 September 2014

Marcoses meet at Euregio 2014

It had been a decade since Marcoses united for the Euregio Meeting on the continent, but yesterday the event was revived after all these years. A string of Mini Marcoses, a few big Marcoses (Mantara and GTs) and some bonus cars (Pimlicos and Quantums) gathered in Holland's south. It was a gentle awakening of the event, but sunny weather, good location and cheerful spirit turned it into an altogether good revival. 

Richard Porter and Keith Rose came over from the UK to represent the British Mini Marcos Owners Club and there were one or two surprises - Aad van Beekum's freshly restored Mk3 Mini Marcos in the first place. Aad has owned the car for 17 years, but only just finished its restoration - a mammoth task he told, as it turned out it had been rolled in a previous life and roof and other body panels were badly crazed. Aad set himself to the task of perfectioning the body and drove it in resplendid silver grey colour for the first time. Another beautifully restored car was the 1600GT with Lotus crossflow head of Remco Bruins. No Mini power here, but no doubt a stunner. 

Remarkably, Aad's Mini Marcos is another car imported from the UK, as were 4 out of 5 other Mini Marcoses on Dutch plates attending. In recent times three cars originally sold to The Netherlands moved abroad - one to Germany, one to Finland and one to Belgium. A handful of cars, originally sold to Holland, remain within the borders, so hopefully we will see these at next year's Euregio Meeting.

 Frank Morskate's Le Mans replica stands out in between all that orange and red! 
Picture Jeroen Booij

More Mini Marcoses line up - remarkably, all of them originate from the UK
Picture Jeroen Booij

No Mini power, but Ed Darwinkel's Midas looks superb in gunmetal with 13" Revos
Picture Jeroen Booij

Frank told me several people have asked him if his (Mk3) Mini Marcos is the real deal!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Surprise of the event was Aad van Beekum's Mk3 - freshly finished after a meticulous restoration
Picture Jeroen Booij

Aad owns the car for 17 years but this was the very first drive he had in it!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Pimlicos were welcome, too. Surprisingly they live just miles apart in Holland's south
Picture Jeroen Booij

Way too beautiful not to include here: Remco Bruins' 'big' Marcos with 1600 Lotus power
Picture Jeroen Booij

Successful day in The Netherlands. The idea is to do the Euregio Meeting every year now
Picture Jeroen Booij

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hrubons are everywhere in France

So you like the Hrubon Phaeton a.k.a. Schmitt, which has been featured in Maximum Mini 2? Good news then, as a whole bunch of them has come up for sale in France recently. All in good condition and low mileage and very expensive, or so it seems. But if you have the money - why not pick one up and combine it with a late Summer holiday? I have made a list of all the ones I could find, with a most unusual Mini Moke, customized by Russian/Lithuanian tuner/coachbuilder Dartz as a bonus. With its ridiculously wide wheels I'm not sure if that's really a nice driver though...

Purple with a custom red leather interior - only in Monaco. Price on request. Ad here
Picture courtesy carandclassic

Not far from it, in Cannes, there's a blue one. Asking price 10,500 Euros. Ad here
Picture courtesy leboncoin

One in BRG is located in Paris - yours for a whopping 22.000 Euros. Ad here
Picture courtesy leboncoin

This one is in satin black is in Aucamville. Still not cheap at 15,000 Euros. Ad here
Picture courtesy leboncoin

Not a Hrubon, but a customized (coachbuilt?) Moke by Dartz: 12,200 Euros. Ad here
Picture courtesy leboncoin

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mini makes maximum money - new owner speaks

You may have noticed that a Mini Beach car made a lot of money last week during a Bonhams auction in Monterey, California. The car - estimated at $70- 90,000 - was hammered down at no less than $165,000. With the 10% auction fee on top of that, it means somebody actually paid $181,500 for it. The highest price ever for a Mini? John Reymondos, who restored the Beach Car prototype told me: "I followed the sale with great interest. It is probably the most expensive Mini sold at auction. I think only a genuine Monte Carlo winning works car can go higher, or a Beatles/Steve McQueen Cooper 'S'." In fact, a works Mini did go slightly higher in 2007 when a 1964 Cooper 'S' sold for £100,500 - $168,081 at the time. With the auction premium on top of that it came at $184,889.

Quite a few people expressed their objection. I have read several comments on forums of people writing 'Stupidity and too much money' or 'It’s official – the world has gone mad'. On the other hand, at the same auction a Ferrari 250 GTO was hammered down at $38,115,000. That's over 38,1 million dollars - exactly 210 times as much as the Mini. Pocket money for some, it seems.

So who bought the Beach Car and why? I found out by chance when last week a chap from Florida ordered my new book, which describes the Beach Car, too. When I confirmed his order he came back to me, writing: "By the way, I am the crazy person who bought the Beach Car at the auction in Monterey. Yeah, I know...crazy money. What can I say?" He, too, had read the various comments on the web and added: "It seems people are judging me fairly harshly. I don't care what they think, but I would rather not have my name associated with these sentiments." That means I can only introduce him anonymously here. But I did ask him why he paid such a lot of money for the car, though. Did he hanker for a Beach Car for all of his life? He didn't: "I fell in love with the Beach Car the moment I saw it. My home in Florida is in a small community where there are a number of Fiat Jollies and Mini Mokes, and I have been close to buying one for some time. Then along came the Mini Beach Car. I knew I had to have it!"

Without knowing the car's exact background, the auction started. The anonymous and now anxious bidder told me: "The bidding was exciting. I told my friends we were definitely taking the car home, but when I dropped out of the bidding at around $100,000 they thought I was done. I think they were relieved! When I bid again at $155,000, they nearly fainted. I knew it was a multiple of what most people think the car is worth, but a few bidders clearly thought it was worth a lot more. I had to go one more tick to $165,000, but sometimes something is rare, unique, and special. Value and price are no longer set by a consensus, but by the most enthusiastic. In this case, I was the most enthusiastic, although some will say the most foolish. That's okay. Zipping along in the Mini on a warm winter day in Florida, how do you put a value on the grins and giggles?"

He's got a point there. The task is now to try and find out more about the car's history as it 'seems blurry at best', he says, adding: "We figured out in our research before the sale that Bonhams had some of the facts wrong, but we have had a hard time separating fact from fiction." I have already volunteered to help, and so has John Reymondos now. "Thank you for being the keeper of the flame", the new owner wrote. My pleasure mate. I can only be grateful that this great little car is now in the hands of somebody who clearly sees the value of it.

The Beach car in question, seen here at a recent car show in California
Picture courtesy Robert Forbes

Some features on the car are not correct. The new owner wants to put that right
Picture source unknown

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mystery closed coupe may become reality

It's been nearly three years since I posted about Andy Downes' modified Status Minipower chassis, which came with some intriguing scale drawings from a mystery company named ABH Design Group - see the article here. Andy has now sold the project to a friend who plans to finally finish the car - hopefully as the ABH it was one day meant to become. Andy wrote: "He is planning to sprint/hillclimb it, sharing it with his suspension guru and put it on the road. I’ve given him all the information and the drawings and also your details, I will keep an eye on it and send you some updates. We have worked out how the elegant gear linkage operates, and he has a log book to register it plus a 1275cc engine and box – he’s quite excited!"

"He likes the design for the ‘closed wedge’ body and is going to see about the possibility of getting it made, although it may become too expensive and end up as a ‘roadster’. He has now already partly dismantled the Minipower but has had to remove it from his business workshop as it is distracting him from his race-preparation work. Everyone who has seen it is very excited for him so hopefully it will finally get finished in the next couple of years…"

The Status Minipower chassis dates back to 1972 but has clearly been modified, too
Picture courtesy Andy Downes

And there it goes… The new owner may put it on the road as the planned closed car 
Picture courtesy Andy Downes

Design drawings for wedged closed coupe may turn into reality after 42 years
Picture courtesy Andy Downes

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Phoenix Estate is much rarer then you'd believe

Gee, have I been looking for a proper Phoenix Estate for a long time! Eventually I found one (63 built - full feature, including interview with its creator in new book) but it didn't prove easy. Imagine my surprise when Peter Bazley dropped me a line last week, with some pictures of a Phoenix in a fantastic looking condition. He wrote: "I thought you might be interested in a couple of photos of a Phoenix. It has been re-built by the father of the present user, and is used as a daily driver by her. The photos were taken on the Manchester Minis club stand at the recent classic car show at Tatton Park. Regards, Peter" Thanks mate!

Restored Phoenix is a rare car, especially in this condition. It's a daily driver, too
Picture courtesy Peter Bazley

Phoenix really is a clever car. And believe it or not: the design is by Richard Oakes!
Picture courtesy Peter Bazley

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The tale of the Mini powered Méan Sonora (3)

Some two years ago I tried to find out the whereabouts of a Mini powered Méan Sonora, built in an old Belgian castle. Despite ending up for a closed door when visiting the actual place, I found out something. I published the car's story in two articles - read part 1 here, part 2 here. But the question remained: What happened to the car. I wrote: "Perhaps somebody here will be able to tell?"

Now, we're almost two years ahead but that somebody has finally called in. It's Louis Lempereur who knew of the car for many years but only just managed to rescue it. He wrote the third part of a fascinating story and I am privileged to share it with you. This is what he wrote:

"I was born in Liège, Belgium in 1946 and when student, used to meet Jacques d'Heur, founder of Méan, in cafés downtown. Elie Boone, a friend from Brussels, owned a Méan Sonora since 1984. The car was waiting restoration in his garage. Having known Jacques, I was interested to buy this car, but despite several requests, Elie did not want to sell it. But at our early meeting last january, surprisingly, he told me the car was available. And so, we made the deal."

The car as Louis knew it. Here as it stood in Elie Boone's garden in 1984
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

This picture also dates back to 1984. The Mini engine is just visible
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

"This car had a Mini engine while most Sonoras were built with Cortina or Renault engines. I did not know about any Méan with a Mini engine and so I attempted some research on the internet and found the Maximum Mini reports. I could not believe what I was reading! Promising a special car for a show and forgetting about it, then building one in five days, the story is so typical for Jacques!"

"While looking more carefully at the pictures from the Maximum Mini site and those I got from Elie, I could say the car from the site is the one I found. The tyres are the same, also the steering wheel, the little radiator (not from a Mini ) next to the engine… The car sits very high on its wheels because the gearbox linkage runs, unprotected, under the chassis. Some parts of the body still have the original silver colour. It was really nice to see pictures from my car when it was new at the Méan 'factory'!" Thanks to the Maximum Mini report, I also learned about Daniel Dodeur, who I knew before as we ran the 2CV 24H race at Spa together in 2007. He now runs the Méan register. See their web site for more info here"

"When the car arrived home, I could see the very bad state it was in. The chassis was completely rotten and needed replacement. While searching for a local company to rebuild it, I met with several people who had worked with Jacques while they were young. Always a happy experience! Some of them worked as students during their holidays and were not really qualified for the job, which explains some of the bad workmanship. While cleaning the Mini subframe I found it was badly repaired probably because the donor Mini purchased in the scrap yard was damaged! The subframe is also mounted tilted in the chassis - for some specific reason or due to emergency?"

The Mini powered Méan Sonora as Louis bought it earlier this year - all complete...
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

… but chassis is well-rotten and needs lots of work. The right men have been found now
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

Welding appears to have been done in a hurry - well, the car was built in 5 days...
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

The interior seems surprisingly well kept and original - note Mini key fob!
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

The Méan's full reconstruction has now started - this is just prior to taking it apart
Picture courtesy Louis Lempereur

"Searching for good parts, I ended up having dismounted the car completely. I am now heading for a complete reconstruction. On the Mean website, there is a picture of a Sonora taken in Monaco. My target is to go there with my car and take the same picture. But that will be another story!" Keep us posted Louis, you are a star contender for Find of the Year!

Picture of Méan Sonora in Monaco has inspired Louis to go there once finished
Picture courtesy Mean Motor Engineering

What a spot! Taken during the Monaco Grand Prix of - we think - 1969
Picture courtesy  Mean Motor Engineering