Thursday, 22 September 2016

The sad remains of Blackwatch 1

It's not the first time a Mini based oddity ends up on Ebay in a real sorry state. That happened now to the vehicle known as Blackwatch 1. Conceived and built in Leeds on a 1975 Mini 850 base, the car used a three-wheeled chassis of steel tubing and plain sheet aluminum body with a flat glass windscreen. It was sold to a farmer in Northwich, Chechire in 2005 still with its registration LDN 295N, but moved on soon after that without the number. Now that it's offered for sale again in Tiverton, county Devon, it's even much more naked with not much of its mechanicals left. See the ad here. There was also a sister car, known as Blackwatch 2 and also a three-wheeler, now with the number KDN 595N. The last trace I have of that dates back to 1998. Who knows more?

The leftovers of Blackwatch 1. A unique Mini based three-wheeler using Mini 850 mechanicals
Picture courtesy Ebay.co.uk

It gave joy to someone one day, but that looks long gone now. Also: what happened to Blackwatch 2?
Picture courtesy Ebay.co.uk

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Summer 2016 - a look back

Tomorrow marks the end of the summer. Fortunately, we still have the pictures. The ones below were sent over to me via email or Facebook in the last month or so and show a variety of Mini based cars on events and shows. I can't remember where all of them came from, so if you feel you need to be credited, just let me know.

A very nice looking Stewart & Ardern MiniSprint, built in 2004. It's for sale, too, and I have a close up of the flyer under its wiper. Drop me a line when interested
Picture courtesy Phil Wells

Same event (Tewkesbury Classic Car show), different car - Bob Hart's lovely Mini Beach Car
Picture courtesy Phil Wells

Estate version of the Foers Nomad. These cars have a reputation to last forever
Picture source unknown

And another… Judging by its grille, this one appears to be in a kind of identity crisis!
Picture source unknown

Dutch registered Midas Gold was seen at the Zinkhutter Hof in Germany. I do not know it
Picture courtesy Hubertus Hansmann

We all know this one, don't we? The ex-George Harrison Radford Mini DeVille at Windsor Castle
Picture source unknown
Certainly different, but I'm not sure if I would dare to drive this Scamp Mk2 on the motor way!
Picture source unknown

The Wildgoose Super VEB, which starred in Maximum Mini 2, seen here at the Goodwood Revival
Picture source unknown

Elsewhere at Goodwood, the restored Broadspeed GTS was reunited with John Fitzpatrick
Picture courtesy John Fitzpatrick


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

What's the story behind Magic Alex' Mini?

Does the supply of Beatles-related coachbuilt Minis never dry up? It seems to be the case, after another Mini with a heritage incorporating The Fab Four has emerged - this time in Greece. Regular contributor John Reymondos knows more about it. He writes:

"Hello Jeroen from rainy Athens. You might be able to help me with information about a special Mini. A friend of a friend got his hands on a this Mini from Alex Mardas (a.k.a. Magic Alex), and he is trying to find out more about it. Apparently the car was a gift from John Lennon to Mardas. It seems to have been customized in a quite professional way, so I exclude any Greek period tuners. The bucket seats are period correct and dated. From the DVLA I get that this is an Innocenti Mini 1300, with year of manufacture 1975 but first registered on the 22nd May 1978. Any help will be appreciated. Warm Regards, John."

That's certainly interesting. John further adds the owner believes it could be a Pavesi conversion, but I would definitely say it looks more like a Wood & Pickett job to me. Not only do the wheel arches and nudge bars fit in with their coachbuilt Minis of the day - the seats look like Recaros to me, of which W&P were the importer to the UK. So… who knows more about this intriguing little car?

'Magic' Alex Mardas with John Lennon and Paul McCartney in New York in 1968
Picture: Alamy

The car looks like a W&P conversion to me, with typical wheel arches and nudge bars
Picture via John Reymondos

The interior is a mixture of standard Innocenti with many electrical add-ons - all believed period
Picture via John Reymondos

Recaro seats were introduced to the UK by Wood & Pickett in the late-1970s, so these fit in, too. 
This actually is a W&P publicity shot, showing similar seats
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


The engine (a 1300 on paper) may have been fettled with, too. Who can tell?
Picture via John Reymondos

'VOG 583S' is applied to a 1975-built Innocenti 1300. No W&P badges though...
Picture via John Reymondos

Period flyer from Wood & Pickett showing the nudgebars they had on offer for Minis
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Meet the Party Yak

Think of the Grantura Yak as a Spartan workhorse? Think again. World most lavish Yak lives in Trinidad and Tobago with Richard Sookdeo. Richard purchased the car from an oil company called Trintoc (now Petrotrin) and wrote: "They used the car for expats to drive between buildings / plants and it was eventually left abandoned (the shell alone) and we made the necessary arrangements and purchased it. We later bought a classic Austin Mini and started our restoration project . The car carries a two series number plate which shows how old it is in Trinidad (PH - 8414) and our schemes go like PH-PZ; PBA-PBZ; PCA-PCZ; PDA… with PDM being present. The yak now has a Metro 1300 engine with a Weber installed and is upgraded to original Mini disc brakes at the front. It was further customized with a sound system which compromises of some dvd screens and a box in the back of the car - everything could be removed to show the original car at any given time."

It seems Richard even used the car at his marriage. Thanks for getting in touch!


This looks like a fairly standard Grantura Yak, but then you haven't seen all of it...
Picture courtesy Richard Sookdeo

 … television screens, neon lights, stereo systems and a dashboard unlike any other 
Picture courtesy Richard Sookdeo

 It's Richard's pride and joy and he even used it at his marriage. Congratulations mate
Picture courtesy Richard Sookdeo

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Touch wood - Hustlers make money

RM Sotheby's had their London sale last evening where the very last lot from a highly impressive lot list was a bit of a surprise: a Hustler 6 In Wood. Not your ordinary Hustler In Wood - if such a thing exists - but one that comes in a lovely Marine-theme. It's a car that came past here some five years ago when it was seen for sale in Italy (here). From the sales blurb: "If you would like to upstage your friends with a Mini Moke or Fiat Jolly, this is your car—the ideal partner to a Riva or Pedrazzini." And somebody clearly fell for that idea as the car made a strong £13,500 (although there even was a £20-30,000 estimate…). Two years ago, RM did sell another Hustler 6 - a Huntsman - for £11,500, though...

This 1983 built Hustler 6 In Wood in full Marine theme could be the ideal tender
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

All the bells and whistles, including highly varnished wood just like a Riva's deck
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

A 10-seater to bring all your mates from harbor to boulevard and back. Note ladder!
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

1275 A-series engine looks tiny under that wide bonnet. This car was in Italy 5 years ago
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

Flags, chrome horns and scuppers - there's even a pair of water skis on the top!
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

RM sold this car two years ago at Beaulieu, when it made £11,500. Not bad either!
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

This was a Hustler Huntsman of 1986-vintage and looked in a superb state either
Picture courtesy RM Sotheby's

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Another Unipower nears its resurrection

Another update on a Unipower GT - this time it's the car wearing chassis number 40. Formerly registered as 1275 U in the UK, it was . Before it got that number it wore XGH 7G. New owner Stefano Possati of Bologna, Italy, bought it in 2011 and is now about to complete the car's restoration. He wrote to our friend Tim Carpenter: "Some years ago I've bought in UK the dark metallic red 1275U car that I see also in your website. The car seemed to be, at the time, extremely original (forgetting the original colour that we have found was light orange at the beginning) but in need of a deep restoration. Now we are close to the end. I'm very proud to say that the gearbox now has first speed up on the left and the others consequently where you would expect them to be. The car was born with a Cooper 'S' engine that has been rebuilt with a wonderful alloy MOWOG 8-port head and Solex carburetors but it is not yet fitted. For the moment there is a long stroke 1460 MED engine with (very) fast road setting, 5-speed gearbox, 3.1 final ratio and LSD. It seems extremely powerful and flexible and I can confirm that the gearshift operates as in the other cars, first, up at left; second, down at left and so on, right until the rear gear down at right. The reason why I rather like this scheme is that I have two sons and one brother that are in love with classic cars and that could, at one time, like to drive the Unipower, too."

"The car's exterior colour is now white and the body is kept original original, although now fitted with 12"wheels (not out of place in the Mini world in the very late 1960s). The interior has been rebuilt in a 100% original way, including the Webasto sunroof. The suspensions geometry and the brakes principles are standard in my car, but shock absorbers and KAD front disc now are the best the 12" wheel can accept. The only thing I made, even before testing the car, is to add a discreet but fully functional spoiler below the two front air ducts. My only complain is that I had to register the car here in Italy, so the wonderful 1275U plate is now just a paperweight. The Unipower is now in its final assembly phase. I believe it to be a Mk2 as the rear light are horizontal and, looking at the grp rear end, certainly original."

Thank you for that, Stefano and Tim! All I can add is that it seems to me that little expenses were spared in this restoration. Oh - and the car most certainly is a Mk1; the rear lights (of a Hillman Hunter) were added in the 1980s.

Already in its 'Regal Red' colour, but here still with its earlier plate XGH 7G
Picture courtesy unipowergt.co.uk

Same car, different plate: 1275 U number was added by former owner Geraldo Martini
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car was equipped with a 1275cc Cooper 'S' engine when new in 1968 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This photograph dates back to 2010, when the car was offered for sale in the UK
Picture Jeroen Booij archive/Ebay.co.uk

Some bits were missing and it needed lots of work, but it made strong money
Picture Jeroen Booij archive/Ebay.co.uk

Note Hillman Hunter rear lights. These are not original though and were added in the '80s
Picture Jeroen Booij archive/Ebay.co.uk

The same rear, now with its new Italian number fitted to it and almost ready to roar again
Picture courtesy Stefano Possati

Stefano added a small front splitter to the car, just like it had back in the 1980s
Picture courtesy Stefano Possati

It's got a 1460 MED engine now, mated to a 5-speeder, 3.1 final ratio and LSD
Picture courtesy Stefano Possati

The dashboard and rest of the car's interior are like it was, but again fully restored
Picture courtesy Stefano Possati

Suspension wasn't modified much, but everything has been refreshed
Picture courtesy Stefano Possati

This car came with a Webasto sunroof as a factory option, it seems. It's still there
Picture courtesy Stefano Possati


Sunday, 4 September 2016

50 Years ago today: Derivatives at the 'Ring

On September 4, 1966, the 500kms of the Nurburgring took place at the German circuit of the same name, attracting a string of British teams with Mini based sports cars - all of them brand new at the time. There were Three Mini Jems entered (although I believe just one of them made it to the race); two Mini Marcoses and a Fletcher GT. With start number 14, the Mini Marcos of William Dulles did not finish and the same went for the other Marcos - number 26 - and driven by Roy Johnson. The Fletcher GT with number 15, with John Hendley at the helm also did not make it the the finish line. The Mini Jem, definitely one of the very first cars built, and raced by Jem-instigator Jeremy Delmar-Morgan himself did considerably better. It finished 18th overall, four laps behind the winning car.  

UPDATE 5 September: Richard Porter writes: "The results can be found here. All three Jems started. Ron Parkes completed 6 laps and Mike Walton failed to complete a map. They are recorded as 'DNF' not 'DNS'. JD-M was 2nd in the 1,000 cc Prototype class." Thank you Richard!
The official programme of the 500 Km Race at the Nurburgring in 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 
 But I have this one, too. The unofficial one perhaps? Also note Fletcher GT on the cover
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Beautiful picture. Click to see it bigger. Can you see the Mini Marcos/Mini Jem/Fletcher GT?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And I have one from the other side of the pit street, too. Taken seconds earlier at the start
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Agan, some seconds later, this one is taken. The Fletcher is in the far right corner. 
Dulles' Marcos can just be seen, too
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Delmar-Morgan about to pass a duo of Mini Coopers… 50 years ago today
Picture Veit Arenz

And the same Mini Jem in the famous Karusel curve. The car finished 18th overall
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Jeremy Delmar-Morgan must have liked it so much he turned it into an advertisement!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Same bend, different car. This is the Mini Marcos driven by William Dulles
Picture courtesy Mini Marcos Owners Club

Not in the Karusel, but least as good: The Fletcher GT with the ruins of the Nürburg in the back
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

John Handley was of course well known in racing circles. Unfortunately he did not finish the Fletcher
Picture Jeroen Booij archive