Friday, 18 March 2016

Maximum Mini 3 is on its way

You will have noticed that it's been very quiet here in the last few weeks. But there's a good reason for that - it's called Maximum Mini 3 and should be available this May or June. Earlier this week I have made a deal with the printer, while at this very moment the words for it - all 43,000 of them - are being proof read. After that they can go to the lay-out department where hundreds of new pictures that you won't have seen before have already arrived, only to be merged with the words. I'll keep you posted.

Maximum Mini 3 will feature a whopping 392 more Mini derivatives
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Who converted Françoises Mini?

French novelist Françoise Sagan had a soft spot for big dogs and fast open top cars. The web is full of pictures of her in droptop Jaguars, Aston Martins, Ferraris, ACsLancias and Lotuses, often accompanied by a shepherd dog. But a Mini? Hey, it appears she had one for scooting around in Paris, too. And it was not a regular model either. This Mini - a Mk2 Austin Cooper - was converted into a cabriolet. But by who? I don't think it was a Crayford with no hood to be seen. Or am I wrong? I do know there were several cabriolet conversions haling from France but don't know very much about them. Do you?

Kosellek Mini Cabriolet (mid 1960s)
Jacky Mini Plage (late 1960s)
ATA Many Mego Mini Cabriolet (1970s or 1980s)
Fayard Mini Cabriolet (1970s or 1980s)
ENAC Mini Mayfair Cabriolet (mid 1980s)
Arc de Triomphe Mini Cabriolet (1988-1998)

Francoise Sagan, her dog and one of many cabriolets. Who converted it?
Picture via François Tasiaux

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Landar R6 in full Technicolor

While I am working on Maximum Mini 3, messages about cars that have been featured in the previous two books continue to come in, too. And the one I received today from Graham Nevill is a particularly great one. He writes: "Hi Jeroen, I have been a fan of your site for a long time now and especially enjoy any articles regarding Landar cars as my father campaigned an R6 in the early 70’s. At the time when I was about 16, I took some 8mm cine footage which I have finally had scanned and uploaded, I am sure you will enjoy it ! There is very little period amateur motor racing film around and none featuring Landars, so quite rare. Wish I had taken a lot more at the time!"

Graham's great video - 9 minutes no less, can be seen below here, but Graham adds some more information about the car, too: "My father, Gordon Nevill, started motor racing with his work colleague and friend Frank Aston, of whom mention has been made on your site, as his old R7 which he acquired new from Landars, has just resurfaced in Germany (click here). They were both directors of a metal recycling business in Ironbridge, Shropshire and started racing using increasing tuned minis, competing in local hillclimbs, sprints and then circuits such as Silverstone etc. After being introduced to the Radnall brothers, Frank bought his first Landar, an R6 in about 1971 and this was soon followed by the blue 1300cc R7. A dizzying selection of racing cars then passed through Franks hands including a Chevron B8, B16 and B19, McLaren M1a, Gropa (a coupe B8 with Ford power) and the Astra - which is the car in the footage. Finally he commissioned the one and only R8 new from Landars but only used it for a couple of events. He then gave up racing for the golf course in about 1975. My father had a Chevron B8 after the Mini but then bought the R6 in 1973, apparently it was the last R6 made by Radnalls. This R6 was fitted with the 1275 bored to 1300 and later in his ownership had the 8-port Arden cross flow head fitted which was quite exotic for the day. Due to their many dealings with Clive and Peter Radnall they became family friends and one time Clive treated us to a flight over the Birmingham area, taking us up in his private single engine plane. After he finished racing in 1975, meetings with Clive and Peter became less frequent but I did have the pleasure of seeing Peter about 5 years ago, in his 70’s now, compete at Loton Park hillclimb when he hurled a motor bike powered little rocket ship of a single seater up the hill with great skill. My father always loved the R6, finding it a beautifully handling little machine and I was quite involved as well changing wheels and simple mechanical work etc. I would of course love to know what has happened to it over the years and still think the R6 would make a lovely little road/track day car."

That is some fantastic footage Graham, thank you for sharing! I do not know about the current whereabouts of the car, but it could be one of the R6s that have ended up in Japan. I saw what was believed to be the ex-John Handley and Barry Pearson works car in the Maruyama collection, but I'm not sure about that. It was silver grey too. Perhaps another reader will know more?


Video courtesy Graham Nevill

This R6, in the Maruyama collection is believed to be the ex-John Handley car. I don't know
Picture Jeroen Booij

 
This good looking Landar R6 shows up in Japan every now and then, but I do not know more about it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Another mystery Landar R6 in Japan. an air dam has been added to the front at some point
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday, 15 February 2016

Badging the Ogles

When I visited Markus Tanner about a year ago in Switzerland he showed me an unusual Ogle badge that he'd found while on the hunt for SX1000 parts (he restored this car beautifully). It certainly was similar to the ones used on both of the SX1000's c-pillars, but this one simply came on a heavy black base. Like Markus, I had no idea what it was meant for. David Ogle's paperweight perhaps? While searching a picture last week I came across the thing again and compared it to some other photographs I'd taken of Ogle badges. It appeared to me there were some differences in between them. Here's what I found:


Golden Ogle badge on a heavy base, as seen in Switzerland. What was it meant for?
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is a similar badge as seen on one of the cars. But detail and horns are clearly different 
Picture Jeroen Booij

This one is again different or are those horns simply bent?
Picture Jeroen Booij

This one is outright flat and it doesn't seem to be chrome plated
Picture Jeroen Booij
While this one is plated but again, the detail is not very fine
Picture Jeroen Booij
However, this one does look very similar to the golden badge
Picture Jeroen Booij

As does this one. But how many variants were there?
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is another variant, this time seen on the front grille of an SX1000
Picture Jeroen Booij

Some of them also have this badge on their front grille. I think they are early cars
Picture Jeroen Booij

Same logo, different car, different colour. And I've seen it in both red/black, too
Picture courtesy Guy Loveridge

One car I saw had just the Ogle name on its grille. A cut out from the above?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Some of the earliest of the SX1000s used the badge of their donor car. Like Tom Karen's personal Ogle, based on a 997 Austin Cooper
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday, 11 February 2016

A Mini based eight- (8) wheeler!

Just when you think you've seen it all, someone drops in a line with something you'd never thought of before. Well, it happens to me every now and the line that Chaz Ing dropped this week was another eye opener. I know of many Mini based four-wheelers; I've seen quite a few Mini-based three-wheelers, there have been several Mini based six-wheelers and I even know about Mini based two-wheelers and Mini based tracked vehicles. But a Mini based eight-wheeler? Good grief, I did not know that existed.

But it does, and there is in fact one for sale in Powys, Wales, at the moment - see the ad here. It's an ATV Argocat, which I did know as a two-stroke twin cylinder powered contraption, offered for sale by Crayford Auto Development of Kent. Yep, they were the same company which converted Minis into convertibles since 1962. I don't know if this four-wheel steered 1000cc Mini automatic powered version comes from them, too, but I'd love to find out.

This ATV Argocat does use Mini power to drive eight wheels, two of them removed here
Picture courtesy Ebay.co.uk

The 1000 engine is placed longitudinally next to seat. How is it constructed to drive the wheels?
Picture courtesy Ebay.co.uk

This contraption appears to have nearly been buried in Wales until not too long ago. It's for sale now
Picture courtesy Ebay.co.uk

Crayford's Argocat sold strong in the 1970s, but did they ever build a Mini based version?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 5 February 2016

Stimson's stories (4)

Well, more pictures then stories this time, but some very nice material never the less. It's not very often that you see moving images of a Stimson MiniBug being auto crossed in period. You see it here, thanks to the ever enthusiastic Barry and Caroline Stimson, who dug it out from some old boxes. The car driven seriously fast seen here is the rare racing version of the MiniBug; the CS+2, driven by autocross-champion John Bevan, who was sponsored by Cars & Car Conversions magazine at the time - they wrote about his exploits on a monthly basis. Some more info here. Enjoy the film for now!


Video courtesy Barry & Caroline Stimson

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Is this really the only Autocars Marcos survivor?

Autocars, the Israel based motor manufacturer built Standard Triumphs under a license, but planned to broaden their range with a model of their own in the late 1960s. In order to do this Autocars co-founder Yitzhak Shubinski teamed up with the late Jem Marsh to design and build a fiberglass bodied but Mini based car. Marsh flew to Israel in late 1969 were he found the works “A shambles with apparent little concern for work or production targets”, but never the less signed a contract. Back in Westbury, he started work on building three or four prototypes with estate bodies, while another two saloons followed in 1970. The estates were called W90 and were yellow, blue and red according to Marcos Heritage-man Rory McMath; the saloons were called W95. Unfortunately it all lead to nothing and both models never made it to the (Israelean) market.

But I wonder what happened to these prototypes. One of the estates was crash tested at MIRA, while another was used by Jem's wife Judith as a practical utility for years before being restored in 1992 by the Marcos Owner's Club. After the restoration it was sold to the Maruyama collection where it remains to this day. Another estate is said to have been languishing in an orchard not far from the old Marcos factory in Westbury, but there is no evidence. Fact is that one of the saloons ended up as a toy car in a Tel Aviv kindergarten! It was there photographed by Yohay Shinar in the 1990s, but disappeared soon after. And so the Maruyama-car is the only one I have ever seen. Is there anyone out here who knows more about the others?

The W90 estate just after the restoration in 1992 - is it the only Autocars Marcos surviving?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

As I saw the car in 2008 - it's stored outside which hasn't done it too much good
Picture Jeroen Booij


The interior is a match of things old and new, with an interesting dashboard
Picture Jeroen Booij

The engine is believed to be a 998 Cooper. According to Kazuo Maruyama it's fast, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is the W95 saloon as seen in a Tel Aviv kindergarten by Yohay Shinar years ago
Picture Yohah Shinar 

Sloping roof and different back end for the saloon. Bodies were of excellent quality
Picture Yohah Shinar

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: Unipower GT

It's the 26th of January today - the last day of the Racing Car Show in London exactly 50 years ago. So let's have one more look back at one of many Mini based cars debuting here: the Unipower GT. Universal Power Drives Ltd. hired stand number 60 and dressed it with a fully finished car as well as a complete rolling chassis. There are several good pictures of this cool display and one of them shows the car from a low frontal view, revealing there are no air intakes below the front grille as on production cars. Could it be the aluminum bodied prototype that was built by Peel Coachworks in Kingston on Thames? That didn't have the signature intakes of the production cars either. Like the production chassis' the tubular space frame chassis on show was built by Arch Motors, close to Peel's premises, and gave clear sight on the twin masters cylinders, clever gear linkage and suspension and of course the Mini engine; a 998cc with 55bhp according to the program booklet.

In an interview in Which Kit? magazine Unipower-instigator Ernie Unger told some 10 years ago that the Unipower name actually came about due to some pressure of getting things ready for the show. Initially the car was christened Hustler GT, but when that name went to one of Universal Power Drives forklifts, a new name was needed, and rather quickly too. Unger: "We had to get the brochures printed in time for the car's launch at the Racing Car Show and there was an element of panic. As the company already had the Unipower name registered, someone, in desperation, suggested that we call it the Unipower." Perhaps not a bad decision after all. The Racing Car Show programme booklet mentions an 'Open Spyder' version 'with detachable hard top panels available to readily convert the open car to the closed specification', but that was stillborn.

Unger recalls in the same interview that the GT got plenty of attention during the show. Not in the last place from a man he much admired: "Carlo Abarth and his entourage spent hours on our stand, which made the day rather special for me. They crawled all over the car, eager to find out what made it tick." Maybe the GT inspired Abarth for some of his designs? Who will tell?

Debutant: the Unipower GT on stand 60 of Universal Power Drives in January 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The bare chassis gave a good idea of what the car looked like underneath those swift lines 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The tubular space frame, built by Arch Motors, gave a good idea of the GT's layout
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It may not be Monika Dietrich but in 1966 the Unipower GT attracted the ladies too!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And now in colour - note lack of air intakes below grille. Could this be the aluminum bodied prototype,
 built by Peel Coachworks in 1965?
Picture courtesy Keith Johnson / Jeroen Booij archive

Despite having a different shade of grey, this may be the same car? Seen here in May 1966
Picture courtesy Peter Sellers / Jeroen Booij archive

And photographed by none other then Peter Sellers, who is said to have owned a Unipower himself
Picture courtesy Peter Sellers / Jeroen Booij archive


Monday, 25 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: Peel Viking and Mini Marcos

50 Years back in time, the 7th Racing Car Show was still brimming in Olympia with even more Mini based surprises that were unveiled at the spot. The Peel Viking and the Mini Marcos were another two of them, and several magazine reports compared them. Sports Car Graphic, an American motoring magazine with a soft spot for British oddities, wrote: "Another method of transforming a Mini into a thing of beauty is to throw the body away completely and hang the two end assemblies beneath a replacement body shell. This is the Marcos-technique. Their Mini Marcos being offered in several states of trim, from bare glassfibre up to a fully-finished structure, including glazing and some interior trim. This is quite a good looking car (it was shown as just a shell, and as a complete 'runner'), a somewhat happier result than provided by a similar structure marketed as the Viking Peel, and manufactured in the Isle of Man, off England's West coast, and the scene of well-known hair-rasing activities on two wheels."

Marcos Cars Components Ltd. had great plans with their very cheap (199 GBP) wonder car, and hired a big stand. Number 15 . Now, I've seen plenty of pictures from Marcos later stands at the Racing Car Show (here for example) but strangely not a single picture taken at the 1966 show. Perhaps a reader has? I expect the car on display to have been '919 PYB', which was Marcos' demonstrator at the time, but it would be nice to see this confirmed. Of the Peel Viking there is little more pictorial evidence, and again it is my guess that the car on display was the one registered 'HUE 177D' - that car was later used in auto crossing and does not survive. Looking back at the 1966 show, Peel founder Cyril Cannell said a few years before his death: "This was a great opportunity to meet some of the most prominent designers and builders in the racing a sports car field, at least one of whom subsequently produced a car using virtually the same technology." He clearly meant the Marcos there, which became of course the best known Mini based car in history, while his Peel never achieved a status like that.

Only picture that I know of showing the Peel Viking at the 1966 Racing Car Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Like several other mags, Autocar compared the two, here with beautiful drawings by John Hostler
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


This early ad for the Peel Viking dates back to 1965, prior to the show, when the car was still marketed by its original builder - Peel Engineering Ltd. By January '66, Viking Performances Ltd. had taken over 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


This was probably the Peel Viking shown in Olympia in that year. It ended up auto crossing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

While this must have been the fully-built car on display with Marcos Cars Components Ltd.
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The 20-page Mini Marcos brochure handed out at stand number 15 in January 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: MiniSprint

We can hop from one stand to another: yesterday's Landar R6 could (under covers) be seen on the Broadspeed GT picture of Tuesday; today's MiniSprint was spotted by eagle-eyed reader Pete Flanagan yesterday! Indeed, a peak of the car on stand 45 - located next to that of Broadspeed and Landar - could be seen. This stand was run by the GT Equipment Company, although the brochure mentions Gran Turismo Wheels as the entrant. Anyway: they were selling sporty motoring accessories here, again, from wooden steering wheels to 'John Surtees driving gloves'. And the MiniSprint must have come in last minute, only to be unveiled right here - 50 years ago. The picture below is the only one that I know of of the car on display there You can just see the 'RRW1' registration - this is Rob Walker's personal car as seen in the brochure and in several magazine reports, too. Who has more pictures?

The GT Equipment stand must have squeezed the MiniSprint in at the last minute
Picture courtesy Autocar magazine

The brochures may not yet have been printed - this flyer was handed out on stand 45
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

That's Rob Walker with his Sprint in front of his infamous Corsley Garage
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And here goes to show the considerable size reduction of the Sprint
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This ad was printed in the Racing Car Show program booklet, showing one of the first Sprints built
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the same car (edit: not the same - see Pete's comment below) making its entry at the Maximum Mini/Mk1 Performance Track day in 2014
Picture Jeroen Booij