Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Quasar Unipower is Triplex Spectrafloat Special

A Quasar Unipower was spotted last week by David Ward. He wrote: "I'm off to the French Alps on a four-day classic rally in my 1990 coupe Quattro. I saw this popemobile on a trailer heading to a new home in Germany. It was made by Unipower who made the Unipower GT. Think the pope would have enjoyed it more if it was turbocharged."

He is right. That is indeed a Quasar Unipower. But this one is slightly more special than just that. This particular car, registered 'VLC 694G' was used by glass manufacturer to promote their very strong Spectrafloat glasses to the motor industry and could be seen on the stand they had at the Earls Court motor show in 1968. It had a different front with less (!) glass and relocated head lights and badging. The car did get its road registration later in December 1968 and was seen at the Mini Festival at Brands Hatch in August 1969, where reader Fred Kalkhuis spotted it. The car was one of three found in a French barn in 2009. I'd love to hear from the new owner.

Spotted on its way to a new home in Germany: a Quasar Unipower. But not as we know it...
Picture David Ward

Apart from being a remarkable car, this one has an interesting history on its own
Picture David Ward

It's a modified example that was used by Triplex to promote their new glass in the motoring industry
And it was therefore also known as the Triplex Spectrafloat Special
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The Spectrafloat Special on display at Earls Court in London with a suitably dressed lady. 
Note 'GLA 55' fake number plate, for 'GLASS'...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The same car, now registered VLC 694G, pictured at the Mini Festival in 1969 at Brands Hatch
Picture courtesy Fred Kalkhuis

Fred Kalkhuis and his mother spotted it there and had some pictures taken, which Fred kindly shared
Picture courtesy Fred Kalkhuis

Colour picture taken on the same day at Brands Hatch. I don't know what the Redbridge sign is for
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 19 October 2018

Inside Magic Alex' Mini

After Paul McCartney's Mini made top money at an auction last month (see here), more Wood & Pickett Minis have made it to the market. And one of them linked to The Beatles, too. It was 'Magic' Alex Mardas' car, supposedly coachbuilt by Wood & Pickett, too (more about that here). Unfortunately the ad appears to have gone now, although I did save the pictures, enclosed here. Meanwhile, I also found out that Magic Alex passed away early last year at 74 years old. This is from Uncut Magazine:

"The Beatles‘ technology 'wizard' Yanni ‘John’ Alexis Mardas – better known as Magic Alex – has died at the age of 74. Athens-born Mardas was appointed head of the group’s Apple Electronics division in 1968, appeared in the Magical Mystery Tour film, and accompanied the band to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram at Rishikesh in India. Originally taken on after John Lennon‘s appreciation of the light machines he’d constructed for The Rolling Stones in 1967, Mardas was later asked to construct a 72-track studio for The Beatles in the basement of the Apple HQ on Savile Row. It was designed but never completed after the group’s new manager Allen Klein shut down much of the Apple Corps venture."

"Mardas claimed to have invented items such as an electronic camera, and ‘the composing typewriter’, a voice recognition device. After Apple Corps, he founded a number of companies that specialised in bulletproof vests, armoured cars and night vision equipment, selling some of these to figures such as King Hussein of Jordan."

I found this funny little video about Magic Alex on the web, but wonder what happened to the Mini..?

UPDATE 12:30: John Reymondos wrote: "The Magic Alex Mini was in Greece and was sold last year I think, by a Greek dealer to a Greek businessman." Thank you John.

Magic Alex' Mini was supposedly a Wood & Pickett with extra gadgetry
Picture www.car.gr

Speakers and courtesy lights in the doors, or so it seems 
Picture www.car.gr

Plus plenty of buttons in the seats. For what?
Picture www.car.gr

Dashboard leaves no doubt this car started life as an Innocenti Mini
Picture www.car.gr

Is that a logo of Apple Corps, the Beatles' record company?
Picture www.car.gr

And what on earth is that for - a communications system?
Picture www.car.gr

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Mike Jupp's Nimrod - still going strong

A great piece about Mike Jupp and his Nimrod appeared last week on the website of insurer Adrian Flux. Jupp, who designed the car, tells how the car came about in 1969, although it took until 1972 to see the first car finished - the one he still owns and uses regularly. I have cut out some nice quotes from Mike from the interview:

"It was a time when everything seemed possible, a great time with the excitement and dreams of what life could be. There must have been something in the air at that time, or whether it’s about being young and idealistic, and your imagination can stretch. There are one or two things I’ve done in my life I’m so pleased about. I came up with an idea for a TV series and eventually watched it, and I came up with an idea for a car and, thanks to Ray, I eventually drove it. More than four decades later, it’s in my garage so I can still show it to people.

Mike recalls a journey to Transylvania in the Nimrod (picture here): “I had a case full of brand new cassettes – Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Yes, Deep Purple etc – and we got to this village and were immediately surrounded by a couple of hundred people all looking at the Nimrod. There was a bloke with a ghetto blaster. He only had one old naff cassette, the Red Army Choir or something. Anyway, I said ‘you may as well have this lot then mate’. He nearly died. One minute he’s got one ancient Soviet sing-along nonsense tape, then instantly, he’s got Western cool-dude hip stuff.”

Read the full interview here.

Mike Jupp and his Nimrod: "I’ve had it 46 years and I’ve still not quite finished it"
Picture Adrianflux.co.uk

Jupp: "When it was finished, it felt surreal to be actually driving something that started out as a scribble on a bit of paper" That drawing can be seen here
Picture Adrianflux.co.uk

Mike plans to give his beloved Nimrod another revamp, in the style of one of his television series
Picture Adrianflux.co.uk

Chunky rear mudflaps were designed to give the car the impression of having real wide rear tyres!
Picture Adrianflux.co.uk

Not many people can claim to own their Mini derivative for 46 years! Mike drives his still regularly
Picture Adrianflux.co.uk

Monday, 15 October 2018

Beach Car spotted in Quebec

We are currently enjoying a real Indian Summer in this part of the world. And in Canada summer seems not to be over either. This Beach Car was spotted in Westmount, Quebec recently and the pictures were sent over to me by Miguel Plano. He wrote: "Shame about the seats, but I guess they are a necessity if you want to use it regularly..." Funnily, I have some more pictures of the same car of several years ago. It is also on Quebec plates on there and did have wicker seats, although not the originals or so it seems. Perhaps these have gone a long time already..?

An update from Miguel: "The wicker seats still exist, I got confirmation from someone who knows the car, they are safely stored away."

In the streets of Quebec: a Mini Beach car. This is the only one in Fiesta yellow
Picture through Miguel Plano

Original wicker seats have gone but this Beach Car still still makes every other car look dull
Picture through Miguel Plano


Friday, 12 October 2018

Mystery Mini derivative (52)

Another mystery Mini based creature that asks for some clarification. What is this three-wheeler seen below? Oh, hang on, I actually know what it is supposedly named: the RRS Wasp, since the pictures were published in Kit Car magazine with a few lines, many moons ago.
In fact the three-wheeler was spotted at the Stoneleigh kit car show in the late 1980s where it was brought to by then-owner Terry Chambers. Chambers had just saved it from a Lincolnshire scrapyard. He is said to have brought it to the show "to see whether anyone could identify it". To further quote from the article: "The car is built on a beautifully constructed steel tube chassis, the quality of which does not seem to match the standard of its styling." Perhaps anyone here knows more..?

This is believed to be the (or a?) RRS Wasp. A three-wheeler shrouded in mystery
Picture Kit Car Magazine / Jeroen Booij archive

The car supposedly used 1100 or 1300 power but any further information is unknown
Picture Kit Car Magazine / Jeroen Booij archive


Thursday, 11 October 2018

Back to back: Mini Marcos or Mini Jem?

The Lancashire based collection of derelict Mini derivatives (click here) continues to surprise. Several of the cars that could be found in the open until recently have made it to the market now, being offered for sale in the Lake District. But the seller has some more up in his sleeve. How about a MiniJem and a Mini Marcos, nicely parked up next to each other?

The Jem is a Mk2 and dates back to 1970. According to the seller it comes with a 998 engine with reconditioned 12G295 head and Nimonic exhaust valves, Powermax pistons, Cooper 'S' 510 camshaft and Jack Knight 2.71 final drive with Metro gear cluster, just to mention some of the engine specs. To further quote from the ad: "It has an interesting owner history and would make a great running restoration, although nothing actually needs doing but a great winter project if you wanted to tidy up interior a little and paintwork." It is priced at £7,600 and you'll find the ad for the MiniJem here

The Mini Marcos is a Mk3 and is said to have covered only a few hundred miles since total body off restoration "including 10 inch Minilite wheels and new tyres, suspension is all done, ball joints, high low shock absorbers with adjustable camber/caster, disc brake conversion, new fuel tank, full interior restoration with new seats, carpets, door seals etc. Superb body off repaint in cherry red. Improved further in the last few weeks and is now excellent in every department. Starts on the button and runs smooth and fast." The asking price of this one is £8,750. See the ad here.

The seller states: "I just can't decide which I should keep. I will keep either the Mini Marcos or the Mini Jem - I will sell the first one that goes and keep the other. I couldn't be without one of them."

Now. Which one would you prefer..?

MiniJem is offered for sale together with a Mini Marcos
Picture Ebay.co.uk

Jem is a Mk2 of 1970 vintage and comes with 998cc engine
Picture Ebay.co.uk

Car can be used, but would benefit from some more elbow grease
Picture Ebay.co.uk

Mini Marcos is a Mk3 that is fully restored, needing no more work
Picture Ebay.co.uk

No details on what's under the bonnet, but the car certainly had lots of work put into it 
Picture Ebay.co.uk

Monday, 8 October 2018

Status Minipower hidden for decades

I got in touch with Nick Gale recently, who happens to be the owner of a rare Status Minipower, or at least of a rolling chassis of one such car. I wondered if it was a car I'd seen before. Nick wrote: "I very much doubt you know of it as it's been at the back of my garage since the late 1980s. From correspondence with Brian Luff many years back, and based on the stamped chassis number, he thought mine was probably the second chassis built in 1972 by Arch Motors." And he is right. It certainly is a car I never knew about before. He sent over two pictures of it taken before it was put in storage. Thank you Nick for sharing them!

Nick's Status Minipower is one of 20 chassis' sold. Note orange paint under that black layer, typical for the Minipower chassis
Picture courtesy Nick Gale

It has never been on the road and has been hidden in the back of Nick's garage since the late 1980s
Picture courtesy Nick Gale

Thursday, 4 October 2018

New photos of Biota's hill climber

Some more pictures of Biota's hill climb racer were unearthed by Rob Mellaart recently. This car used a lightweight space frame chassis with go-kart sourced disc brakes all round and a 100bhp A-series engine. It is said to have weighed just over 300kgs. The car was run in the 1972 Castrol/BARC Hill Climb Championship and was sometimes entered twice with not just Houghton himself at the wheel, but also racer Chris Seaman. At Harewood Seaman made a run in 45.06 secs and won his class. Houghton made 46.55 coming home second. They won that year's championship and came third too! I previously thought it was road registered also, but these new pictures unveil the number 'BUY 10R2', which seems to be a show plate to me. More pictures of the car here. Thanks once again Rob!

Biota's hill climb car was very quick and won the 1972 championship. Registrationn 'BUY 10R2' (Meant to say 'Buy Yours' perhaps?) seems to be a show number
Picture courtesy Rob Mellaart

It was raced by John Houghton and Chris Seaman, supposedly used go-kart sourced discs, a 100bhp Mini engine and weighed just over 300kgs
Picture courtesy Rob Mellaart

This is not it, but a VW based Formula car, made by Biota, too. The rear body work of the hill climb car can be seen behind it, though
Picture courtesy Rob Mellaart

This picture from Peter Niessen's Biota website shows the car in colour, a metallic blue it seems. 
Also note side pipe and ultra-low windscreen
Picture biota.jouwweb.nl

Monday, 1 October 2018

Le Mans Mini Marcos project: researches continue

While work on the Le Mans Mini Marcos commences, I continue my researches to the car. Hints and tips keep on coming and while these often lead to nothing, sometimes they uncover fantastic new finds. When I heard of a somewhat obscure French historical photographic archive unknown to me I gave it a try never the less. A long (snail) mail conversation followed. And after many weeks of waiting I received a post package last weekend with no less than 40 pictures, all taken from original slides and all new to me. I'd never expected this. They were not just taken at the Le Mans 24-hours race, but also at earlier events at Monza (1966 1000 kms race) and Le Mans (1966 Essais) and later ones at Montlhéry (1,000kms of Paris 1966 and 1967) and Magny Cours (1968 races). It's gold for the book I am planning to write on the car. So keep those hints and tips coming.

Meanwhile, I also found that Decca published an LP in 1966 shortly after the 24 hours race. The undertitle is: 'The 34th Grand Prix d'Endurance - June 18 & 19, 1966. With Bruce McLaren, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Carroll Shelby and the voices of the public'. I was very eager to have one, thinking it may even have recorded the sounds of my car... Eventually I found an excellent copy, bought it and by now listened to it, still not knowing if the whining sounds of an A-series engine with straight-cut gears can be heard somewhere on it! Perhaps you will recognize it? The complete sound track to the race has been uploaded on Youtube where you can listen to it for yourself here. Let me know if you hear more than I do!

Decca's LP of Le Mans 1966. It's more than just sounds of old racing cars!
Picture Jeroen Booij

 Booklet shows the Marcos in the official results. But can it be heard on the actual recording..?
Picture Jeroen Booij

French archive produced a plethora of pictures of the Le Mans Mini Marcos, unseen before
Picture Jeroen Booij

Friday, 28 September 2018

Yak owner needs your help

Wednesday's Party Yak prompted Kevin Hook to write to me about his own Grantura Yak. He wrote: "Hi. I have a Grantura Yak but the registration plates are missing, except for one piece with the first digit, an 'E'. The chassis number YAK70032 seems short, making it impossible to find the reg number. Do you have any ideas please? It's been on the back burner for years now as I got disappointed over the reg... Two weekends would see it finished as its only paint now. It had a full nut and bolt rebuild, including a rebuilt 850 engine. I think the last digit was possibly 'J'. We thought a 'D' or a 'J' as it was broken. A 'J' would make it right for the year 1970. My fingers are crossed..."

Well, first of all, the chassis number 'YAK70032' seems all fine to me, as this has to be the 32nd Yak built in 1970. But then the registration. I have been searching the Maximum Mini files for pictures of a Yak with registration starting with 'E', but couldn't find any. Maybe a reader knows more..?

Kevin's Yak is 'on the back burner for years now' since he got disappointed over the registration
Picture courtesy Kevin Hook

He thinks he could finish the car's restoration in two weekend now. It's had a full nut and bolt rebuild
Picture courtesy Kevin Hook

But the registration remains a mystery. This is all that's left of the car's plates. It started with an 'E'...
Picture courtesy Kevin Hook

And that's the chassis plate. YAK70032 surely is for the 32nd Yak built in 1970
Picture courtesy Kevin Hook