Thursday, 24 May 2018

Obscurity around Biota number 1

Following this message, I received an e-mail from Biota-fan Peter Niessen. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I just read your interesting blog about the first Biota with registration YWT 65G that appeared on the RAI motor show (amongst others). This was the first GRP-bodied production model that had several colours during its various presentation stages (to act as if multiple numbers were produced already). I know that this car wears chassis number HC 1969-1-1.

However! An earlier aluminium-bodied prototype does exist as well. This car has no chassis number and the owner claims the same registration number as the first GRP production model with chassis number one. It appears that this alloy prototype was used to create the moulds of the GRP production line, including chassis number 1! The story even goes that two alloy-bodied prototypes were made before the GRP production series started. It’s not clear which of the two prototypes this one is.

Apparently there is some debate about the registration number, but the owner of the GRP-bodied car let me know he has all the formal papers (which implies the Biota alloy prototype has no road license). I had contact with the owner of the aluminium car quite some years ago when he sent me some pictures. This was all by snail mail as he is not computer-literate and does not use e-mail."

That's all very interesting. More to follow, no doubt.

Biota's first car - the aluminium bodied prototype. Or was it one of two?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is believed to be it. Alloy bodied and in the progress of a restoration
Picture courtesy biota.jouwweb.nl

Aluminium and bright green appear to be seen on this picture taken during restoration
Picture courtesy biota.jouwweb.nl

And there's this. The first GRP bodied car that was seen lately in aerodynamic testing photos
Picture Jeroen Booij

 Although there is some debate about this, the registration 'YWT 65G' belongs to this car
Picture Jeroen Booij

It's complete and planned to be fully restored, too. These pictures dates back to 2011
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

ASD Minim prototype is genuine motoring history

A genuine piece of British motoring history is up for grabs as the ASD Minim prototype/press demonstrator/brochure car has come up for sale in Bexleyheath, London. Just six of these cars were made by engineering mastermind Bob Egginton in Maidstone between 1984 and 1990 with this being the very first. Although it was a really clever design, the car was put down by the press and didn't become a success hoped for by Egginton. When I visited him in 2010 he told me: “I could not persuade them to understand what we were trying to do. This was meant as a cheap car that could be driven by all members of the family. In those days they were absolutely power-mad, it had to have 7 litres at least. The Minim was surprisingly roomy, you could put a week’s shopping in the boot at the front.”

Remarkably, 'Q142 JKO', the car's registration as it was seen in a huge number of mid-1980s motoring magazines, was converted to left hand drive at one stage, while the odometer shows a mileage of under 300. Genuine? Fact is that it is up for grabs. Come on guys, do yourself a favour and go for this unusual piece of motoring heritage instead of any other Mini. There are so many of those while this is genuinely unique. It deserves to be saved! See the ad here.

'Q142 JKO' is the original ASD Minim prototype/press demonstrator/brochure car
Picture Ebay

It's been converted to left hand drive at some stage but could be converted back easily
Picture Ebay

Chassis plate shows number M86/001 - that's Minim number 1 which dates back to 1986
Picture Ebay

Interior is simple but appears to be complete, but dear, this car needs some tlc!
Picture Ebay

Odometer seems to show less then 300 miles. Could that be from new..?
Picture Ebay

1000cc engine has to be the original unit. It looks similar to when it was new
Picture Ebay

Here is the body buck being fabricated in ASD's workshop in Maidstone in 1984 or '85
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the car's chassis seen at the same place here. Note Lotus-like construction
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Here, the car is just finished, still at ASD's workshop but now already registered
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Bob Egginton back at Unit J2 in Maidstone. Note that ASD sign is still there!
Picture Jeroen Booij

The car shown for the first time after completion. The press was harsh to it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Pictures being made for the ASD Minim's brochure in 1986. It was marketed as a family car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Plenty of room in the boot at the front for a week's shopping! That's Egginton's wife and daughter
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The very rare brochure shows the same car that is now offered for sale
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday, 21 May 2018

Avis Andersen Cubs - where are they?

I had a request from Macau last week regarding Coldwell and Unipower cars and took a dive in the files. What I also found were the pictures below that I'd totally forgotten about. They are Andersen Cubs sold to Macau where they were used as rental cars by Avis. The pictures date back to 2005 so I guess the cars were still in use at the time. They even had the rare six-wheeler version on offer. And according to my information the Avis headquarters in Macau weren't on their own offering Cubs. On the Seychelles and in Greece they had them, too, while another 36 went to Kenya. What happened to these cars?

Avis Andersen Cub could be hired in Macau with Avis. This picture dates back to 2005
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And there were more. Remarkably, first car in line wears the same registration as the red one above
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

How about a six-wheeler version, also known as the Sundancer? Another was seen in Spain in 2012
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 18 May 2018

Gitane GT photo needs amendment

I was slapped on my wrist for naming the wrong person in a picture that I posted some years ago. And it was not just any picture, but one of my all-time favourite photographs. This is the message I received from Jon Dealey: "Hi Jeroen. I came across your article on the Gitane which was built by Gordon Fowl and my father Michael Dealey (see the article and the picture here). I was disappointed to see that the photo of my father fixing the Gitane in France by the roadside has been described as being a picture of Gordon Fowl. I seem to remember you getting in touch with my mother regarding your research on the Gitane. The photo I am pretty certain we sent to you so as you can imagine I was not pleased to see it labeled with the wrong person."

"Gordon designed the chassis and engine mountings but he had no experience of designing body work his cousin Colin Pratt had served his apprenticeship with my father and recommended him to Gordon to produce the body design. The model of the Gitane was also made by my father. Dan Margulies never saw the car and was in fact my father who drove the car to France with Gordon. My father fondly told us stories of how the were given large supplies of Gitane cigarettes when they got to the event but couldn't race the car due to the poor condition it arrived in. My uncle took the car off their hands, he had been building and racing cars since his late teens. My uncle's view on the car was that it was very poorly put together hence the unreliability and trouble they had getting the car into races, as a fully qualified mechanical engineer he went about fixing the its short comings and went on to win a significant number of races with it on the hill climbing circuit. My father died in 2007, however my uncle is still alive and if you wanted so further information I would be able to put you in touch with him."

Well... I stand corrected! However, I got back to Jon and told him how I got hold of the photograph. I did indeed speak to his mother, but it was in fact his uncle who I visited in West Bromwich in 2007 who gave it to me. And I believe it was also his uncle who told me he thought it was Fowl on the photo! Anyway: I have the name amended in the article now and have added some more Gitane GT images for your pleasure below. A bit more about the Gitane GT's failed attempt at Le Mans in 1962 here.


Both The Autocar as The Motor reported about the Gitane GT in May 1962
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / The Autocar

The Motor magazine showed it with bumpers where The Motor had it without
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / The Motor

This picture shows the car in a later stage when owned by Jon's uncle Tony 'Podge' Dealey who converted the car's roof/bonnet section. Seen here at the Chateau Impney hill climb
Picture courtesy Guy Loveridge / Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Barn find: another Peel Viking

Stop press! Another Peel Viking has emerged from a barn! You will remember the one that I found recently in Germany (full report here), just months later it's time for a similar car. I got in touch with Val Turner, who is the widow of the man who originally built it in 1966 and she was happy to tell me its story. Here we go:

"It's been with our family ever since my husband bought it in, I think, 1966. I think it took him at least a year and half to build it. He'd already built a Ford Special previously, which we used at the time. But then he built this because the Mini was sort of special. He was very fond about his cars. He was a commercial artist for trade but he spent much of his time on the cars. I think he loved the Viking more then he loved me!"

"We towed a trailer tent and a boat behind the Viking and used it as our daily car for many years, it always attracted lots of attention. We also took it down to Cornwall for holidays and to Brittany in France one time, with a little lightweight tent. And again it attracted quite a lot of attention. He stopped using it in 1981 when the children got too big and it was put in storage at the time. I remember he was going to do some alterations to the engine but he never got to do it. He died in February this year. All the original paperwork including the bill of sale when he bought the shell on the Isle of Man plus the logbook is still with us, with the last MOT certificate dating back to 1981."

Meanwhile, Val had an offer from a museum on the Isle of Man, but has not yet accepted that. She is willing to sell it elsewhere within the UK if someone will restore the car and I think we have just found the right person. To be continued.

Another barn full of parts and stuff. Oh, and you may just spot a Peel Viking behind it, too
Picture courtesy Val Turner

Car is still in the garage of its first and original owner. It will need work but looks complete
Picture courtesy Val Turner

'PWX 812K' is an original Isle of Man Peel Viking. It's been in this barn since 1981
Picture courtesy Val Turner

All the stuff relating to the car was kept into it. Note radio and map light. This car was used well
Picture courtesy Val Turner

Original dashboard was retained. Mister Turner fitted a nice selection of gauges and switches
Picture courtesy Val Turner

(widened) wheels may be an indicator to the car's state. It will definitely need a restoration
Picture courtesy Val Turner

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Mini based Beach Buggy that never was

Remember former Lola engineer Peter Comben and his home-built MiniSprint? (Click here for the full story). Well, the Sprint wasn't his only Mini based creation. The man built a beach buggy, too, using a Mini Van as a base. Or he attempted to do so. In his own words: "I bought a lovely ex-GPO Mini Van in olive green livery. A super little run-about: soft cam, flexible torque, huge wing mirrors, and I set out on my next venture – a beach buggy."

"Together with a friend, we set front and rear subframes on a jig with engine unit in place. We mudded around for many weeks with alternate designs on either side. Unfortunately, cash ran out and we called it a day, burning the mock-up on a bonfire." What a pity!


Mini Van was an ex-General Post Office car and was to be turned into a breach buggy
Picture Peter Comben

Classic chassis frame was made to mate the Mini's subframes. It looks strong!
Picture Peter Comben

Engine put back in, interior fitted. Then the beach buggy's shape was formed in wire 
Picture Peter Comben

There you go. I like those odd lines, with its ultra-short bonnet and separate headlights
Picture Peter Comben

But it wasn't meant to be. Beach buggy project was cancelled and the car ended on a bonfire!
Picture Peter Comben

Monday, 14 May 2018

Blyton Park 2018: the cars (well, some of them)

Last week we saw some of the people coming over to sunny Lincolnshire, now it's time for a closer look to some of the cars, notably Tim Harber's Biota, Frank Hubbard's Oyler Contessa and Tim Carpenter's Unipower GT.

Tim Harber had been trying to buy this Biota for the past two years, but it was only days prior to the Blyton Park event that he struck a deal. The car hadn't been on the road since 2003
Picture Jeroen Booij

It wears a Mk2 nose, but it is in fact a Mk1 car, perhaps a bit of a hybrid like this one?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Interior is all standard with the typical 'Clam seats' and unusual gearchange pattern
Picture Jeroen Booij

To Tim's own surprise the car started almost on the button. Engine is a standard 1100
Picture Jeroen Booij

When did you ever see two Biotas on the track? It happened at Blyton Park...
Picture Jeroen Booij

Frank Hubbard's Oyler Contessa was beautifully restored in under 18-months period. Body, with all seams removed and typical vinyl roof were in remarkable good state
Picture Jeroen Booij

All original parts that could be maintained were restored, only mod is that Frank didn't use the Wolseley Princess grille that it came with - he didn't like that 
Picture Jeroen Booij

It had just passed the 25,000-miles mark when Frank bought it. Interior is very richly equipped
Picture Jeroen Booij

Oyler of Halifax coachbuilt very few cars. This one came about in 1978. By 1981 they'd gone
Picture Jeroen Booij

Oyler's centre badge shows a naked lady. Not even a Rolls-Royce has that!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tim Carpenter is seen here having thoughts on how to repair his car. What went wrong..?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Well, hammering it down on the track caused serious cracks in the top of the left hand side rear suspension mount, as can be seen here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Having planned to drive it back home to London that afternoon and not wanting ‘to sleep somewhere on a Lincolnshire airfield’, Tim took his car to the Mini grass track racers who were on the other side of the circuit. They welded in a new mount on-site!
Picture Jeroen Booij

A couple of days later I received a message from Tim: "My race fabricator friend made some really nice new suspension mounts for my car. When we looked, we saw that the other side was starting
to crack as well. The new ones are much more substantial so should last another 50 years at least!"
Picture Tim Carpenter