Friday, 22 October 2021

Magnum Spectre survivor

A picture of the second (of two) built Magnum Spectre was posted on Facebook this week. The car appears to be fully restored and I'd love to hear more about it. 

The two Spectres were made in the mid-1970s by carpenter Rohan Ash and his mate Arthur Wilshire of Auckland, New Zealand. They bought two written-off Leyland 1100s, one for each, and started work on the cars that were inspired by the Alfa-Romeo Carabo concept car. A magazine article was their only reference. Floors and mechanicals were retained, including the hydrolastic suspension and drum brakes, but they replaced the 1100 engines with 1275s from Mini Cooper ‘S’s. Some 30 metres of 25mm square section steel tubing was used to make a frame to place over each of the 1100 floorpans. The car’s bodies were made in fibreglass. Scissor doors like that of the Carabo were deemed to complicated and so Ash and Wilshire settled for more conventional opening doors. The hexagonal pattern of the rear lights, made of two layers of polycarbonate, proved to be another challenge. The interior was a mix of Mini, Datsun and home made parts. Once finished the duo offered replicas for sale from $8,500 but soon decided it would be too much work for them to run the business and deliver the kits. 

Both Ash as Wilshire used their cars on a daily basis for many years. Ash supposedly gave his to a museum in 2003, although it ended up in private hands some time later. Wilshire moved to Australia, taking his Spectre with him and the car seen on the Facebook picture is his car, on a Queensland plate with appropriate 'O KIT 2' number. It's now painted bright orange and has undergone some changes. It's got bigger wheels and wider arches while the pop-up headlights have been replaced by more conventional units. I wonder if it is still owned by Wilshire?


The Magnum Spectre of builder Arthur Wilshire was spotted in Australia recently
Picture Facebook via Paul Kelly

The same car when it was just finished in 1976. The pop-up lights still there
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wilshire's Spectre was originally a deep brown metallic and wore a NZ plate 'IC 1520'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Although it was based on an Austin 1100, the engine was a 1275 Cooper 'S'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

While the very luxurious interior was a mix of Mini, Datsun and home made parts
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is the first of the two Magnum Spectres, the one used by Rohan Ash. Note different bonnet
Picture Patrick Harlow / Jeroen Booij archive

Ash and Wilshire marketed the Magnum Spectre in 1976 but never made any others
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Peel Vikings on the Isle of Man

As we saw last week a Peel Viking was autocrossed on the Isle of Man (click here), but it wasn't the only Viking on the island. Stephen Callow owns one, too. He wrote:

"Hi, here’s a picture of it from a few years ago parked with another Mini restoration project I have. It is pictured on your site when it was in the UK registered 'RET 680J' – a friend brought it back to the Isle of Man in the early 2000’s for a classic car hire business he started which didn’t success so I bought the Viking but haven’t got around to starting on it. The pics someone took of mine parked at the side of the house are quite old now and sadly it hasn’t improved but at least glassfibre doesn’t rust – the blue Mk1 Cooper is crumbling!"

"Mine was registered MAN70P when originally on island, then went to UK and became RET680J. It’s back on a 2003 IOM number plate now and has 1275 engine, discs, and needs a full restoration. Apart from Neil Hanson’s red one I have only seen one other in the flesh and that was autocrossed by Mike Hewison and had the front end cut off after a fire. I think it was scrapped, but knowing the IOM there’s one or two lurking in sheds."

I have added more pictures of Vikings on the Isle of Man. It would be lovely to hear from when you can fill in more about these cars.


This is one of the first Vikings built and I believe it must have been the 1966 show car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'MAN 66P', seen here with Peel castle on the island in the background 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Same car, seen here with its designer and builder, the late Cyril Cannell. Does it survive?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

That's Stephen Callow's car. Originally this one was registered MAN 70P on the island
Picture courtesy Stephen Callow

"The pics are quite old now and sadly it hasn’t improved but at least glassfibre doesn’t rust – the blue Mk1 Cooper is crumbling!" 
Picture courtesy Stephen Callow

And this is the same car after it had gone to the UK and was re-registered 'RET 680J' there
Picture courtesy Stephen Callow

"A friend brought it back to the Isle of Man in the early 2000’s for a classic car hire business"
Picture Mini Marcos Owners Club

Neil Hanson's car - 321 MAN - on the Central Promenade in Douglas, Isle of Man
Picture Jeroen Booij

Neil's car was fully restored not too long before I saw it and photographed it for Maximum Mini
Picture Jeroen Booij

The same car made it to a stamp from the Isle of Man, dedicated to Peel Cars, also
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is a mystery car to me. The registration is from the Isle of Man: MAN 321A
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Unraveling a bit of that Cox GTM's history...

While researches for the Belgian Ogle barnfind are in full swing, the ones for other cars just continue, too. I thought it would be nice to give a little update on the Cox GTM that I found earlier this year, also in Belgium, since a bit more of its past has now been unraveled with the help of Maximum Mini readers. Emilien Pillot contacted me in March. He had seen the same car advertised in the early or mid-1990s and had written a letter to the seller in the UK at the time. He said: "I don't remember exactly when it was but as I remember the car was approximately in the same condition. I'm pretty sure I can find the pics sent to me by the owner at the time but I'm not so sure about the letter that accompanied it. I'm doing by best to find out more."

And he did! Two months later another message followed: "Hi Jeroen, I found the pics but not the letter. I'm pretty sure I haven't kept that. The car wasn't registered that's why I didn't buy it. The windscreen was included in the sale. If one day I find the letter when I sort my desk, I will let you know. Best regards, Emilien"

That was great and I was surprised to see the car hadn't changed much from these 1990s Polaroid pictures. What was even better is that I somehow managed to find the then-owner, too: Andy Parkinson, who lived near Swansea, South-Wales at the time and who still lives there. I got in touch with Andy, who wrote:

"Hi Jeroen, I bought it from a guy in Bolton in the north of the UK. He was advertising it as a Mini kit car and didn’t even know what it was! I had no history at all, sadly he just wanted to get rid of it and I could not believe my luck. The guy I bought it from said it had been on the road, but when I got it there was no log book and I was going to try to find out what the original registration was. It was such a rare car though, I regretted selling it straight away. From memory it had number plate holes and holes for the rear number plate light. The roof was a mess though looked almost as if it had a sunroof put in and someone had then repaired over it, I did a little exploration with a sander and it had a lot of filler there! That said the rest of the tub and shell were very good after the repairs as far as I remember, panels and doors fitted very well."

So far the guy from Bolton hasn't been found yet but who knows we may find him, too? Andy added that the car was 'advertised in the newspaper for car sales…before the internet was around.' He also added: "I am trying to remember if there was any number, I don’t think so or I would have probably take a photo of it." It would be lovely if this story got another follow-up, wouldn't it? 


Early to mid-1990s. The Cox GTM is snapped on Polaroid by then-owner Andy Parkinson
Picture Andy Parkinson, courtesy Emilien Pillot

Andy: "It was such a rare car though, I regretted selling it straight away"
Picture courtesy Andy Parkinson

The car hadn't changed much from when these pictures where taken and sent to Emilien Pillot
Picture Andy Parkinson, courtesy Emilien Pillot

"I bought it from a guy in Bolton. He said it had been on the road, but there was no log book"
Picture Andy Parkinson, courtesy Emilien Pillot

February 2021: Found in a barn in Belgium where it had been in storage for at least 25 years
Picture Maximum Mini archive

March 2021: the Cox makes its online debut on Maximum Mini (here)
Picture Jeroen Booij

September 2021: new owner Trevor Powell picks up the car in Calais, France
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday, 11 October 2021

Autocrossing a Peel Viking

Stephen Callow recently contacted me about Timeire, the Special built by Tim Conroy (see here), but the conversation moved towards Peel Vikings soon and more particularly towards Vikings on the Isle of Man. Stephen owns a Viking himself and lives on the island. 

But before describing his and other Peels from from the Isle of Man, let's have a look at one local car first that was perhaps a bit of a legend on the island for a while. Stephen sent over an interesting picture of that: "This was Mike Hewison’s Viking local autocrosser with some flames!"

I did recognize the car from a shot in The Filby Files, when Peter Filby wrote about it: "There's only one example left on the island and, as you can see from the action shot, it's got much the same problem as a Manx car, only at both ends. It's path in life is as a very quick autocross Special shared by James Howe and Philip Speedie. I know it's quick because the lads let me trash it around a large field recently vacated by several cows. Dung racing I think they call it."

I think Hewison must have crossed it after Howe and Seedie did? I also have a picture in the files of what is believed to be the body of this particular car, but I can't remember where I got it from, so do let me know when it was you. Stephen said: "Must be tucked away in the garage with Mike’s other Mini’s – he has a lovely Sprint and some nice Mk2’s." As always, more information is much welcome.


A Peel Viking autocrosser on the Isle of Man, as it was raced by James Howe and Philip Speedie
Picture The Filby Files / Jeroen Booij archive

This surely must be the same car? "Mike Hewison’s Viking local autocrosser with some flames!"
Picture courtesy Stephen Callow

And is this the body of the same car again? I forgot who sent it to me...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / source unknown

Friday, 8 October 2021

Brian Bray found - Micron GT Mk2 still missing

More good news about the Micron GT: the long-lost car that was found last year by your's truly (click here). And after finding the car, it's builder has now been located also! That's Brian Bray. I received a message from his son:

"Hello Jeroen, I have been given your e-mail regarding the Micron. I am Matthew Bray, son of Brian Bray the man who built it. I have never seen it as I was born in 1969 but I am a car enthusiast myself. Brian is still alive and kicking at 81 and I’m sure he would like to see it. Hopefully you can arrange something?"

Contacting the current UK based owner of the car was easy, but unfortunately he had to tell me the car is in France at the moment awaiting restoration. The idea was to bring it back some time ago but with the travel restrictions this hasn't happened yet. Let's hope it's possible to rejoin car and builder soon!

Next question was if Brian had some historical pictures of the car. Matthew replied: "I am sending you the only three pictures we have of the car. My father says he has no pictures of the build." But Matthew was kind enough to supply me with his dad's phone number so that I could ask him for some first hand information directly. Over to Brian Bray:

"I built it in a garage and my brother Rex didn't have a hand in it. But I sold it soon after it was finished to build the second car. That was a much better looking car with opening doors, the Micron Mk2. It didn't have a wooden chassis but a steel tubular chassis. Even the floorpan was steel. But it was also rear engined using a Mini engine, too. That car was never finished and not registered although I used to drive it around an airfield. It was almost finished before I sold it to fund my first aeroplane project. I sold it to two lads many years ago, but I can't remember who they were. I wanted to pick up flying and built my first first plane not much later. In the end I built six aeroplanes." 

Matthew and Brian hope to find back pictures of the Mk2, which I am very curious about. In the meantime Matthew did come back to me with another lovely message: "I thought you may be interested to see the first place trophy my father won from Hot Car. Hopefully we may be able to see the car again one day should it return to the UK. Best wishes, Matthew."


The Micron GT Mk1 as built by Brian Bray in 1968. The car was thought lost for decades
Picture courtesy Brian Bray

But there it was in rural Worcestershire in 2020, hardly changed and all complete!
Picture Jeroen Booij

That's the trophy won by Brian Bray for the 'Custom Contest' of Hot Car magazine
Picture courtesy Brian Bray

Brian built the car, won the contest and sold it next to fund the Mk2 - that one is still missing
Picture courtesy Brian Bray

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Back on the road after 50 years: Rob Thomas Special

Rob Thomas, who built a three-wheeler back in the early 1970s out of the Mini Van of his mother after he'd written that off, has now finished the restoration of his one-off Special. "Finally back on the road", he wrote adding the picture below.

Rob built the trike when he was 22 or 23 years old and had it last on the road in 1976 after which he stored it and almost forgot about it until a few years ago. Last year he told me: "I made a tubular chassis out of 1-inch steam pipe from a heating system and put twin back wheels close together." His mother originally made the seats, while Rob hammered the body out of aluminium. "I must have done 5- or 6,000 miles in it and remember driving it over the M62", he added. "In hindsight people must have thought I was peculiar!"

Congratulation Rob, well done! More historic pictures and information about the Thomas Special can be found here.
    

2021: Rob Thomas in his own Thomas Special that he has now fully restored
Picture courtesy Rob Thomas

1971 or 1972: Rob Thomas in his creation after he had just finished it
Picture courtesy Rob Thomas

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Mike's Tricar - yet another

The list of ABC Tricars keeps on growing. After this one was seen for sale in France last August and this one in a hedge in the UK in June, I received a message from Mike Rogers this month. Mike owned another Tricar that was previously unknown to me. He wrote: "It cost me £400 in 1972, it was red and I picked it up where it was made in Dudley, I think. I had a lot of mechanical trouble as the Mini they converted was dodgy but it was okay in the end when I fixed all the problems. I sold it after a couple of years for £175 to a guy in Upminster."

How do we know it is one that's not on the list of Tricars yet? Because Mike remembers that it was registered 'EFD 469K'. He is still looking for a good picture of it, but does have a clipping from a local newspaper when he was 28 years old (not 24 as the article mentioned) and pictured next to the car. He was quoted: "I've done as much as 90 in it and it feels perfectly safe at 70. It's just like any other car..."

Thanks Mike for letting me know! EFD 469K is now the 16th ABC added to the list - click here.

Michael's ABC Tricar in 1972. It was red and registered EFD 469K
Picture courtesy Mike Rogers / The Echo

Friday, 1 October 2021

Biota beautifully restored

Big congratulations to René Sontrop who has just finished the restoration of the Biota that was originally built and used by his dad Jan Sontrop as the infamous Dutch Demonstrator. René finished the car in a record time after purchasing it in November last year (here) and I don't think it could have gone to somebody else taking better care of it than him. The car looks absolutely stunning with all the details correct and everything in period except for a few mechanical upgrades. 

Let's quote René from some of the messages he sent over to here in the last year or so.

29 November 2020
"Hello Jeroen, here is some news, this afternoon I started with the Biota, the bonnet is starting to fit well now. I have to reinforce the fibreglass on the left side, because it is a bit too thin and sagging, but it was already like that on some old pictures. The man who has worked on it previously must not have been a mechanic but a farmer I guess! Luckily he has not messed up too much of that 1098 engine, which has never been used in this car. Nothing is connected properly and the thermostat housing will touch the  bonnet if there is a rubber hose on it. Also the gear lever can not work like this. The radiator comes from a VW K70 and is way too wide and not a good fit. He probably sold the original Cooper engine to raise some funds or something! I'm also very happy with the report on your blog which you have written well and it tells the truth. I also found yesterday a Maximum Mini book N° 1 on Ebay."

1 December 2020
"I have a very good contact with Peter Niessen who advised me to find a copper Innocenti radiator (scarce) and I was lucky to find one in Cagnes-sur-Mer, pictures to follow. Our Biota used a Cooper engine with two carburetors. The 1100 it comes with now has never been used and doesn't fit well. It's a good little block but not very sporty. The solution is a 1275 bored to 1300 with two SUs. The car ran like a rocket in the past - it had to because otherwise my dad wouldn't have sold any of those cars. Yesterday a new manifold for two carbs came new from England. It fits but the carbs are already too high for the engine cover. The only solution is to make one myself or find special Speedwel pipes, but yesterday I bought a manifold on Ebay for a 1275 Midget so I'll try again. If it won't fit I'll make one from aluminium."

4 December 2020
"I now bought a manifold from a Midget 1275 to fit the double carburetors. Look at it, it's a millimetre job with the bonnet. I also looked at the needle number of the two small carburetors. They are N° AZ, used only on Cooper 1000s in 1961 / 1962, so my memories are correct."

13 December 2020
"Hello Jeroen. I found some engine parts in Bergamote near Nancy by a real enthusiast who knows his Minis through and through. With all this I can build up a Cooper 1300 specification engine with modern castings. So a 1293cc Inno / 1275 GT block with modern head / Piper camshaft / balanced crankshaft, lighter flywheel, better clutch etc. Oh, we also talked about your world famous Marcos."

3 January 2‌021
"Bonne Anneé! I spent the whole week on  provisionally building up the fibreglass. It turns out a 1275 engine is too wide and also 7mm too tall for the car. But I managed to fit it properly in the end."

11 January 2021
"Hello Jeroen. I am putting a lot of energy in the Biota, I can't do this in 10 more years because of my age, I also have troubles because of my medication. But due to Covid I am now building up the car in the weekends and on Sundays. The intention is to treat the body with some extra layers of fibreglass and gelcoat as soon as possible, this has to dry out well. In the meantime I can restore the engine / gearbox / subfames / brakes / dashboard etc. I have managed to drop the engine and gearbox 11mm in the frame by welding a thick box-shaped plate into the subframe, so the engine can also move more to the right, otherwise I can't make it with the bonnet, which I absolutely don't want to have any holes. I have found the original paint colour to be McLaren Orange."

26 March 2021 
"Oof! Half the body has now undergone its fibreglass treatment."

1 August 2021
"Hello Jeroen, Everything alright with you? The Biota is coming along very well!"

It seems to me it has paid off really well as this Biota looks like one of the best current Mini based cars restorations that I have seen. Let these pictures speak for themselves. Oh - the car is on garage plates now, but will hopefully soon be (re)registered correctly. Last but not least René mentioned to me that it was 50 years ago that his father had it on trade plates in The Netherlands also... l'Histoire se répète!



Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Picture René Sontrop

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Timeire on the Isle of Man

Stephen Callow dropped me a line titled 'Timeire on the Isle of Man (Hill climb circa '73)', which is certainly one good way to get my attention. 

Timeire was the name of a one-off Mini Van based Special built by Irishman Tim Conroy and his father Patrick 'Pop' Conroy in the late 1960s. After getting in touch with Tim Conroy's son Martin some years ago I found out that the car used a 998 Cooper engine and was raced by Rob Mason at Brands Hatch before well-known racer Gerry Marshall took it to the Isle of Man for a hill climb in 1970. Martin also told me it was sold as a road car in 1973 and was written off and scrapped about a year later. 

Where did Stephen find this superb shot? He wrote: "A contact shared a couple of hill climb pics – September 73 we think." So that would likely have been after Conroy sold it. Or could it be Gerry Marshall in 1970 after all? What's interesting also is that the car appears to have a registration that I have never seen on it on any other picture: '658 CXP' or '658 CXR'. What can we make of that..?


The one-off Mini based Timeire is seen here in a hill climb at the Isle of Man
Picture courtesy Stephen Callow

Detail shot seems to reveal registration '658 CXP' or is it '658 CXR'?
Picture courtesy Stephen Callow

Monday, 27 September 2021

RTVs find new homes

I've been overwhelmed with messages about the Ogle SX1000 find (this one) - thank you all. In the meantime I've already found out a little more about the car's history and will write an update on that soon. There's some exiting news in the pipeline, I think.

One message came from fellow-Ogle owner and -racer Mark Burnett. He wrote: "Hey Jeroen. Love, love the Ogle, great find! Thought you might be interested in a recent purchase of mine... It’s a great thing. Needs a few little jobs doing (don’t they always!) but otherwise up and running! Best, Mark." That's a cool RTV - Rough Terrain Vehicle - thank you!

And it's not the only RTV that's moved about recently. Tyler Hughes also wrote to me some weeks ago: "Secrets out! Me and my dad have now restored an extremely early RTV! It's had a sympathetic restoration with all panels off, painted and re-fixed, full suspension rebuild with no bolt left untouched plus modifications to the rear to accommodate disc brakes at the rear and solving the issue of self steer! Bought of Tim from Hastings and it performed extremely well at the Scamp AGM picnic and is capable beyond our nerves.  Andrew MacLean has had a big input and assistance to get it done in time." Love it Tyler, thank you, too!


Tyler's dad Pete demonstrating the capabilities of the RTV at the latest Scamp picnic
Picture courtesy Tyler Hughes

 Tyler restored it together with his dad and with the assistance of Andrew MacLean
Picture courtesy Tyler Hughes

 It's believed to be a very early example of the RTV (Rough Terrain Vehicle) 
Picture courtesy Tyler Hughes

 The RTV was designed by Robert Mandry of Scamp Motor Company fame
Picture courtesy Tyler Hughes

 Another RTV was bought recently by Ogle SX1000 racer Mark Burnett 
Picture courtesy Mark Burnett