Thursday, 19 September 2019

New Unipower GT bodies in the making

When you come across these pages regularly you may recognize the name of Terry Smith. Terry is a Scotsman who built the Mini based Metron in 1971 when he was 23 years old (see Maximum Mini 2 for the full story - bit more here, too). The thing is: Terry has never stopped building cars ever since the Metron! And the number of projects he is currently working on is impressive. So when he drops me a line it is always about something of interest. Now, for example he has taken up production of what he calls the Unipower Evolution. He wrote:

"Hello Jeroen. As you know I have an original shell and chassis and I am rebuilding that exactly as it was originally built. The body had a fair bit of damage, and I started by restoring the shell. After completion I made a set of moulds in case of any future damage or if any one was looking for a replacement shell for their car. The Unipower used a steel Triumph Spitfire windscreen surround, which is quite difficult to find these days, so I moulded the screen surround with the roof panel in GRP. I have also changed the surround to allow a Laminated or Lexan screen to be bonded in instead of the standard rubber seal."
"When planning the restoration I had a chat with Ernie Unger who conceived the Unipower. He was also a development engineer on the Hillman Imp, with its Coventry Climax based aluminium engine. I asked Ernie if he ever considered using the lighter Imp engine in the Unipower, which would also have provided more interior space? He told me he was a great admirer of the Imp mechanical spec, but had already fully designed the Unipower and did not want to do a complete redesign.
I am therefore building a 'prototype' Evolution Unipower but using a composite monocoque and Imp mechanical parts rather than Mini!"

"The Unipower chassis' rust very badly, and the monocoque gets rid of this problem. I will be making a full set of moulds of the monocoque, and this would be ideal for limited production as there would be no confusion with the original run of 72 or thereby Mini Cooper powered Unipower GTs. I am also combining the rear clip with the main body shell, and engine access will be through a side hinged E-Type rear hatch. I hope all is going well with your Le Mans Mini Marcos, and look forward to keeping in touch as we both progress our projects. Kind regards, Terry."

Despite using no Mini engine, I think that is awesome news! Thank you Terry. And he has more news to come up with soon. Stay tuned.

Work in progress on the monocoque bodied and Coventry Climax engined Evolution version of the Unipower GT. Ideal for limited production, says Smith
Picture Terry Smith

Work started from an original but damaged body shell that was restored and of which moulds were made. Here at the Thirlestane Castle Show. Note mouled-in windscreen surround
Picture Terry Smith

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Grand Mini's 60th celebrations

With 2019 being the Mini's 60th anniversary year there has been a great number of events this Summer, and I don't think more Mini derivatives have ever been seen to join the festivities. Over in Japan, the Classic Mini Festival saw a grand parade of Minis at the Fuji circuit on August 24 and 25, which included numerous variants. Among these a number of MiniSprints, a Unipower GT, a Cox GTM, Mini Jem and Mini Marcos, a Whitby Morrison ice cream van, Broadspeed GT and of course the Japanese-built Mini Trafalgar Coupe.

Last weekend an even more impressive line-up with some 150 classic Minis made it to the Goodwood track during the Revival meeting. This parade was cheered up by three out of the four original Radford Minis owned by the Beatles (only Lennon's car is still missing) plus a Broadspeed GT and Broadspeed GTS and several Sprints and Crayfords. Best bit during the Revival was perhaps the Fordwater Trophy, when Martyn Sprurrell's freshly restored Mk3 Mini Marcos with Nick Swift behind the wheel came second after an epic doorhandle-to-doorhandle battle with a Lotus Elan. In case you missed it - you'll find the footage below!

Fuji circuit on 25 August: Sprints, Unipower, Cox, Jem, Marcos, Broadspeed to name a few

Elsewhere on the Japanese track: the famous Donald Healey-built Mini Roadster

Goodwood last weekend: three of the four Beatles Minis reunited. Black car behind Harrison's psychedelic Radford is Cilla Black's Wood & Pickett Margrave


Classic Minis everywhere! Spot the variants and Specials


Epic battle of Nick Swift in the Mini Marcos

Thursday, 12 September 2019

What was the Alda Jem?

An interesting message came from Dave Transom who lives in Australia. You may have heard of the Aussie-built Taylorspeed Mini Jem, but Dave comes up with a possible new variant: the Alda Jem. He wrote:

"Hi Jeroen, I was looking at Maximum Mini and noticed you posted about the moulds for the Mini Jem going up for sale in Sydney. In the 1970s I bought a car in Sydney which was badged Alda Jem. The badge was round, on the front of the car, there was some kind of graphic as well, but I don’t recall what it was. This was a Mini Jem, and I am guessing that it was locally produced. I don’t have any pictures, it was a long time ago, maybe 1972-3? But I definitely remember the Alda Jem badge, and I seem to recall being told by the person I got it from that it was made in Adelaide. I did see another one a few years later, but never got to speak to the owner. So it wasn’t just a Taylorspeed with a one off badge on it. Is it possible that these were someone’s attempt to go into production or a badge from a dealer?"

"When I got it the car was minus its powerplant. I had an 850 which I put in and was amazed by the performance, I think it ended up with a 1275, even better. I eventually sold it to a friend, who took it back to his hometown in the country. His older brother told him he had wasted his money, and persuaded him to strip it. Funny thing, all the adjustable racing suspension, wheels and good engine and box ended up in the brother’s car. I did see the steering wheel on my friend’s car. Last I heard the body was sitting out in the weather on their farm."

"I was wondering if you knew anything about them? Recently I found this ad with one for sale. Mine was missing the powerplant and rear window, but did have fully adjustable suspension and mag wheels. Perhaps this was the car I bought, I don’t know… It is possible it was a one-off, and the advertised car, my car, and the one I later saw in Sydney (although a different colour) are all the same. Have you ever heard of this variant? Cheers, Dave Transom."

I haven't! And couldn't find anything on them in the files either. Perhaps one of my readers will be able to shed a light on this one? Some of the pictures below have been posted on the excellent 'Aussie Independents and Fibreglass Car Community Group'.

The ad from The Canberra Times, December 1970
Picture via Dave Transom

There's no doubt about this being an Australian built Taylorspeed Mini Jem
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And I think this is another Taylorspeed car, or is it?
Picture Tony Shaw / AIFCCG

Another Jem in Australia. A Taylorspeed? Or a later one? Or an Alda Jem?
Picture Tony Shaw / AIFCCG

Note small rear screen and rear spoiler
Picture Tony Shaw / AIFCCG

This wide Mini Jem is raced by Philip Huxtable in Australia
Picture Geoffrey Nowak / AIFCCG


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The 'Järnsängen' story (3)

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of the 'Järnsängen' story about a rediscovered Swedish Special. Over to Nils Holm for Part 3:

In 2013 Pelle came in contact with the owner and they came to an agreement letting Pelle take over the car to start a massive renovation, now with his son Micke (Mikael Holm). First thing to do was to disassemble it into pieces, renovate part by part and then rebuild it slowly. The work has been going on for a number of years now, and the final result is amazing.

One goal with the renovation was to get it accepted by the 'Swedish Classic Racing Car Assosiation'. In June 2019 it was tested at 'Gelleråsen Areana' in Karlskoga, Sweden during the event 'Karlskoga Velodromloppet Historic GP' and in July 2019 Pelle and Micke got a final notification that it most probably will be accepted and appointed registration in the 'Sport-cars' class as a prototype.

A few things need to be done before the final registration. The cooler – now placed beside the driver seat – need to be moved, and the gas tank has to be replaced to fullfill all security regulations.
These requirements will be maintained as soon as possible.

During the test at Gelleråsen Arena the engine was the renovated 1100 cc from the 1960's. Now to get it back to its originality the engine is replaced with an upgraded 1275 cc Cooper S group 4 with a Weber 45. Next step in the 'Iron bed' story is to get it inspected, approved and finally registered as a Historic Classic Racing car... there will be more to come!

Chassis is fully restored here and in primer paint 
Picture Nils Holm

There is no doubt that this is one particularly low machine
Picture Nils Holm

Mini subframes refurbished, too, and ready for a new coat of paint
Picture Nils Holm

A few steps ahead and a rebuilt 1275 engine to Group 4 spec is back behind the seat
Picture Nils Holm

2016 - time for test drive at the 'Malsta GoCart strip' in Norrtälje, Sweden
Picture Nils Holm

The two drivers are 'Micke' and his grandson 'Albin'… the fourth generation now
Picture Nils Holm

And look at that! Fully restored and ready to go once again after all those years
Picture Nils Holm

This pictures shows very well that the front of an Ogle SX1000 was used as a back!
Picture Jeroen Booij / Nils Holm

At the Gelleråsan Arena in June 2019, when there was a great interest in the car
Picture Nils Holm

And it made it to the track, too. Catching up on the Lotus here…
Picture Nils Holm

Micke back in safety. Now time for inspection and check up, wrote Nils…
Picture Nils Holm

One more message coming in from Nils with some additional information: "I'd like to add a few facts about the modifications to be done before it can be fully accepted. One thing is to restore the radiator as from the early days in the front. When shown at 'Gelleråsen' it was placed beside the drivers seat. But since this is not accepted now, Pelle now puts it back in the front with a different mounting. The petrol tank is today an aluminum high pressure oil tank from an airplane. This does not fulfill all the security regulations and must be replaced. Finally I can tell that the 1275 group 4 engine is back but not with the Weber yet. That's all for now, I'll be back, Nils."

Friday, 6 September 2019

Market round up (Autumn 2019)

Is it autumn yet? I'm not sure but fact is that there are plenty of cars offered for sale at the moment. So it's about time for a little look at what Mini derivatives are in the market right now.

An ABC Tricar with a modified body in Yorkshire
Seen for sale Here

A Mini Mouse, again with a modified body and in the US
Seen for sale Here

A Robert Mandry-built RTV that's ready to run
Seen for sale Here

A Ranger Pick Up that needs lots of work
Seen for sale Here

And a very good looking Jiffy
Seen for sale Here

An ABS Freestyle in The Netherlands
Seen for sale Here

And a Midas in Belgium
Seen for sale Here

Nice AEM Scout, unfortunately horribly photographed
Seen for sale Here


Hustler Six to be auctioned by Bonhams
Seen for sale Here


GTM Rossa Mk2 with low-mileage 1275 engine
Seen for sale Here

That Status 365 again. Who dares?
Seen for sale Here

And who is going to finish this Mini Wildgoose project?
Seen for sale Here

Or how about an Outspan Orange Mini? Said to be the prototype
Seen for sale Here

Funny looking Scamp Mk1 in checker plate wear
Seen for sale Here

The Silcoates Ascender has been seen here before
Seen for sale Here

Beatifully restored Crayford Mini Sprint
Seen for sale Here

Lovely Whitby Morrison Batman ice cream van
Seen for sale Here

A very colourful Hrubon Schmitt in France
Seen for sale Here

Banham Sprint with fast engine
Seen for sale Here

Rare Japan-built Moke Sports Tottini in the UK
Seen for sale Here

A British registered Jimini found in France
Seen for sale Here

Correctly registered Scamp Mk2
Seen for sale Here

Mini Marcos Mk3, looks like a lovely project
Seen for sale Here

Another Jimini, this on on the Cote d'Azur
Seen for sale Here

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Quasar Unipower returns to the roads in Austria

Good news from Austria! The Quasar Unipower found in a shed in the UK and brought over to Vienna by Wolfgang Buchta is ready to be enjoyed on the roads once more.
Wolfgang wrote: "The Eagle has landed! A small step for mankind but a giant leap for the Buchta Family! After a long time of being quiet I finally can report on some progress on the Quasar. The Cube is thoroughly cleaned, partially repainted and up and running! Next it will be road registered and then... Then you will be most welcome in Austria! All the best, Wolfgang. That's just perfect. Now let's see when I can make it over to the Buchta's place.

Thoroughly cleaned, partially repainted and up and running once again
Picture Wolfgang Buchta

 And this is what it looked like a year ago when dragged from a shed in the UK
Picture Wolfgang Buchta

 The 850 Automatic is refurbished and now up and running again
Picture Wolfgang Buchta

 A repaint in its original bright white was necessary also
Picture Wolfgang Buchta

 The Quasar's interior needed lots of cleaning and a repaint also
Picture Wolfgang Buchta

 But now 'The eagle has landed!' as Wolfgang says
Picture Wolfgang Buchta