Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Mystery Mini derivative (61)

This Mini based sports car has come to the light in Ferndown, Dorset, from where it is offered for sale. This is what the seller writes:

"This car was designed 10 years ago. A buck was made and some moulds were taken to construct the first car. Then illness and house move halted the project. The chassis was welded up from 25mm by 40mm steel tubing, and designed to protect the driver in the shape of a roll bar around screen and behind drivers seat. The completed chassis was tested at Hatfield University for seat belt mounts, torsional rigidity and chassis flex. It's tough and rigid. It was designed to have a flat undertray (in GRP) and could hold two adults and two small people. The wheels were specially cast in the USA. The engine fitted at the time is a Austin 1275 cc A-series engine and automatic gearbox, on a subframe so engine swaps are fairly easy. The suspension is Mini rubber cone. The engine has been run and the car drives but it has been standing some time.
Moulds made are for the bonnet, rear deck including window mounting, undertray, sills and engine cooling intakes. All will need some work. The T-section roof bar is an integral part of the chassis and is not to be removed."

All quite intriguing. I have written to the seller, but haven't heard from him yet. But before I hear of him, perhaps anybody else here recognizes it already?

Oddly shaped sports car is said to be just 10 years old but looks more dated
Picture ebay.co.uk

It uses a frame of steel tubing and the chassis was seriously tested, or so is said
Picture ebay.co.uk

The whole project was never finished though and has now come up for sale 
Picture ebay.co.uk

The T-section roof bar is an integral part of the chassis and is not to be removed
Picture ebay.co.uk

"The completed chassis was tested at Hatfield University. It's tough and rigid"
Picture ebay.co.uk

Body moulds have been made but body needs lots of finishing to get right
Picture ebay.co.uk

The power as well as the suspension come from a Mini. Engine is an Austin 1275cc
Picture ebay.co.uk

Monday, 24 June 2019

Project X finally found in Australia

Ever since I started researching Mini based sports cars I have been wondering whatever could have happened to Project X: the Australian built and Mini based sports car, which was described in a 1965/1966 series in Sports Car World, the Aussie motoring magazine (bit more here). Rumours of its survival kept on coming in, but I never saw any proof of the car actually having stood the test of time.

The last trace I had found was from the 1987 book by Project X creator Mike McCartney, titled 'Great Australian Sports Cars and Specials', which had a small chapter on Project X also. McCartney then wrote: "We sold the car in 1968 with some thought of doing the improved Project X2 version which had already been drawn and for which a scale model had been built. But Project X2 got no further than that. Ten years later an enthusiast rang to say he'd found the coupe lying abused and disused, and had bought it with the intention of restoring it even better than new. So the Project X lives on. We always knew it was a good idea."

That never happened, though, and the remains seemed to have vanished from the earth. Last year, a former owner of the car contacted me. Daren Worboys was cleaning out his garage and came across the car's pop-up headlights, wondering if the current owner - if there was one - would be interested in them (click here). Now... Daren didn't give up all too easily and has finally managed to get in touch with the man who has it in his garage. He wrote to me: "It's not dead yet." Yes, boys and girls, Project X does survive after all and we now have photographs to prove it! To be continued.

There it is: Project X is 'not dead yet', as former owner Daren Worboys managed to find out
Picture via Daren Worboys 

The car's body was made in aluminium and appears to have stood the test of time quite okay
Picture via Daren Worboys 

Back chassis and suspension is there, too. But this is steel and rather rusty
Picture via Daren Worboys 

Completely stripped out interior, probably so since 1978 when Mike McCartney was contacted
Picture via Daren Worboys 

Engine bay is empty, too. There used to be an 850 engine in here
Picture via Daren Worboys 

Chassis used box-section backbone and parts of the Mini's subframe
Picture via Daren Worboys 

Rusty now, but this can be saved. Will the car receive the restoration it deserves?
Picture via Daren Worboys 

September 1966: just finished, registered and painted bright red
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Maltese Marcoses unite

Kenneth Spiteri of Malta has been working hard on the restoration of his Mk1 Mini Marcos, and he's done really well. By the time you read this this the car is fully roadworthy including a purple paint job and a new Maltese registration, which reads out 'Marcos GT'. But Kenneth is not alone in owning  a Mk1 Marcos on the island of Malta. A sister model is currently being restored also by Frank Agius there, and it's one that we've seen on these pages before. My friend Rens Biesma, who used to live on Malta in the 1980s saw it there and photographed it at the time - click here. The orange car was a bit worse for wear at that time but appears to be well cared for now. We look forwards to seeing that back on the road, too!

Two Maltese Mk1 Mini Marcoses, Kenneth's car on the left, Frank's on the right
Picture Kenneth Spiteri

The orange car spent just about all of its life on Malta and was hillclimbed before
Picture Kenneth Spiteri

It is now being restored by Frank Agius, who's allready fitted 13" wheels and wide arches
Picture Kenneth Spiteri

Friday, 14 June 2019

MG Mini Sedanca to return to Blighty

A unique and privately built coachbuilt Mini that was thought lost turns out to survive in the US and is about to make a return to the UK for the International Mini Meeting in August.

The car was built by ex-Stewart & Ardern employee Niall Gilmartin, who'd previously worked on MiniSprints. When Gilmartin started his own body repair shop he thought he could use a mobile advertisement sign to promote his business in 1973. He bought a tatty Mk1 Mini and turned it into this. Gillmartin's original plan was to equip the car with gullwing doors but this proved difficult and thus vinyl clip-on doors were made in a Targa frame. He fitted Triumph 2000 headlights with 1100 indicators under the front bumper. The car's boot was fully closed and rounded, with a Morris Marina sourced flap to hide the petrol filler cap and the number plate moved to bumper height. The rear side windows were placed upside down and roof and c-pillars were trimmed with Vyanide. Originally the car was painted gloss black with blue pin striping. Both the engine as the seats came from an 1100. Gilmartin named the car MG Mini Sedanca with MG badging on the c-pillars.

Now... I only knew the car from an article in Hot Car magazine, but would not have thought it to survive. It does, though, and is currently living in Denver, Colorado! Repainted in red, but furthermore in a beautiful state and very little changed from when it was just finished by Gilmartin, it seems. What's more, the current owner will be bringing it over to the IMM in Bristol. The event's organizers wrote: "We are so grateful to Harry for shipping this beautifully unusual 1963 Mini all the way from Denver, USA to the IMM! You can meet Harry and his Sedanca in our special display tent all weekend!"

One-off MG Mini Sedanca was built by Niall Gillmartin of London in 1973
Picture IMM Bristol 2019

The car uses some unusual modifications I have never seen on any other Mini
Picture IMM Bristol 2019

It was featured in Hot Car magazine in 1973 and I didn't think it survived
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Germany rediscovers Mini derivatives

Germany may not be the first country you think of when you are into Mini based cars. A few variants did originate from the country though. The Martini Mini in the first place (also here), but also conversions by L&H Automotive, Lamm and Mengers as well as the wacky Leonhardt Tiger. And there was of course the Nurburgring, which saw several derivatives race (here for example).

The Germans appear to have (re) discovered Mini based cars more recently, though, as two magazine reports appear at the same time describing two different cars. First there's a 10-page article in this month's Oldtimer Markt about the Gyro-X, least as interesting is Auto Bild Klassik which describes the Sekura Mini in their current issue.

Last but not least a number of Mini based exotics have made it to Germany in recent years. I received a message from Lars Lagisse last week about one. Lars is now the owner of the Dave Ratner built Camarotta and wrote: "Hello my name is Lars and I am from Germany. Charly Fuhrländer said to me you will contact me as I am the owner of the Camarotta. The car now has the German TüV approval and I can drive it next week!" Lars promised to send some more, so keep an eye on this page.

The Sekura Mini stars in current issue of Auto Bild Klassik
Picture Karsten Steff

While Oldtimer Markt magazine spends 10 pages on the Gyro-X...
Picture Oldtimer Markt magazine

... And the Camarotta will be sporting German registration plates soon
Picture Lars Lagisse

Monday, 10 June 2019

Remembering the Reptune GT (2)

After last week's article describing the amazing similarities between the Reptune GT and the Ogle SX1000 (click here), I have now found out more about a surviving GT plus the moulds of the car. And it's not very good news I am afraid. 

I'd seen pictures of this particular survivor in a pretty bad state years ago, but the owner made himself known only recently. And to my great surprise it turned out that the same man had the moulds also: Mark Law of Ontario, Canada. I contacted the Prophets once more, and they wrote: "Good evening Jeroen, actually Louie does not have the molds. Mark Law actually has the ones that he was discussing with you. We have a shell of a car and a bunch of engine parts, interior etc."

Okay. It turned out that they were for sale, also, but interest was very low. Meanwhile, Mark started stripping the car only to find out the project would become too costly. He wrote: "I'm stripping it down and then store the Reptune parts with the moulds in case I win the lottery or somebody wants to buy 'm, I guess. It's very sad but just not economical to save it. Too much time out in the rain all the steel under the glass had weakened the structure."

Reptune GT survivor was in a bad state, although it seemed savable to me
Picture Mark Law

Mark did plan to restore it and cut off roof and pillars with the idea to make a new body...
Picture Mark Law

...but "Too much time out in the rain all the steel under the glass had weakened the structure". 
Chassis clearly shows Mini base - very similar to that of the Ogle SX1000
Picture Mark Law

I'm not sure I'd want to know what happened to these bits after they were cut off...
Picture Mark Law

Although damaged also, the moulding is there, too. Here the roof
Picture Mark Law via Joost van Dien

"A restoration will only happen in case I win the lottery or somebody wants to buy 'm"
Picture Mark Law via Joost van Dien

Front end. It would be good when somebody took care of it and restored the car after all
Picture Mark Law via Joost van Dien

Friday, 7 June 2019

A Mini Coupe down the road

Crikey, I don't know what it is about Mini derivatives local to where I live, but I keep on bumping into them. There was an ABS buggy (this one) some years ago and even a Mk1 Mini Marcos (this one here) earlier. But today I bumped into one even closer by, on a three minute walk from my house! I'd seen a Mini Coupe rumble along my street twice but had no idea where it came from or where it went to.

Until this afternoon when I saw it parked literally around the corner of my street. I rushed to get my camera and rang the door. It turned out that 19-year old owner Fabian has it since he was 14, when he started a restoration, and only has it on the road for a couple of weeks now. Well done!

Now, I thought it to be an ABS Motorsports roof conversion, but it isn't. Fabian showed me the inside, clearly showing the welds, as this is an all-steel conversion. All of the conversion work was carried out by a previous owner. The wheel arches and sill extensions are steel, too. The base Mini is a 1978 car, not a Clubman, so the square nose is a conversion also. So - mystery solved and another cool Mini to spot regularly now. Love it!

Mystery Mini Coupe was spotted parked down the street after missing it twice before
Picture Jeroen Booij

It's an all-steel conversion, privately built. The Clubman nose is a modification also
Picture Jeroen Booij

Fabian is the happy owner who spent the last couple of years working on it
Picture Jeroen Booij

And the modifications go on under the bonnet. 1300 power, much modified subframe...
Picture Jeroen Booij

Much of the steel has gone here, too. Note radiator has been moved to the front also
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Mystery Mini derivative (60). Airplane Investigation edition

These photographs were made some time ago by Sarah Cecil, who wondered what this unusual Mini conversion was meant for. From what I understand this Mini Pick Up was made for use on British airports, possibly to move aeroplanes around. British Airways supposedly had five of them made, but I have never seen any other pictures of these vehicles. The registration data point out it was rather heavy at 945 kilos. Who knows more?

Ultra-wide pick-up bed was supposedly there for a reason: moving around airplanes
Picture Sarah Cecil

BYJ 559T is registered as a 1979 Austin Morris (?) weighing 945 kilos
Picture Sarah Cecil

Pick-up bed comes with no floors but with fork - to pull a plane?
Picture Sarah Cecil

And what are these large side compartments for? Storage?
Picture Sarah Cecil

Monday, 3 June 2019

The Kingfisher as a 4-wheel drive homologation special

‎The story below was posted online by Tom Wilkinson‎ last week and  I wanted to share it with you guys here as I rather enjoyed reading it. It's a nice little tale about the Kingfisher Sprint, or actually one very unusual version of that car dubbed the Kingfisher Turbo Sprint Coupe 4WD HS. He we go, in Tom's words:

"I’m not sure how we met our friend John, but he came up to the farm when we had our first Avengers. We would take him up the road, but John was a Hot Car reader (not Cars and Car Conversions, Rallysport or Motoring News), so he thought that when we were explaining it was a Group 1 Avenger, he got it into his head it was Stage 1 engine (remember those?), and was thoroughly shaken by his ride up the road. Now John was one of those guys who was always vague about his background, or how he earned his money, but always had a tale to tell about how qualified/experienced/knowledgeable/skilled he was, and his stories were always told to reflect that. One of the ones I do remember was how he’d been a snowmobile salesman in Vancouver and used to race them along frozen rivers with his mates. Personally, I thought he was a part-time script writer for Jackanory. Anyway, John bought a Lancia Delta HF Turbo 4WD, the forerunner to the Integrale. He regaled us with tales of how it had lost a little crispness to the handling when it underwent a RHD conversion, so he upgraded the turbo and put a Koni handling kit on it. He wasn’t so happy when Coke was on his way back from Newcastle one evening, and caught and passed him at Weldon Bridge and left him for dead going along the Coquet to Rothbury - in a bog standard Citroen Visa Diesel."

"So, when we got a phone call from John one day to go and see him at his new car factory in Rothbury, we were just a little bemused. It was at that time when there was another John, also making cars, but based in Northern Ireland, so you can imagine, “our” John was immediately nicknamed Delorean. Anyway, off we went to Delorean’s new factory where he’d bought the remaining assets of the Kingfisher Car Company (Roger King , the originator of the Kingfisher, had got into financial difficulty and gone into receivership). He was always the master of hyperbole, so he explained how he intended to market the “new” Kingfisher as a real performance car, and intended to build a rally version, the Kingfisher Turbo Sprint Coupe 4WD HS (the four wheel drive homologation special)
But Delorean being Delorean, it was going to be perfectly engineered, unique and ultra-competitive. (Please bear in mind that these were based on Mini 850s!). His plan, having researched the history of competition Minis was to create a twin-engined version, one in the front and one in the back, like the factory had experimented with for rallycross. Then he was going to turbo-charge both engines."

"He then sprang the big surprise: “And I’d like you two to drive it. I’d like one of you to do an English Championship, and the other to do a Scottish Championship. What do you say?” Well, we managed not to burst out laughing (and not wanting to scupper a deal that just by some remote chance, he ever got going), and started winding him up. “Can you fit it with Group 4 Minilites John?”
“No problem. I’ll get my engineers on it this week” (We were the only people in this lock-up unit!) “And can you fit Bilsteins too?” “I’ll ring the factory in Germany in the morning, and get them on it” “And can you design a high range/low range transfer box for it so we can have both a forest ration and tarmac ratio?” “I’ll ring Quaife in the morning” (I wonder if this was the prompt that caused Quaife to create their dual range gearbox!). After we’d run out of ever more outrageous questions, Delorean then says “So we have a deal then?” “Absolutely” we said, and he shakes our hands and tells us he’ll get his legal team on drawing up contracts first thing in the morning."

"As far as we know, the last we heard he was selling off job lots of moulds, resin and matting, and desperately trying to get out of the lease with English Estates. And we’re still waiting to hear from his “legal team”

This actually is a turbocharged engine in a Kingfisher Sprint. There's just one engine though...
Picture Jeroen Booij 

The very first Kingfisher Sprint, built in the Rothbury factory. Roger King is the man with the beard
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Remembering the Reptune GT (1)

Some interesting news has found its way to me regarding the Reptune GT, the Mini based sports car made in the Canada of the mid-1960s by the late Dennis Prophet (more here). First, a message came in from Joy Prophet. She wrote: "Good day Jeroen, My name is Joy Prophet and I am married to Louis Prophet, Dennis's youngest son. We just got to see the lovely article you wrote about dad. Thank you for that. But I would like to talk to you about an article you wrote about Stirling Moss's Ogle SX 1000 Mini (this one here). We may be able to shed some light on the history of this car. Feel free to call me or Louis to discuss. Sincerely, Joy Prophet."

And so I called Joy first and then Louis to hear what he had to tell. He said: "Ah, the Ogle SX1000. Dennis bought that car from Stirling Moss. This must have been in the early 1960s. Dad had bought this car and had brought it over to Canada. He ended up using that to build a plug for the Reptune GT, which you will be able to recognize in it. But they also stripped it of its interior and I still have the upholstery. I don't know where the mould for the GT ended up. But the Ogle got sold to Bob Dogson and I remember he was in this big building when we dropped it off. He had crates full of Lotuses of which he didn't even know what colours they were. It was in Burlington. I still have a shell of a Reptune GT that's never been built up as I have the upholstery of the Stirling Moss car."

Well, that was an interesting phone call!
I never knew the Reptune GT actually had ties that were that close to the Ogle SX1000, but now that I have looked better I feel stupid never to have made the connection before. Even the kink in the rear side window is there. I have looked up some pictures of both models from the same angles to show below. Have a look yourself. It would also be interesting to find out more about the history of the Moss Ogle, since it appears to have made its way from the UK to Canada while it's in Japan now (click here), although without its original interior or so it seems. Meanwhile, the moulds of the Reptune GT have been unearthed also, but that's for the next time!

Take a good look at the Reptune GT (left) and the Ogle SX1000 (right) and see the similarities
Pictures Jeroen Booij

Front and rear of the Reptune GT have been heavily modified but the Ogle was used to plug a mould
Pictures Jeroen Booij

Different front end doesn't give away the Ogle breeding easily. This Ogle was used to plug a mould
Pictures Jeroen Booij

Monday, 27 May 2019

Villa d'Este 2019: No prizes but amazing experience

This year's Concorso d'eleganza Villa d'Este is finished, and both Mini derivatives have now started their way home to Greece (John Reymondos' Austin Mini Beach Car) and the US (Jeff Lane's Gyro-X). Both cars didn't win any prizes, but attracted lots and lots of attention. John Reymondos: "Didn't win anything. Amazing experience. The beach car was a public favourite. Huge interest." That's awesome. Thanks for keeping us updated John!

The prototype Beach Car at Villa d'Este. No prizes, but huge interest
Picture John Reymondos

And the wacky Gyro-X in between the Lamborghini Marzal and the Ferrari Modulo
Picture Michael Hüby‎

The Lambo won its class and - it must be admitted - is a real show stopper
Picture Bloomberg.com

John managed to make some pictures of his car with a 600 Jolly at the shores of Lake Como
Picture John Reymondos

Found in a scrapyard in 2010 (here) and now at Europe's most prestigious motoring event
Picture John Reymondos


UPDATE 29 May: And a bonus picture that just had to be made!
Picture John Reymondos


UPDATE 6 June: Great film footage of the Gyro X in action at the concours - Click here