Thursday, 9 July 2020

Under the Biota prototype's aluminium body

Just a lovely photograph from the files to share here with you, of the aluminium bodied Biota prototype without its bonnet. The big split Weber carburetor is well visible here. I also attach a unique picture of the same light green car debuting at the 1968 Racing car Show in London.

Biota prototype without its aluminium bonnet, showing its space frame chassis and Mini power
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Unique picture of the same car seen at the 1968 Racing car Show in London 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Unipower GT at the 1969 Macau GP

Phil Newsome sent in a picture of a Unipower GT, unseen before to me, through our mutual friend Guy Loveridge. And it's an unusual photo of the car in the sandbags on the side of a racing track in Macau. What happened there? According to Phil the car was crashed in the Sports & GT class race during the 1969 Macau Grand Prix. Next, it was just left there whilst the main GP went on! That is the winner of the GP race seen here flying past the crashed Unipower GT - Kevin Bartlett in an Alfa-Romeo V8 powered Mildren single seater.

I'm not totally sure of the car's racing number. It looks it may well have been number 50 on the picture and that would be confirmed by the hand written entry list that Phil sent over, too. Two entrants are mentioned on that: Mr. William and S.Y. Tam. Who drove it? I found out that it must have been Charles Ching, a very successful barrister from Hong Kong who was educated in Oxford. There is another photograph of Ching's car taken at the '69 Macau GP, from the Imagens Daluz archives. It seems the car is darker in colour, though, but that must have been the light? It was entered under number 27 that year. Who knows more about it? And could it survive? It may even have been turned into this creature..?

Unipower GT was left on the track while the 1969 Macau Grand Prix went on
Picture Philip Newsome archives

Hand written entry list has the car as being entered by Mr. William and S.Y. Tam
Picture Philip Newsome archives

But the car must have been raced under number 27 by Hong Kong barrister Charles Ching
Picture Imagens Daluz / Natalino Cauto Wong

Friday, 3 July 2020

Salt & Pepper Moke also starred in 1971 movie 'Percy'

Time for some light hearted entertainment after all those Mini Marcos researches. It may have seemed that the much-modified Mini Moke used in the 1967 comedy 'Salt & Pepper' ended up on the bottom of the river Thames but it didn't, as we know since David Guyan identified his now standard-looking white Moke as this particular car (click here).

Now David has found more movie footage. He wrote: "Since I discovered your article about the Salt & Pepper Moke that I currently own I have been doing some more research. I have since found out that the Moke also appeared in the 1971 film called 'Percy' starring Hywel Bennett and an all star cast. According to Wikipedia it was the 8th most popular film at the British box office in 1971. It has an unusual plot but was popular with the British public.  I thought you may want to know. Best, David"

Well, that must have been a great surprise! I'd never heard of Percy before and it certainly seems as if it has an unusual plot. To sum it up in a few words: it's about world's first successful penis transplant, bringing lots of trouble for the man who received it... See the opening titles with the modded Moke here. I'm also surprised the film's beautiful soundtrack - written and performed by The Kinks no less - didn't become a hit.

The late Hywel Bennett starred in Percy, the British comedy film that was a hit in 1971
Picture still Anglo-EMI / Youtube

And the Mini Moke known from the 1967 comedy 'Salt & Pepper' comes back, too. 
Picture still Anglo-EMI / Youtube

The car appears to have been mildly modified once more with a wicker bed at the back
Picture still Anglo-EMI / Youtube

'Percy' also starred Elke Sommer and coachbuilt Mini-fan Britt Ekland plus soundtrack by The Kinks
Picture still Anglo-EMI / Youtube

Wicker bed seen here. There's no doubt this is the same car that's now owned by David Guyan
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

1967 Mini Marcos works cars - a conclusion

A lot has happened since I wrote this article last week. And it looks that I may well have judged too soon in writing that the white Marcos in Japan has to be the 1967 Le Mans car. Could the one in Zimbabwe be that after all? I would not have believed it last week, but I'm looking at the matter now with a different view. But then I did not know then what I do know now.

First of all I have now seen pictures of the Zimbabwe car prior to its mid-1990s restoration. And it certainly looks as if it once had a modified roof / windscreen. That still makes it very odd for a second (works) car to have this, too. So, apart from several smaller details that will need to be fitted in, the main question was - and still is - could the '67 Le Mans sister car have had a similar modified windscreen / roof, too? I decided the only way to properly check this was to order all the photographs that I have of the two cars, put them in chronological order and see if a conclusion can be drawn from there. 

So here we go - a selection of these pictures is seen below. Still perhaps an overwhelming number of them, so if you are not the kind of anorak that I have become on this subject by this time, please ignore them. Oh - I have called the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos and the FLIRT ladies team Mini Marcos simply the green car and yellow car respectively - just to simplify things a little.

Castle Combe Easter Monday 27 March 1967
Green car seen in the paddock
Note aluminium front end and sills. Just two rear lights. Odd shaped SU holes in bonnet

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Rare DeJoux and AF Grand Prix for sale

Well well, after Friday's Mini Marcos conundrum (click here) I am receiving messages from far and wide to have more views on all this. That's very good and there will certainly be a follow-up soon but it needs a bit more investigation first.

Meanwhile, to keep you guys happy here, I found out about two more interesting cars that have made it to the market. First of them is a rare DeJoux Mini GT rolling shell in its home country of New Zealand. It's an unbuilt shell with no engine, no glass, no interior and no registration but it's also perhaps one very rare chance to buy a DeJoux - certainly one of the prettier Mini based sports cars with the engine in the front. It's in Auckland and you find the ad here.

Second is an even rarer AF (that's for Alexander Fraser) Grand Prix three-wheeler, fitted with a 1275 engine. The seller notes that four were built but I happen to know there were six! - one of these was a four-wheeler. It's a well-known car (archive pictures available here) which the last owner supposedly had for 36 years. It's in Crawley, West-Sussex, where I happened to have spent a night last March in one of the cheapest hotels I even spent a night in which was actually great. So let me know if you are picking it up and are in need of a bed. The ad is here.

No engine, no interior, no glass, no registration but still very desirable!

Some 20 DeJoux GTs were made in New Zealand. This one was never on the road

Three wheels, 400 kilgrams and 1275 cc - AF Grand Prix is bound to be fun

Just 6 AF Grand Prix' were made. it's predecessor the AF Spider came in a number of 7

Friday, 26 June 2020

1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos survives - but not in Africa - UPDATED

Breaking news!
Following Mike Garton's death (obituary here) I have been digging in my files of the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos that was built by Garton for Jem Marsh and I have drawn a remarkable conclusion. The car, registered originally as 'HHU 34D' survives and I don't believe it to be the car in Zimbabwe, which claims to be the one.

Where to start..? Well, perhaps with the picture of the car's rear, taken in the weekend of 7-9 April 1967 when the Le Mans testing took place. The air outtake in the rear window on that photo struck me as I recognized it from another car - the Mini Marcos that I previously believed to be the FLIRT car (click here). Well... not anymore! Yes, it's all very confusing. But when I looked up more pictures of that car that I have been sent over from Japan recently it became more and more clear to me that the air outtake wasn't the only similarity.

First of all it has the infamous modified roof. I have compared all the pictures that I have of both cars and despite the fact that it has been smoothed out (I guess with filler), the shape is similar and the mods are in the same places. The FLIRT car's roof was never modified. Then there are details, and quite a few of them, too. Let's put it all together and you'll see. 

- Modified roof / windscreen
- Air outtake in rear screen
- Triple rear lights 
- Race number illumination on doors and roof
- Big fuel filler cap
- Rear number plate light
- Central exhaust
- Long range fuel tank
- Odd-shaped holes in bonnet for SU carbs
- Laminated-in hoop / roll bar

I believe there have previously been too few photographs showing these details so that somebody could have replicated them. I am 99% certain the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos is the white car that is now in Japan and not the one in Zimbabwe. The pictures I have been sent date back to 1978 (!) but I understand the car is still the same in a private collection. This has to be the real deal. Do let me know if you think differently.

UPDATE 1 July 2020: Very confusing, I know, but it seems I was wrong after all. Grand update for the real anoraks on this subject in a comprehensive article here.

 'Le mans Essais' April 1967. The Mini Marcos HHU 34D seen from its rear
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

And now have a look at this rear end. I believe these two are one and the same car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Let's look at some details on both pics: air outtake in rear screen
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Racing roundel illumination
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Big fuel filler cap
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Triple lights set-up, central exhaust, long range fuel tank, number plate light. It all fits
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

There's more. The infamous modified roof / windscreen is identical
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Another view on the modified roof / windscreen
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And how about these oddly shaped holes in the bonnet for the twin SUs?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Roll hoop as confirmed by Mike Garton to be fitted is inside. It was black originally but is now painted white and fits the bill perfectly, laminated into the roof. It's similar to the one in my car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

1967 Le Mans racer resides in a private collection in Japan now, not in Africa, I believe
Do let me know if you think differently
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Mike Garton dies at 84

I'm sad to have learned that another legendary Mini Marcos man passed away yesterday: Mike Garton (1936-2020). Mike was known as a top motor sport scrutineer for much of his life but had raced himself previously also, mostly Austin-Healey Sprites. He even became the author of one of the standard works about modifying Sprites and Midgets, a book titled 'Tuning BMC Sportscars'.

But together with Marcos works mechanic Mike Treutlein, Garton was also deeply involved with the build of the two 1967 Mini Marcoses that became known as the '67 Le Mans car and the FLIRT car. After I found the 1966 Le Mans car, Mike contacted me and we had a nice correspondence about these cars, with Mike revealing some invaluable information. This is what he wrote about the '67 car some time ago:

"Hi Jeroen, Been a bit busy with the Historics, thought, for accuracy, I should confirm facts. The two cars Mike T and I specially built at Marcos (Mike and I have been friends since we were 16 and remain so today) he was my race mechanic with Sprites and Chevrons. He was elected a Mechanic member of the BRDC on my proposal. I was then Production/Sales Manager for Marcos I brought Mike T in for the project FLIRT to build two Special cars for Le Mans based on the production GRP shells. The marine ply stiffeners were replaced in the moulds with balsa wood. No other changes to the Novaplas GRP shells were made except that the mounting points for the steering rack were ground away. No 'double floors' were introduced. The rack was mounted on a steel plate with retaining cups, bolted to the front sub frame. This eliminated the bump steer inherent to the production cars as the front bulkhead 'panted' in use. A small diameter hoop bonded into all the shells remained - we did not mould in or fix any other type of ROPS (Roll Over Protection System - JB) I know. When built, I did all testing at Castle Combe and subsequently raced at Nurburgring and Mugello. The bodywork for the two cars was all GRP including the new front section and rear wheel spats. NO aluminium was ever used until the ACO insisted the screen height had to be increased on the Le Mans entry. Achieved on HHU 34 D only, by altering the screen angle, moulding in a small section of aluminium to fill the gaps, result was effective but crude. The two cars were a privately funded project, not by Marsh, to race a team of three girls under the name FLIRT - Fast Ladies International Racing Team. When the ACO decided against a team of girls it was decided the project would continue the rest is history. HHU 34 D was in South Africa for some years with later an American owner I believe. Any information you may have seen, given or changes introduced by owners to their cars were not by Marcos, probably not period either. Regards Mike"

I will make an overview of the '67 Le Mans car's history based on photographs from the files in a next article. For now I wish Mike's friends and family all the best with their loss.

Mike Garton (1936-2020) built the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos and FLIRT car
Picture The Fellowship of the Motor Industry

The 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos on the test weekend in April that year. 
Those two mechanics may well be Mike Garton and his life-long friend Mike Treutlein 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Market round-up (Summer 2020)

Just a few remarkable Mini derivatives that have made it to the market lately. Perhaps there's one for you among them..? Keep those tips coming.

That Autocom Buggy again! Snapped up by a Frenchman who had big plans for restoring it (here), but offering it once more. It doesn't seem much happened to it (click here)

What's better than a TiCi? Two TiCis of course! Great project cars for sale in Billingham, UK

Good looking Magenta with 1275 engine is seen for sale in Sawbridgeworth here

This tricycle was advertised as Owen Greenwood's famous trike but it's certainly not that!

I quite like this neat GTM Coupe that is offered for sale in Brittany, France (here)

And another one in France, just a bit more work to be done on this one! (here)

Let's continue the GTM theme. This looks like a great Rossa Mk1 in white with blue to me

Or do you prefer yours with red instead? This one is seen for sale in Lincolnshire here 

Strong money for a Scamp Mk1 but at least it looked to be a proper car (here)

And another Scamp Mk1 that seems cheap compared to it. Still for sale here
UPDATE 10:15: Buyers beware. I have been tipped off about the ad which is very likely a scam

This AEM Scout is badged as a 'Mole', which I found rather funny!

Grantura Yak looked okay and wasn't expensive I recall. Can't find the ad now. Anyone?

Friday, 19 June 2020

Today 54 years ago: Mini Marcos at Le Mans

On Sunday June 19, 1966 at 4:00 PM the Le Mans 24-hours race finished. One day earlier the race had started with a real drama unfolding itself in the next 24 hours on the La Sarthe racing track in France. That's 54 years ago at this very moment, but I don't have to tell you, do I..?

The Mini Marcos started the 24-hours race with headlight covers. They were taken off when it was getting darker and night was to fall
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Few people expected the little fibreglass-bodied car to last the opening laps that year, 
leave alone run on into the night
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

As car after car ran into trouble and dropped out, the raucous little Mini Marcos wailed on, 
becoming the only British car still running
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is the only picture that I have of the car finishing the race. Who has a better copy?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Famous photograph: The Mini Marcos comes in at an incredible 15th overall. You can see it's 5 minutes past 4 on the clock if you look really well. Huge crowd at the back is centred around the three Ford GT40s that have become 1, 2 and 3
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Ex-Pellandini owner buys back Pellandini

David Mottram of Melbourne, Australia got in touch because he'd just become the owner of a rare (7 were made) Pellandini. In fact he became the owner for the second time! This is what he wrote:

"Hi Jeroen. I have just purchased a Pellandini (for the second time). The car was delivered in 1973 to Bart Pridmore in Mentone, Melbourne. He did not do much to the car and it never made it onto the road. I purchased it from him around 1993/'94. It was rolling on its wheels but the engine/gearbox was not fitted to the car. In a fit of folly since I could not fit in the car I decided to make it resemble the only roadster that was made... and so I cut off the roof and removed the windscreen. This was a bad mistake but, hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It failed to progress in my ownership so I sold it to a friend Grant Powell. He attempted to progress the car without success. So, last week I bought it back from him but without the engine which had been sold. I am hopeful that this time I will be able to get the car onto the road under its own power for the first time since 1973, a time lapse of just 47 years."

"Attached are a few pics when I got it onto the trailer and back to my warehouse. I will also search out a pic of it when I first owned it. I am hopeful that I will be able to touch base with other owners of Pellandinis despite their clearly being so few. Looking at the early pictures perhaps I had better look at putting the roof back on again, which of course means I will have to shed 30 years of growth sideways... Regards, David"

I love a story like that and hope to hear more about this cool car in the future.

David's Pellandini when he owned it for the first time, back in 1993/'94
Picture David Mottram

Sold new in the Melbourne area in 1973, the car never made it to the road
Picture David Mottram

David planned to turn it into a roadster: "I cut off the roof and removed the windscreen. 
This was a bad mistake but, hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time"
Picture David Mottram

David sold it later - only to buy it back last week! Not much done in the last 25-odd years
Picture David Mottram

David is now thinking of putting the roof back that he cut off all those years ago
Picture David Mottram

Never finished, 47 years after being built. but back in the garage now with new plans! 
Picture David Mottram