Friday, 17 January 2020

Aussie Twini breaks in hill climb

This movie clip of an Australian Twini was flashed over to me, and I understand it was taken at the Huntley Hill Climb in New South Wales last September. The car is said to use twin Cooper 'S' units and weigh 550kgs, but that's all. When you watch the video you'll see it goes off like a rocket but the climb seems to end not quite so good unfortunately. Any further info would be much appreciated!

Australian Twini on chunky slick tyres is an Australian hill climber
Video Imavoiding / Youtube

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Zagato Mini Gatto scale model - but where's the real deal?

Janet Miedema, who runs a company named Rialto Models got in touch recently. She wrote: "I have read your article about your discovery of the Morris Mini Zagato 'Il Gatto' in a shed in Italy with interest. Is there any news on the car since that time, could it have been restored since? Some time ago I developed a model of the car in a 1:43 scale."

I replied to Janet that I was shocked to find out that the car was sold in 2012 (click here) in a pretty sorry state while it had passed through 3 or 4 ownerships in the years preceding. This while I had made such an effort to track it down and would have loved to have become the owner. Shortly after that I got in touch with the new owner, Simone Bertolero, who seemed eager to restore the car and even received some help from its designer Ercole Spada (click here). Things looked good, but not for long. When I contacted Simone more recently, he replied to me with three words: 'Sold to USA'. I asked for more information when the answer was: 'I haven't the contact anymore'. And there the trace ended once more. Somebody who knows where in the US it is? Meanwhile, we can enjoy Janet's lovely scale model, as below, and for sale here.
UPDATE 15 february 2020: And sold out already!
UPDATE 16 February 2020: And available soon again.

Zagato Mini Gatto as a 1:43 scale model by Rialto Models looks great
Picture Janet Miedema

The real car was missing for decades, until found in a Milanese shed. It supposedly is in the US now
Picture Janet Miedema

Monday, 13 January 2020

South-African 'Formula S' racers used Mini bits, too

An interesting message came in from Shane of South-Africa. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen.  When I was just getting into Minis in the 1980's in South Africa I met someone who was involved with a small motorcycle engined series. The unlimited class was very unique in that they used two mini subframes welded together as a very simple chassis. As a youngster I was taken by how simple it was and got a copy of the 'plans' and have attached a copy for you - one for the records? Many thanks, Shane

I'd never heard of these formula S racers before, but I had to think of the Mead Special, also made in South-Africa (more here). Could there be any link between them? Shane replied: "The Mead Special looks to be an interesting car and far more advanced than the 'Formula S'. There were several running in a series. They used the subframes as shown in the plans but had coil over shocks and mostly had air cooled motorcycle engines of 900 to 1100cc driving a Mini diff with chain drive. These usually had little or no bodywork. Sadly I can't find any photos, the ones I have are from the smaller engined 'Formula M' that can be found on the internet but no trace of any of the Mini based versions. I also believe that the person mentioned in the pack is no longer around. Please keep finding these interesting Mini based cars - I hope to have a design of my own added to the list one day. Regards, Shane."

So... anyone out here who knows more about the Formula S cars and wether some of them were possibly Mini based?

South African Formula S racers used Mini subframes, but reader says most used motorcycle power

Friday, 10 January 2020

Autocom Mini Buggy found - goes to France

When an unusual Mini based Buggy came up for sale on a well-known auction website last week, I missed it. But fortunately Lucien Vaast from France did not. He acted rapidly, made an offer and won the auction. Next, he drove over to Brighton with a trailer and secured the car to his home in France. However, Lucien did not know what he'd just bought! Did I? Yes, I did. Lucien had just become the owner of an ultra-rare Autocom Mini Buggy - one of just two made in 1991 by Neil Greenaway and Peter Altass in a place called Combe Martin in north Dorset.

When I was looking for one to photograph for my book 'Maximum Mini 2' it proved to be quite a challenge to find one, and I eventually ended up with the son of one of the notorious Kray twins (click here if you've never heard of them), who'd just purchased one and was happy to drive it over to the Ilfracombe seaside, yards from his deluxe bungalow and just miles from where it was made. That was a memorable day.

I think the red car I saw then was the second Autocom Mini Buggy made, with the earlier one being blue with a blue softtop plus yellow bonnet and roll bar. Later I managed to find a set of pictures of that car, registered YUO 495T - also the one used on the car's very simple brochure of which I'd also found a copy. This is the car which Luciano has now. I understand he is planning to restore and enjoy the buggy - it looks in a fairly good condition to me!

The lights of Brighton in the background and ready to go off to France here
Picture Lucien Vaast

Lucien Vaast of France bought an Autocom Mini Buggy without knowing what it was
Picture Lucien Vaast

Just two were made in 1991 in Devon. The other one still lived there when I photographed it
Picture Lucien Vaast

Lucien's car was last taxed in 1998, so has been off the road for over 20 years
Picture Lucien Vaast

It does appear to have stood the test of time pretty well though. A restoration is planned
Picture Lucien Vaast

This picture of the same car shows it when it was new in 1991. Not much has been altered 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It's great to learn that this car has survived, too. Even the blue top could still be the same?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Project X owner speaks

Thanks to Daren Worboys I have now come in contact with Jason Rooth, who is the current owner of Project X - Maximum Mini's Best Find of 2019. I asked Jason to tell a bit more on how he found the car. This is what he wrote:

"A friend of mine (Ivan Glasby - RIP) was a custodian of it for many years. He showed me it and asked if I knew what it was. I didn’t have a clue. After that visit to Ivan I then bought every copy of the magazines (Sports Car World) that were to do with Project X. There were a few stories that I heard of how he got the car but what I think is right is... a guy in the garage across from him had it out the front of his shop in the weather for a while. Ivan took a look at it and first noticed that it had a Mini front subframe in the rear - mounted backwards. He was then interested in keeping it out of the weather. The guy let him take it home to store it. It was there for at least 5 years - that I know if. After Ivan passed away his son tried to track down the owner. Which he did. I met the guy who told me that it was originally destined for garden art - as it meant nothing to him. I made him an offer and bought the car. Since getting it home I tried to find out more info on the car. I also wanted to track down Mike McCarthy. I found out that he had passed away. I remembered a post on the Ausmini forum where a guy had the front headlight buckets. I messaged the guy on the forum with no luck, so I looked in other places. I think that I stumbled across your site with Daren's name. I then found him on Facebook and messaged him. After chatting he filled in some blanks and posted me the headlight buckets. Now I am looking for parts before I start restoring it."

It turns out that Jason is a great Mini enthusiast who bought his first Mini 20 years ago: "I have around 19 now. Mostly Mini-matics. I live in Melbourne, Australia and I’m starting a business (Grouse Garage) that will create turn key Minis - ie completely restored Minis that people can hop in and drive. Modernized with air-conditioning, power windows, power steering and a good audio system." Seems to me that the car is in very good hands. Thanks Jason, please keep us posted!

The car's late (co-) creator Mike McCarthey behind the wheel of Project X in 1966
Picture Pedr Davis / Marque Publishing via Neil Griffin

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Add-a-car on the move!

Moving images of 'Add-A-Car' have made it to these pages before, but another cool video has now been unearthed. To freshen up your memory - Add-A-Car was a Mini-based town car that could be turned into a six-wheeler, as built by the boys of Daventry's Southbrook Comprehensive School for the BP Buildacar competition in 1978 (click here to see the earlier film clip). Thanks to a number of readers who made me aware of it, new footage is now added below. It fully shows the many uses of the vehicle with teacher and pupils demonstrating it. Great stuff! Still it does raise the question: Could the car survive? 

Monday, 6 January 2020

Happy 2020 from Maximum Mini

I wish you all of the best for the New Year! The Maximum Mini weblog is now in its 10th year and with almost 1100 articles online an ever-growing source on anything about Mini based cars. I hope to continue doing it in 2020... and beyond.
You chose 'Project X' as the Best Find of 2019 with over 54% of the votes, so congratulations to the car's owner who I'd love to get in touch with. Due to all the December hoo-ha I had no time to make a Christmas puzzle so sorry for that.

UPDATE7 January: A message from Project X's current owner Jason Rooth: "I haven’t started restoring it yet but hope too soon." More to follow soon.

Dented and scratched, but still alive - Project X was found in Australia after many years
Picture Jeroen Booij archive via Daren Worboys 

The car when it was just finished in 1965. Let's hope it will be restored now!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive