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!
Picture Trademe.co.nz

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

Three wheels, 400 kilgrams and 1275 cc - AF Grand Prix is bound to be fun
Picture Ebay.co.uk

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


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
UPDATED here.
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

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

All about the Hamlin Special - once the Fastest Mini in the World

An overwhelming amount of information has come to me about the Mini Special of Frank Hamlin (not Hamblin), which I wrote about last week (click here). I understand that Hamlin passed away in 2016 but he was involved in racing Minis for most of his life, still being New Zealand's Mini racing champion at the age of 74. Also: the car survives and is currently being restored.

Ken Douglas sent a great number of photographs of the car being raced, crashed and even being built back in 1965-'66. The tuning company that was also on the car's front wings was named Hamlin Charles Ltd. after Hamlin's team-up with Murray Charles in 1965. Ken also knew the car's current owner is Neil Whiting who is working on its restoration.

Another unbelievably detailed source of information was - once again - Graeme Farr, who even owned the Mini Special at one stage and sent over a first-hand story, mostly from talking to Frank himself about the car. Graeme wrote: "Frank called the car a Lowline Mini and it was built for an allcomers saloon class in 1966. But publisher Robin Curtis who bought the car off him and converted it to a road car called it a Minisprint and had a badge made that is still with the car."

He continues in great detail: "It was built out of a blue 1959 lightweight Mini but had parts from a wrecked Cooper 'S' which Frank bought. A panelshop chap called Jack Paterson (who was my neighbour in the '80s) did the alloy bonnet and doors and his employee Neil Hawker and polytech tutor John Oldfield did the roof lowering and John did the front guards with Neil finishing them."

"The car had the Cooper 'S' engine with a initially a AEG163 head ground by a chap called Bob Austin but I think to Frank's design. A new head was fitted later and also ground by Bob but this head was down 7-8hp than the original but Frank got this back when he further modified the head. The car had 105hp at the wheels on the rolling road dyno that Hamlin and Charles had. It had a 45DCOE Weber with a cold air box behind the alloy sheet dashboard which fed from the passengers side headlamp cowl. The cam was an Australian John Harvey cam which was a back to front BMC Sprint cam - with a exhaust duration longer than the inlet - which is like a modern race cam. Franks made his own big bore exhaust much like a BMC Competitions one."

"The car had a 16 row oil cooler and a crossflow radiator out of a Standard Vanguard 6. It had a straight cut box with a Jack Knight pawl LSD and was high geared to match the slippery shape. It ran a 3.7 at all tracks except the faster Pukekohe in Auckland where it ran a 3.4 ratio. It was timed at an amazing 132 mph in a flying 1/4 mile sprint with 8400-8500 on a 3.4 diff at the Main Drain Road sprint near Palmerston North. It was reported in a UK magazine as the 'Fastest Mini in the World'."

"The car had 5.5" Minilite wheels and a rear anti-roll bar and no seat belts and no roll-over bar. It had front negative camber by re-drilling the inner mounts on the bottom arms. Frank used a standard Mini seat and steering wheel. The car was painted a General Motors grey colour by the local GM agents Manthel Motors in exchange for work on a Holden used for the Benson and Hedges sponsored annual long distance production race which Frank drove with local racer David Slater."

"Frank raced it with considerable success in the 1966 season. The big crash at the Wigram airfield races was caused by an outer CV breaking on a high speed left-hander before the main straight. The car oversteered and hit a barrier and flew 30 feet into the air before coming down upside down and spinning 360 degrees on the roof - hence the damage. One report had Jim Clark pulling Frank out of the back window and telling him off for not wearing a seatbelt. Frank said petrol was dripping when he was upside down."

"The car was repaired but the regulations changed after 1966 when Group 2 was introduced which required a standard body. Frank sold the car to Robert Stewart in Christchurch who raced it briefly before converting it to a standard shell which became famous as the PDL Mini. Robert kept the EU7304 number plate, possibly because it was off the original Cooper 'S' that Frank has used."

"Robert put an 1100cc engine into the Lowline car and used the number plates off the standard donor body. He sold the car to well known journalist and publisher Robin Curtis who used it as a road car and daily driver for a number of years. Robin later painted it purple and fitted a 1275 engine and brakes off a Morris 1100. The car had a quilted headlining when Robin gave me a ride in it in the late 1970s. It was well used inside and out and still grey and silver at that stage."

"Robin sold the car to local Mini racer and mechanic Peter Zivcovic mainly for the modified 1275 it had which Peter used in his race Mini. The shell then ended up with Neil Whiting who sold it to me around 1985 - and then bought it back in the mid-1990s. Neil still has the car and is restoring it at present."

"An interesting aside is when the Wellington makers of iconic Mini movie Goodbye Pork Pie asked Robin Curtis who might be a good Mini driver to do the stunts for the film - he said he didn't know but had just sold his Minisprint to a local Mini racer and passed on Peter's details. They employed Peter who did a superb job on the film and has continued in the movie industry ever since. So the little Minisprint had a role in the success of the Pork Pie movie as well!"

Thanks very much to everyone who sent information about this very special New Zealand Mini Special, especially Ken and Graeme. Keep it coming!

Hamlin's 'Lowline Mini' under construction. It used steel guards with an alloy 
bonnet and alloy panels on the steel door frames
Picture Ken Douglas 

The crash at the Wigram airfield races was caused by an outer CV breaking on a high speed left-hander before the main straight. The car oversteered and hit a barrier and flew 30 feet into the air before coming down upside down and spinning 360 degrees on the roof
Picture Ken Douglas

More pictures after the crash. It was reported that Jim Clark pulled Frank out of the back window and telling him off for not wearing a seatbelt. Frank said petrol was dripping when he was upside down
Picture Ken Douglas

The car was repaired after the crash and raced once again succesfully
Picture Ken Douglas

'78' Clearly was Frank Hamlin's racing number. This was World's Fastest Mini at the time
Picture Ken Douglas

Frank Hamlin's second 'Mini Sprint' built many years later and now owned by Marvin Turton
Picture Ken Douglas

Graeme Farr: "I owned it for a while. It sat inside a bedroom in my house which amused passers by. Photo here of us lifting it in through the sliding doors"
Picture Graeme Farr

Painted purple at one stage and fitted with an 1100 engine it was not quite the Fastest Mini in the World it had been before
Picture Graeme Farr

Neil Whiting currently owns the car and has nearly finished the restoration by this time
Picture Graeme Farr

The late Frank Hamlin seen here with another of his racing Minis - still champion at 74 years
Picture Ken Douglas