Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Thursday, 19 November 2020
2020 has been a remarkable year so far. And not just for virus-reasons, but also for finding back forlorn Mini based cars. Up until now more remarkable cars have made it to the finds list on here then ever before, with a few more stories of discoveries coming up soon. As tradition dictates we'll have the now-established 'Find of the Year' election here in December.
But how about the last decade? Many more Mini derivatives were found through the years, and I thought it would be nice to list the 'Find of the Year' winners of the last 10 years here again. What's more: which one do you consider to be the best out of these? In other words: what will be the Maximum Mini Find of the Decade? You decide. Send your answers below in the comments, or reach me through any other way you like.
Wednesday, 18 November 2020
I bought the car only two weeks ago from the widow of the man who'd owned it considerably longer: 36 years. From the correspondence that came with it I could make up he'd become the Biota's owner in september 1984 when the odometer read 'just about 5,000 kms'. Unfortunately I do not know where he got it from, so there is a gap between 1973 when the Sontrop family sold the car and moved to France and september '84. In a letter dated January 1987 the previous owner wrote: "In the short period that I drove the car, its acceleration and top speed really struck me. I easily passed the 170 km/h limit at one time." He also added that work on the car's restoration had started, planning to finish all that in July or August 1987. I think it never happened as the car looked as if it hadn't been touched for decades. A family member conformed this, too. New parts which he mentions in his letters were still with the Biota in a number of boxes.
René Sontrop was one of the first to contact me when I published the news of the car's rediscovery on Maximum Mini last week, and it soon became clear that he was eager to buy back his dad's old car and restore it. René had been looking at another Biota Mk1 restoration project in the UK some time ago but found that car needed too much work, whilst not having a family link like this one. And so we made a deal and he came over from France to pick it up yesterday.
Although I was sad to see it go, it was fantastic to reunite René with it after 49 years. A bit of a throwback to 2018 also, when Peel Viking-builder Ben Konst was reunited with that other Dutch demonstrator! (here). René brought me some more Prescott Hill Ltd. brochures and also told me that his dad had great difficulties in selling TVRs in The Netherlands, although at the Amsterdam Motor Show there had been one famous Dutchman very much interested in a Vixen: football star Johan Cruijff. But there had been two cars which had his interest and eventually he chose for the second option: the Datsun 240Z. René's dad decided he didn't want to put more effort in TVRs and fully focused on the Biota, of which he sold five in The Netherlands and another few in other European countries. René is now planning a full restoration of the old Dutch demonstrator and has promised to keep me posted.
Tuesday, 17 November 2020
Monday, 16 November 2020
Friday, 13 November 2020
Ever-enthusiastic fellow-Biota owner Tim Harber sent me some material related to the illusive Deep Sanderson 105 'Twini' or 'Twinny'. What struck me most was a clipping from a 1972 issue of Cars & Car Conversions magazine that was new to me. It's an interview with Irishman James 'Jim' Gavin, who worked for Chris Lawrence in the mid-1960s and famously sprinted the Twini at the British International Dragfests at Church Fenton in 1964 and at Woodvale in 1965.
From the article: "Jim came to England and worked for Chris Lawrence, the Deep Sanderson man, whose brilliance and ideas and driving was wasted by accidents and financial disaster. Jim found fun in everything at LawrenceTune, but most of all in a racing TwinnyMini single seater. Jim doesn't say wether it went round corners, as he used it only for dragging. In 1964 when the first Great Britain versus America contests were held. "The car would do the 1/4 mile in 11.43 and at the end of the run would be pulling 115-118 mph. It earned me some money, and this was very handy when we started SuperSport." The car was lying around partly built, using four tubes tying the two subframes together, and the whole thing was run with 10" wheels. The two engine craze rather faded away after John Cooper had an awful smash on the Kingston bypass in a saloon twinny. The LawrenceTune car used two Downton 1071Ss, and possibly the arrival of the 1275S saved any more disasters."
What's more: Tim also sent a link to some film footage of these dragfests, in which Jim Gavin can be seen briefly in action with the Twini - see below and go to around 3:10 for the Deep Sanderson. What struck me here is that the car looks to be green. I have a few black and white pics of the Twini at the drag strip, but always thought it to be red. It was red with a black stripe when I photographed it for Maximum Mini 1, back in 2007, with absolutely no clues of any green paint on the body.
Wednesday, 11 November 2020
One very interesting article was dug up for me by reader Peter Camping. It's a piece from a 1969 issue of Motoring News and is about a coachbuilt Mini that was totally new to me. The car was built by none other then John Coombs, who succesfully ran a Jaguar dealership in Guildford at the time, and who was involved in Formula One and racing Jags also.
The Mini was built on request of one of Coombs' wealthy customers and, boy, it was lavish! Based on a 1275 Cooper 'S', the list of modifications and add-ons is sheer endless. The body was deseamed and received a low rear screen cut from that of an MGB, modified rear side screens, heated windscreen, a hand made grille, flared arches, louvred bonnet and Mercedes headlights. Door locks came with push-button openers, overriders from a Riley Elf while the standard Cooper 'S' wheels were cadmium plated. The car was painted in Roman purple cellulose paint.
The inside was hardly less remarkable. It received seats from a Porsche 911, a fold-down rear seat, pile carpets, polka dot cloth rooflining, full-width leather covered dashboard with Jaguar gauges and tumbler switches, Aeroflow fresh air vents from a Ford Corsair, HMV radio and 8-track Dyna Sound stereo tape deck with three speakers, heavily modified heater and demister, collapsible umbrella in the passenger door and violet light in the glove box compartment. Total costs reportedly came at £2,450.
The car remained a one-off, was named Mini De Ville - like Radford called theirs - and was registered '3 EXW'. Could it survive..?