Monday, 6 December 2021

Meet the 1963 MiniSprint

You and I know the MiniSprint as the Neville Trickett Mini-variant with its low roof- and waistline, built from 1965-on. But did you know that two years earlier another MiniSprint had been there? Or, well, the idea for one? I didn't. Reader Kees Plugboer sent in an article from a 1963 magazine which mentions the car as an idea by a certain John M. Hill of Wednesbury, Staffordshire. The article also mentions "What we are doing is passing on a rumour for precisely what it's worth, together with some thoughts of our own."

It goes on: "The car is roofless, with a low laminated glass shield replacing the original screen and fixed side windows cut to give an uninterrupted line, racing car style. Low heavily bolstered hug'n'hold individual seats for the driver and one passenger replace the rather skimpy standard items, and a carefully shaped steel tonneau welded-in where the back seat used to be makes the entire tail-section even stiffer then it used to be."

"So you're sceptical. So you think the MiniSprint, even if it exists at BMC, will join the Issigonis beach car in the prototype garage as a one-off diversionary doodle? Frankly, so do we. But even if a production version never reaches your friendly Morris dealer, we see nothing tos stop you doing the job."

And indeed, I do believe that some cars like John M. Hill's MiniSprint did materialize, the creations by Paul Banham and Dierk Mengers spring to mind, but I wonder if there were any of them dating back to the 1960s also? Feel free to share what you know.


The MiniSprint, as thought up by John M. Hill in 1963 - 2 years before Neville Trickett's MiniSprint
Picture Small Car magazine, via Kees Plugboer

Unlike Trickett's MiniSprint this one came as a roadster or speedster. Well, I don't think it came...
Picture Small Car magazine, via Kees Plugboer

Friday, 3 December 2021

Peel Viking's original owner gets in touch

Here is a bit of a 'longread', perhaps quite suitable for the weekend? I love it when the history of a car is unraveled and Mike Athay made my day when he contacted me from Canada with some most interesting remarks about the Peel Vikings on the Isle of Man and one car in particular (from this article). He wrote: 

"Hello Jeroen, I am in receipt of your postings about various Mini projects and find these very interesting - I was unaware that there were so many different models based on the Mini. 
The article I received this morning was of particular interest because I was the person who built the car registered RET680J. This conflicts with the third paragraph of the article which indicates that the car was originally registered MAN70P - this is not true!"

"I purchased the body directly from Peel Engineering in late 1969, early 1970 - can’t remember the exact date. I rented a small truck to drive from Rotherham where I lived, to Liverpool, to where the body was shipped from the Isle of Man. I believe this was probably the last body they built before production ceased."

"I also bought a write-off mini from an insurance company from which I salvaged many of the parts needed for the build. The body came with fibreglass doors but missing the window frames so these were salvaged from the write-off and installed on the Peel. I also modified the hood - sorry, bonnet - by adding brackets underneath at the front to eliminate the need for hinges and to improve the appearance and air-streaming. This also meant that the panel could be very easily removed for better access to the engine compartment. The complete body was then taken to a body shop to be professionally sprayed “flame” colour. Meanwhile, I was able to procure some Cooper ’S’ drive shafts and a Cooper ’S’ gearbox. Because Mini sub-frames had a habit of rusting away, I opted to use new ones; the rear I modified slightly by closing all the openings and drenching the inside with oil. I also modified the rear trailing arms by installing grease nipples to ensure the inner bushing could be adequately lubricated. I opted to install a brand new 1100cc engine. The exhaust was a Fothergill which at the time came with a 1 year warranty - it lasted just 13 months!"

"Rather than an SU carb, I installed a Reece-Fish which gave excellent economy and performance. However, because this was installed behind the engine, and right above the exhaust manifold, I did not consider the optional heater would be necessary - wrong! With the damp conditions in the UK, when the temperature dropped below around 5˚C, owing to the high vacuum at the intake a large ball of ice would form on the carb, thereby creating a rich mixture and the engine would stop. It was then necessary to wait until the heat from the exhaust had melted the ice and one could continue one's journey! I later learned that the guy who bought the vehicle when I emigrated to Canada in 1977, ultimately replaced the Reece-Fish with twin SU’s."

"Instead of the traditional positioning of the radiator at the side, I visited the local scrap yard - may times actually - and was able to get a radiator from a Triumph Spitfire which I installed in front of the engine (thinking of ‘ram’ effect cooling ) together with an electric fan. I later discovered that the ram effect was inadequate and consequently modified the body to incorporate the rectangular air scoop."

"One of the other ’toys’ I installed was a fly-off handbrake. This was quite amusing when I took the vehicle on the skid-pan at the Manchester bus garage. I forgot to warn the instructor about the handbrake and he was not familiar with such a device. As we were going into a bend and he applied the handbrake to force a skid - with his thumb holding down the button - the brake locked on and he panicked! It was certainly a test of my skills to continue to control the vehicle whilst telling him to let go the brake so that I could release the button!"

"Prior to the introduction of the Mini, there were several 'Specials' based on earlier production vehicles which used a traditional U-channel chassis. Indeed, a friend of mine purchased such a vehicle. That particular vehicle - and I suspect such was the case with many other similar projects, the inside was never completed! The body was attached to the chassis, a couple of seats and a steering wheel installed and that was it, the vehicle was ready for the road. I was determined that this was not to be the case with my car. I spent numerous hours furnishing the inside with materials I purchased from a local upholsterer, whose main business was repairing bus seats which had been slashed by the hooligans who made use of that form of transport. Indeed, this gentleman was of great help to me as he not only allowed me to use his equipment but also showed me the tricks to achieve professional results in making the rear seat; for the front, I installed Corbeau GT4 seats."

"During the 9 months it took me to build this car, I was subscribed to Car & Car Conversions magazine which at the time was holding local heats for a national concours d’elegance, the final of which was to be held in Blackpool, in September, 1970. As my vehicle was not ready for any of the qualifying heats, I wrote to the magazine explaining the situation and was then allowed to compete at the final event. I was very pride to be awarded third place in my category, behind two Lotus Europa’s, though I thought this a little unfair as assembly of a Europa kit could be done in a weekend, compared with the time it had taken for the building of my car."

"Sadly, other than two cuttings from local newspapers which did an article on the project, I have no pictures of the construction of the vehicle as this occurred long before the advent of digital photography. Any pictures I did have were unfortunately lost during a house move 21 years ago. In retrospect, I am very sorry that I did not keep the vehicle but I guess at the time, the cost to have shipped it to Canada was way beyond my available spare change. However, it’s good to know it is still around. Mike Athay"

Isn't that great? I was of course very curious to the newspaper clippings Mike mentioned, and with the help from Catherine Semerjian of Nerses Photo Studio in Ontario, Canada, some superb scans were finally made and flashed over. They tell us that Mike ordered the shell in november 1969 but "Beacuse of some trouble with the steel tubing used on the steel frames delivery was delayed and it was in March 1970 that Michael first saw the shell." Furtheremore it mentions: "A vast array of switches on the dashboard reveals that there is a burglar alarm system, a hazard warning light system, manual as well as automatic reversing lights, a special parking light system, which does not allow you to start the car until it is switched off, triple or single note air horns, headlamp flasher and a few spare ones that have yet to be connected to interior lights etc. Mike estimates all this has cost him just over 900 - but for this he has a luxurious new car that is unusual, will travel at 80 mph all day without turning a hair, and regularly turns in just over 41 mpg. So he has comfortable, fast but economical motoring - what more does anyone want?"

I have contacted the car's current owner Stephen Callow, too. There is more to follow as Stephen has been in touch since with both me as with Mike, which leads to more interesting remarks. Stay tuned.


That's Mike Athay with the Peel Viking 'RET 680J' just finished in the local newspaper
Picture courtesy Mike Athay / Worksop Trader

And another just earlier clipping, as kindly scanned on behalf of Mike 
Picture courtesy Mike Athay / Worksop Trader


This picture of the car was found by Stephen Callow only recently
Picture source unknown

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Le Mans Mini Marcos: the build begins

Boy, has it been a long time since I wrote an update on the Le Mans Mini Marcos project. I could tell you all about the reasons for the delay but let's not worry about that here. Fact is that more happened in the last week then in the 18 months or so preceding it. 

Together with my friend and fellow Mini Marcos owner Joost van Diën I went to Pau in south-west France to deliver the now painted shell to the chaps at Mini World Center. You may remember that I had chosen this particular company, run by Philippe Quirière, to build the car's engine and suspension since Philippe had both the knowledge and the experience to do so. But apart from that he also had a number of original parts of this very car after having taken over the stock of French garagiste extraordinaire José Albertini. Albertini, at his turn, owned the Marcos back in 1970.

So off we went to Pau in the Pyrenées-Atlantique not far from the Spanish border. The plan was to have the subframes and engine fitted there and set up the engine, too, as well as have it dyno'd before loading it in the trailer once again and bring it back after a week of hard work. Joost and I hired an apartment nearby to spend the week as mechanic-assistants, so we were ready for it. Philippe was not so sure if it could be done in the time given but we thought we'd give it a try at least since the car needed to be brought over anyway. To make another long story short - we didn't make it. But Philippe and the Mini World Center team will finish the job in the winter, with regular updates promised to be flashed over, and the car will come home after that. We did have a good time though and I learned a lot more about the car's technical insights. Philippe and his father Gérard are as eager as I am to get all the details right and I brought my file with old pictures of the car, which proved to be invaluable at some stages. Let's have a look at some of the pictures that I took in the week.


Engine bay and dashboard needed a lick of paint first, so once Joost and I arrived at Mini World Center in Pau we started with masking the car once again
Picture Jeroen Booij

That's Philippe's father Gérard Quirière with the spray gun applying the primer coat. Gérard worked for BMC since the mid-1960s and has all the experience you can wish for. And he is a absolute top bloke on top of that
Picture Jeroen Booij

And that's what the dash looks like with the primer still wet. We deliberately did not fill most of the holes and scratches as these are well visible on the only good picture that I have of the car's interior
Picture Jeroen Booij

All the painstakingly searched together parts for the car's engine at the work bench at Mini World Center, nearly ready to be assembled. This is some of the best stuff you could get in 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij

The rear subframe is ready for fitment and is placed under the shell here. Gérard and Joost give a hand
Picture Jeroen Booij

And it is fitted. Note that the massive Le Mans petrol tank of 79 litres capacity is also at its place here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Philippe in his office working on the engine. He has spent umpteen hours on it (and much of the money originally set aside to send my children to college!) 
Picture Jeroen Booij

The team at Mini World Center with left to right: Gérard, Joost, Philippe, Nicolas, Damien and me
Picture David Barrere

Engine bay now waiting for the front subframe with engine. Some of the electrics and brake parts have been installed as have the chassis plates been re-fitted
Picture Jeroen Booij

Engine getting closer but still not there. There are so many details here and as far as we have been able to verify them from old letters, articles, papers from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest and historical pictures they all all correct for the time
Picture Jeroen Booij

Gérard with the early Mini side radiator, another rarity. This after he'd spent days on puzzling how the car's original front radiator and oil cooler had been fitted. We found out in the end!
Picture Jeroen Booij

The shroud for the side radiator needs modification since the Marcos' front is too low to have it fitted without altering. We worked mostly from old pictures of the car's build in early 1966 as well as from detail pics from Joost's Mk1 car here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Et à bientôt mon ami! (see you soon again buddy!)
Picture Jeroen Booij

And as a bonus: a little 'walkaround' video from France
Video: Jeroen Booij


Friday, 26 November 2021

Jidéhem knew his Minis

When you are Belgian or French you will know the work of comic artist Jidéhem. The characters he invented made it to Spirou magazine every week and were loved by many. In the 1960s and 1970s a number of spin-off publications appeared, one of them being Starter, which was all about cars. I found that a few Mini derivatives made it to the publication and wanted to share these here. They were a fun way of illustrating motoring reports in the magazine. I would love to learn there are more. Do let me know when you know of any others.


Jidéhem's Starter in a Mini Jem GT
Picture from Starter magazine

And in an Ogle SX1000
Picture from Starter magazine


And even in a Quasar Unipower
Picture from Starter magazine

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Biota restoration in Belgium

Rene Sontrop from France and the brothers Peter & Jos Niessen from The Netherlands aren't the only Biota owners on this side of Europe. Peter Morley is another. He lives in Belgium and has had his car for a very long time. I hadn't heard from him for years so thought it was time to drop him a line. A number of messages about the now beautifully restored 'Dutch demonstrator' followed. Peter wrote: 

"Hi Jeroen, it’s nice that the one you found went back to the original family. I heard from someone who had mine at one time, but when I told him how much I’d spent on it he lost interest! Interesting that it was left hand drive but I shouldn’t be surprised because Minis are so easy to convert. And it has a chassis plate, mine just has an aluminium tag that they stamped, presumably in the second year they could afford some chassis plates! I will send you some photos of mine – soon (I promised a friend photos of something next week over a month ago and he’s still waiting!). Best wishes Peter"

I didn't have to wait long though as they arrived shortly afterwards: "Hi Jeroen, I was just rearranging the garage and took some quick photos of the Biota. I had some expensive trips to Minispares etc. and bought most of the mechanical parts. I also found parts like new rear light lenses and chrome surrounds and windscreen pillars. And there’s a rebuilt set of Speedwell instruments that I’m thinking of fitting. Pretty much everything is there it is just a case of getting stuck into and assembling everything. When I saw the Coldwell manifold I had to have it – of course there aren’t many people who will know the connection. Last time I saw Bill Needham I told him I had a Biota and he just said 'Why?'! Best wishes, Peter."


Peter's Biota is an early car, chassis number 6, and is under restoration for years now
Picture Peter Morley

It's still on its British plate 'OJL 1H' but the car has been in Belgium for many years now
Picture Peter Morley

Peter has a rebuilt set of Speedwell instruments that he's thinking of fitting
Picture Peter Morley

Although it once had an 850, the engine now is a tweaked 1275. Note the Coldwell manifold! 
Picture Peter Morley

Monday, 22 November 2021

Autocrossing 1967

Thanks for several messages with links to two lovely videos from the 1967 Players No.6 Autocross Championship, showing some great action filmed that year. There's a number of Mini based cars to be seen in action and one of them is the infamous 'Golden Egg' as it was raced by Paul Kerridge. I'd like to do a more comprehensive article about that car soon.

Other brief but worthy appearances were filmed in Stafford and come from a Peel Viking with (fake?) number plate 'RED 1' (it's not this car is it?) and a typical autocross Special made by getting rid of as much of the Mini's bodywork as possible. Like Kerridge, the guy who races that thing is really pushing it! Last but not least there's what looks to be a home made but never the less very nice MiniSprint registered 'TON 1', too. Enjoy!


7616 RW became better known as The Golden Egg, raced by Paul Kerridge
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

This Ogle SX1000 was very successful in the hands of Kerridge of Shellford
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

It was built up using a crashed Mini Cooper with 1275 tuned by Don Moore
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

But what have we got here? Yes, that's a Peel Viking. Not so sure I've seen this one before
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

Could 'RED 1' be its real registration? Could it be this car in an earlier stage?
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

One of quite a few autocross Specials build from a Mini with very little bodywork left
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

It looks like a number of similar cars: the Clegg Special, Nova Special or LEDA1 
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

And another super cool registration: TON 1 is on what looks to be a home made MiniSprint
Picture Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube


Video Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube


Video Roscoe Films / Hamish Racing / Youtube

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Hrubon Phaeton Six - meant as a rallying Twini?!

The Hrubon Phaeton as well as its later sibling the Schmitt, both made in France, were a sort of Mini Moke but then substantially shorter so that it could be parked head-first in a spot. But there was a six-wheeled 'long' wheelbase version of it, too. I only had one picture of that (registration '286 W 67' well visible) and very little information. 

But recently I came across another picture of it. It's a horribly low-quality shot, but at least it does provide some of the much-hoped-for more info. It shows us that the car was dark blue in colour, but what's more: a tiny little side bar with info tells us it was not just available as a four-seater, but also as a Twini! From the text: "Disponible en bi-moteur pour les rallyes debut '82". That is: Available with twin-engines for the 1982 rally season. For heaven's sake - who knows more about that!


Hrubon Phaeton Six was, as far as I know, only built in a number of one
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This snippet gives a little bit more. Available with two engines as a rally car!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Prisoner Moke breaks record

You may have read or heard that the Mini Moke 'HLT 709C', as famously used in the 1960s series The Prisoner was sold in auction last weekend. I asked the car's owner Phil Caunt, who beatifully restored the car, how he experienced the sale and he was kind enough to send a write up. Over to Phil:
 
"Silverstone Auctions, NEC Birmingham, Saturday 13th of November 2021. After being there all day since 9 am, lot 350 'HLT 709C The Prisoner Mini Moke' comes up for auction at around 4.30 pm. I admit that it has been a nervous few weeks since entering the car. Advertised previously on Maximum Mini but sadly with no success, I finally took the plunge and entered her, she was estimated at between £50.000 and £60,000 owing to her very famous past, and of course with full provenance to the cult 1960s television show 'The Prisoner' starring Patrick McGoohan."

"Having restored a previous Prisoner Moke CFC 916C back in the 1990's (this car now resides in Los Angeles with my dear friend of over 20 years) buying and restoring this car was just 'meant to be' for me, and now after owning her for 6 years the time to say goodbye has arrived. Going straight in at £50,000, the bidding quickly rose to a final £69,750 including fees. And it was over... in less that 2 minutes! I believe the buyer got himself/herself a bargain to be honest, but hey... that's how it goes. I said my goodbyes, and left. Sad... of course I am. But I have other classics to play with and all are far more user friendly than a Mini Moke. It's the end of an era for me, having owned 100's of cars including many many Minis of all types... I still hanker after an Ogle SX... maybe one day if my health allows it."

Thank you very much Phil. I was wondering if he knew where it goes to now, but Phil doesn't: "I'm afraid I have no idea whatsoever who the buyer was. I am led to believe that the car will remain in the UK, but this is not confirmed." Well, let's see if the new owner will get in touch.


The Prisoner Moke in the salesroom of Silverstone Auctions last weekend
Picture Phil Caunt

Monday, 15 November 2021

Lining up the Mini derivatives!

There's no doubt that Mini derivatives are gaining popularity. The NEC in Birmingham was the venue of a classic car show last weekend and the Minikits Club had really done its best to show a wide variety of Mini based cars, which had worked out particularly well. On their display not only three Stimson cars (Mini Bug, Trek and Scorcher) but also a lovely TiCi and ultra-rare Hustler Sport. They also had a separate corner with a Mini Marcos and two GTM Coupes in primary colours red, blue and yellow. Well done boys! 

Another display which looked particularly good was that of the Unipower GT Owners Club & Register, with three cars on display: Mark Glashier's road car, a chassis/body under construction and Gerry Hulford's racer. Gerry has also just finished a long-awaited book on the Unipower marque, of which I hope to receive a copy soon.

Meanwhile, Curborough track was the scene for a photo shoot of four Mini based beauties, soon to star in Classic & Sports car magazine. Two of them with the power at the front wheels - a Mini Jem and an Ogle SX1000 - and two with the power at the rear - a Unipower GT and a Deep Sanderson 301. Roger Garland was there to assist and take a few pictures himself, which he flashed over. He added: "We had tried to get a recently restored GTM, but the owner had to work that day. We also had difficulty finding a suitable Mini Marcos, hence the Mini Jem - a very capable substitute!" Absolutely, and thank you very much Roger. Soon in their full glory at the newsstand near you, or so I understand!


Curborough track last week: Unipower GT, Mini Jem, Ogle SX1000, Deep Sanderson 301
Picture courtesy Roger Garland 

NEC Birmingham last weekend: Hustler Sport, TiCi, Stimsons Scorcher, Mini Bug and Trek
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

And more from Minikits: GTM Coupe, Mini Marcos and another GTM Coupe
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

The Hustler is a real rarity. "The work that has gone in to it is unreal", said Minikits-man Paul Wylde
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

 "The guy restores and makes panels for rare Astin Martins and spent his youth there"
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

Stimsons had come out in force for the Minikits club stand. Purple Mini Bug...
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

...And the Stimson Scorcher of Minikits' driving force Paul Wylde...
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

...Plus a Stimson Trek found by Barry Tilbury a couple of years ago now
Picture CMH Photography / Minikits

Also on display with Minikits this well known TiCi to ad more colour!
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde


Also at the NEC was the Unipower GT Owners Club & Register, with Gerry Hulford's racer front
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

...As well as the lovely road car in similar bright yellow owned by Mark Glaisher now...
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

...And a chassis/body that is under restoration. Good to see these cars being restored
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

More Unipower at the Curborough track last week. That's Tim Carpenter's car
Picture courtesy Roger Garland

...And the other rear engined Mini marvel there: Robi Bernberg's Deep Sanderson 301...
Picture courtesy Roger Garland

...While this left hand driven Ogle SX1000 racer is owned by Guy Loveridge...
Picture courtesy Roger Garland

...And the freshly restored Mini Jem Mk1 of Goff Allen, who had a Mk2 before
Picture courtesy Roger Garland