Monday 29 November 2010

Early Mini Marcos resurfaces

Of all the Mini derivatives, the Mini Marcos might just be the best known. Often tagged one of world's uglier cars it never the less found plenty of takers, and over the last four decades more then 1500 were sold.

However, one Mini Marcos is rarer then the other and with 143 built the Mk1, from the earliest day of the Mini Marcos long life, definitely is the rarest of them all. It doesn't happen too often then that these cars are found, but Mini Marcos fan Gert-Jan Westerveld of The Netherlands just did so. He knew of the car that was raced by Dutch 'ART' (Algemeen Racing Team) in the late sixties and early seventies at the Zandvoort track but was told the car probably didn't survive. However, when he happened to come across a Dutch registration number for a Mk1, it triggered a search.
The car it eventually lead to turned out to be the ART car. Apart from a new paint job in eclectic blue (originally it had been white with a signature green stripe) the baby Marcos appears to be in a remarkably original state. According to Westerveld its original engine with period Arden 8-port head and double 45 Webers is still there. Also the dashboard and home made rollbar survive, as do the 1969 homologation papers.
Back in its early days the car was raced by an enthusiast named Hans Castelijn. It seems that he did not road register it untill 1972, by which time the ART was dissolved. Two years later the Marcos' registration was sorn while Castelijn passed away more recently. What happened to the car in between these two periods is still somehat unclear but Westerveld hopes to brighten that up in the near future too. We might just see it back on the Zandvoort track in that same near future...
                                                        Hat tip to Gert-Jan Westerveld!

UPDATE 28 February 2012: More pictures now here (click)

Friday 26 November 2010

Mokes in movies

Campy science-fiction fans must go mad for Doppelnger; a 1969 British SF-flick that may be better known as 'Journey to the Far Side of the Sun' to our American friends. Or it may not. Click for the incredibly corny trailer here to see what I mean.

It's all about a hidden planet, a space ship, a hero and a villain. Nothing new there.

What makes it interesting though is that a couple of most unusual vehicles were made for the movie in the UK by a company that was aptly named Space Models. Two of these cars came with six wheels, had ever so futuristic looking wraparound wind screens and were based on, oh yes, the Mini Moke.
Some years later the cars were slightly modified, painted blue and used for more science-fiction fun as they appeared in the television series UFO too. By now they were given a name too: SHADO Jeeps, and from what I understand is that these space oddities survive. 
I'd love to see them in real!

UPDATE 2 may 2012. Andy V. wrote: "Just read your piece about the Doppelganger / Shado movie Mokes - the signature on the original artwork is that of the late Derek Meddings, who produced other, more famous movie cars - most notably FAB 1, the pink, six-wheeled Rolls-Royce from Thunderbirds and also James Bond's Lotus Esprit submarine car from the 007 picture 'the Spy Who Loved Me'. I look forward to an update on the 'other' Prisoner Moke."

Wednesday 24 November 2010

G'bye Ferris De Joux

Last week I wrote about several persons directly involved with designing and building Mini derivatives, who'd all passed away since my book came out last year. Sad news, yes, but I felt it deserved a place here never the less.

However, Paul from New Zealand, e-mailed me to note I'd forgotten about one such person: Ferris De Joux. And I'm sad to say he is darn' right. Ferris De Joux passed away on May 30th 2009 in his native New Zealand at the age of 73.

De Joux, from Auckland, had been fiddling with the idea of building a Mini based 2+2 coupe, which he called 'a Mini in a Bermuda jacket' himself, ever since the mid sixties but it took him untill the early seventies before it arrived. About twenty were built. De Joux built several more sporty cars before the Mini GT of which a Jaguar powered Ferrari intrigued me most.

De Joux died while he was in the process of restoring one of his own De Joux Mini GT's. About 90% of the work was done and the finishing off will now be carried out by Peter Benbrook who has plans to race the little GT. A great tribute, I'd say.

Update: click here for more De Joux'

                                  An original sketch of the De Joux Mini GT by Ferris De Joux. Copyright Motorman magazine

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Blog removed due to impopular demand (no joke).

Monday 22 November 2010

Elitist style

I have always liked to note similarities between two different products of one and the same designer, especially when they are of a very different kind but unmistakably use similar ideas.
So for me, it doesn't get much better then the Brian Luff designed and Mini powered Status 365. The styling of the car was carried out by John Frayling, like Luff an ex-Lotus man who'd been working on several Lotuses before he started off as a freelancer.
In fact, the Lotus Elite 'Type 75' that came out in 1974 and of which the wedgy hatchback styling was credited to Oliver Winterbottom was one of the projects Frayling had worked on, too.

And it shows. Like the Elite, the Status came out in 1974 and there was absolutely no doubt about its influence. In fact, it looked like a dwarfed Elite in just about anything. Just have a good look at the details, it's great fun. The Lotus was slightly more successful though as Luff sold just 38 Statuses 365 between 1974 and 1981 while Lotus built over 2,500 Elites. They are both unusual cars now that you do not see often. I photographed the Status 365 in Cornwall in 2007.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Mystery Mini derivative (2)


[muhng-gruhl, mong-]
1. a dog of mixed or indeterminate breed.
2. any animal or plant resulting from the crossing of different breeds or varieties.
3. any cross between different things, esp. if inharmonious or indiscriminate.

Meet the Mini Mongrel. A rare breed. It wouldn't do bad around the Baskervilles area.
I have never seen it before nor had I heard of it untill I came across this picture. Are that Mini Clubman front wings? It looks like it.
Drop me a line or leave a comment below if you know more about this cross breed.

Monday 15 November 2010

So long Trevor Taylor

Last weekend, while flicking through the latest issue of Classic and Sports Car magazine in my arm chair, I stumbled across Trevor Taylor's obituary. Taylor, who passed away on September the 27th, is mostly remembered for his Formula One exploits for Cooper, Lotus and Shannon between 1959 and 1966. However, he did more then just that. As a matter of fact, he had one very special Mini derivative made to race throughout the mid-sixties: the low slung Aurora.

For many years I believed the Aurora did not exist anymore and it was not featured in 'Maximum Mini'. That is untill I spoke to guy who knew somebody with a friend... It turned out the car survived and together with its current owner I rolled it from the barn in Southern England where it was stored so many years. That was about a year ago, so look out for it in the next Maximum Mini book.

That makes me think: when I did the first book, I was lucky to speak to many people who originally designed or built the cars that I wrote about, and some of them have now passed away too. 
Cyril Cannell, designer of the Mini-based Peel Viking Sport, died on October 19, 2008 in Peel on the Isle of Man's west coast. Allan Staniforth, who was responsible for both the Mini based Terrapin as the Sarcon Scarab passed away on May 2, 2009, and Ralph Broad, the man who came up with the Broadspeed GT died this year in September. Sadly Taylor now followed them and I shall not be able to ask him personally about his days in the Aurora. May he rest in peace.

Friday 12 November 2010

Ogle again

Yesterday I wrote about another Ogle SX1000 for sale and coincidentally I received post that same day from Ogle's ex-boss Tom Karen, who ran Ogle Design for 37 years and in that period designed all sorts of vehicles from the Reliant Scimitar to the Raleigh Chopper bike.

In fact, he has taken up the idea of clustering some of his stories into a book and did just so in 'Ogle & The Bug'. It isn't a real book, more a booklet, but the style is great as it must be a Karen design too. Simple and a bit cheaky.

There is not much information on the Ogle SX1000 or the earlier SX250 (the SX1000 was the last car that David Ogle designed himself before he got killed in one in a traffic accident), but there is some fascinating other stuff. I especially like the stories about Karen's early days in England when he started modifying his first car - a £50 Austin 7 that he gave a rather crude but intriguing new body, and a three-wheeler called the Vimp "A corny combination of Imp and Vamp". Cool is also the new three-wheeler Karen is working on, Christened STS, for 'Smarter then Smart' - you'll have to admit the man is good in making up catchy names.

There are only 47 pages, and the majority of them is dedicated to the Bond Bug that Karen calls 'My pet project', still then it's a steal at only £5.99 plus postage. Buy it directly from the man himself here

Thursday 11 November 2010

Utterly Ogle

Only a month or two ago, a white Ogle SX1000 - one of 66 built - appeared on eBay in the south US.
It did not sell, but for those interested, another lhd example now appeared in New Mexico by a seller who appears to have owned the little coupe no less then 45 years. It comes in striking gunmetal grey and looks rather splendid.
Bidders, go here.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

The Buggy boogie

Metal flake paint and ultra wide wheels; I have always liked Beach buggies. But, hey, they are Beetle based aren't they? Well, there is an exception to that rule and it came from that master of obscure contraptions Neville Trickett. He was responsible for the MiniSprint as for so many other unusual, quirky or plain weird cars. In fact, he is one of my heroes.

Trickett designed and built the Siva Buggy in 1970 but I think he must have been fed up soon as he sold the rights of building and selling the thing to a company named Skyspeed, who simply renamed the creature the Skyspeed-Siva Buggy. However, for me, things get even more interesting when in the next buy-out a company named Euromotor took over the rights of production and sales. That is because, unlike Trickett's company and unlike Skyspeed, Euromotor was not based in the UK, but in The Netherlands. In fact, they were in Amsterdam, which happens to be my home town.

The trouble is that Euromotor's premises were destroyed in a 1976 fire, devouring the original moulds of the Buggy too after a total of 94 cars was built. Or so I am told. Every trace of Euromotor seems to have disappeared after that. Frustratingly I have never been able to find out more about the company. I do not even know where exactly in Amsterdam they were situated.
It could be around the corner, you know.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Unspoilt GTMs

Not too long ago GTM Cars advertised their cars as 'Unspoilt Sports Cars'. A great slogan.
Funnily, you don't see many unspoilt early GTMs around. I know just a handful of Cox- and Heerey GTMs of the late 1960's that have not been kitted out with wide arches and low splitters.
Do you know any?

Monday 8 November 2010

Whatever happened to Bufi Mowog?

I love magazines. Motoring magazines. Old motoring magazines, and have far too many.
Hot Car is a favourite publication as it wrote a lot about unusual and DIY-built stuff of the sixties and seventies, when wrecked Minis were cheaper then chips.

One of the more obscure cars that made it to the hallowed pages of that mag was a mean looking Mini derivative with the incredible name 'Bufi Mowog' that came with twin engines and was meant to terrorize autocross. In fact it even made it to the October 1968 cover of the mag under the telling heading 'Twin-engine Terror'. According to Hot Car the mean looking chariot was built in three years time in Barnt Green near Birmingham by "Rally Champion Tony Fisher and Dave Butterworth. 'Fi' for Fisher, 'Bu' for Butterworth and Mowog for all those BMC parts."

The four wheel driven car was powered by a 1071 Cooper S engine from "a works prepared Alpine rally car" at the front and a blown 1100 with automatic transmission at the rear. It must have been a pretty scary machine to drive but reputedly it did dominate the Nationbal Autocross championship during the season.
The strange thing is that it never reappeared after its Hot Car claim to fame. Was it wrecked? Could well be. But it could just as well have been driven into a shed after its late sixties autocross victories.

Could Barnt Green still be hiding its outlandish automotive secret?

A ghostview drawing of the frightful Bufi Mowog
Courtesy of Hot Car magazine

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Broadspeeds in Spain

There still are a few mysteries to be unraveled around the Broadspeed GT: the pretty fast back Mini GT that was built by Ralph Broad. It is believed Broad built 28 between 1966 and 1968 but survivors are rarely seen. For 'Maximum Mini' I photographed one in Japan, and I have only seen two others.

Broad, who passed away in september, is said to have had more orders for the GT, but when his racing team switched from Minis to Escorts, BMC was not amused and immediately stopped the colaboration, killing off the pretty fast back.

Now, of the 28 GT’s built quite a few were reputedly exported to Spain. According to one trustworthty source: "Most of the built cars went to Spain, where a Barcelona distributor had created a keen market." I have heard the figure of 16 several times but, strangely, have never heard of a single Broadspeed GT surviving in Spain.

I did find a few advertisements in 1967 Spanish newspapers where a company named 'Automovile Nadal' of Mallorca and another named 'Auto Paris' sold them. Their spelling is rather corny; one calls the car 'Broaspeed'; the other 'Broatepeet'!

Who knows more? 

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Minimally known

Earlier this year I went over to Kent to meet up with Bob Egginton. Bob is a nice bloke who built all sorts of vehicles from the 1970's on, most of them race bred. But I was mainly interested in his two 1980's Mini based exploits: the Hobo and the Minim. The first appeared to have been documented fairly well and when Bob took me to an old mate for lunch who'd appeared to have kept a Hobo in his garage for decades, he made my day.

However, the Minim seems to be more mysterious. Bob never kept any records but thinks he made six. He now sends me a stack of pictures every now and then when he comes across some more while cleaning out old drawers. Great stuff.

It does make me wonder what happened to these Minims. I have never seen one and never came across pictures other then the ones used for publicity in the eighties.
Before I met up with Bob there was an unfinished Minim for sale though, but I have no idea what happened to that car. It would be nice to catch up with its new owner.

Monday 1 November 2010

It's a Mini market

Interesting cars keep on popping up on eBay lately.
When you are in the market for one of the well known Mini derivatives you can buy it today, whether it is an Ogle SX1000, a Unipower GT, a Mini Marcos or Mini Jem, it's there in various conditions. I cannot remember a time when more were offered for sale at one time.

The famous Mini Marcos Mk3 'TransXL car'
A Mini Jem Mk2 (shell)
And another