Monday 28 February 2011

Mystery Mini derivative (8)

Why is it that so many creatures in Mini Moke style are named after animals? There is the Moke in the first place, but apart from that there is the Cub, the Yak, the Mule, the Bug, the Gecko and the Mongrel (still an unsolved mystery on its own - do have a look by clicking here, thank you).
But how about the Beaver? Really, that appears to be another mock-Moke. I'd never heard of it until Roald Rakers of The Netherlands sent in an old advertisement with a car that is apparantly one. I quite like its shape. But who built it? Where? Why? And in what quantity?

Hat tip to Roald Rakers. Keep them coming!

UPDATE 1 March 2011:
Thanks to a reaction on this blog I have now been in touch with the man who built the Mini Beaver. In fact, he built seven of them! More information will follow.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Shocking designer also planned a Mini derivative

Mini derivatives can get pretty unusual. But they never get too obscure, do they? Well for me they don't. So when I heard that David Gittens designed a vehicle based on the Mini Moke back in the late 1960's I decided I needed to find out more. But who is David Gittens, you may want to know in the first place? Well, in specialist sports car circles American born Gittens, who lived in London back then, made some name and fame when he launched his astounding Ikenga. A pretty incredible supercar. It came on a McLaren M6 Can-Am chassis with Chevrolet Camaro 5.3 V8, had a dramatic body that was built by Williams & Pritchard's and was unveiled at Harrods (!) in 1968. And inside it wasn't any more down to earth, with fluid-filled instruments, a distance proximity sensor and rear view television camera. When Gittens returned to the US in 1971 he left his Ikenga in the UK, and it is said to be in a museum now. 

But what about the Mini Moke based car? Nobody knew. It took me a while to track down Gittens, but he appeared to live in Sarasota, Florida where he created a new type of guitar which he's teaching himself to play. He was most surprised when I contacted him and wrote: "Hi Jeroen. Thanks so much for your letter and interest in the Mini Moke based concept vehicle of 1967 ... what memories."
"The Mini Moke was one of five concept cars under development. Four of the projects were put on hold when my partner, English coach builder Charles Williams, died in June of 1969. A major effort was made to restart the project at Radfords Works Ltd. in London with the completion and exhibition of the Ikenga MKIII GT. This vehicle was exhibited in Paris and Turin (surprise of the Italian motor show) in late 1969, and featured at the 1970 Swedish International Motor show in Stockholm the following April. Shortly thereafter all of my efforts regarding auto design/building came to a close ... this was a very rich period in my life."
"The Moke did have a name however I do not remember it. The concept drawings and plans were displayed at the Earl's Court motor show but these have long vanished."
"In gratitude for awakening a rich time in my life, David."

That was almost two years ago, and David now sends me every now and then an update on his current art projects. I have never found out more about the Moke based car, but funnily a friend of David's discovered some 1968 footage of the Ikenga on snowy Sussex roads that was sent over to me too. It's of crappy quality, but what a lovely piece of period film it is. Enjoy it, and do let me know if you know more about Gittens' stillborn Moke project as this movie clip makes me wonder again...

Ikenga was David Gittens' finest. But he planned a Mini derivative too!

Thursday 24 February 2011

Camber/Maya files: DEN70D

Second in the Camber/Maya files series is a car known as 'DEN70D'. Initially I believed this had to be the sixth and last Camber GT built, as its nose was converted from its illegal low headlights to a set of rectangular lights placed higher in the bonnet and hidden under Perspex cowls. If six Cambers are said to have been made than it seems only logical that this had to be the last before the car was revamped as the Maya GT. That's also why this car is sometimes referred to as the Maya prototype. However, I am not too sure about that anymore. Fact is that it is the car shown at the Racing Car Show in London in January 1967 on the stand of Checkpoint Race & Rally Equipment Ltd. And Checkpoint's of Manchester, who were the sole concessionaires for the car, used the same Camber GT for a brochure too. Apart from that DEN70D appeared on a press release picture. Its colour was silver grey as can be seen in the report that an American (!) magazine did. There is no current DVLA description for DEN70D, but I suspect the car to have been re registered in 1969. More on that later.

Brochure shot that doesn't reveal the car's unusual front
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But there we go. This has to be the first nose job on the Camber GT
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Same place, same car, but now touched up with alloy wheels
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the press shot. Same place, same car, same day once again
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It was silver grey in colour, as this 1967 report shows
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Landar R6 brochure

What a surprise yesterday to find a rare Landar R6 brochure on the door mat with an accompanying letter from Tim Frankland of Essex who got in touch a couple of days ago.
Tim writes: "I am pleased to enclose the Landar brochure. Also enclosed are copies of relevant extracts from the catalogue for the 1966 Racing Car Show held at Olympia, London."
"I look forward to seeing the second volume of 'Maximum Mini' in due course. I don't need anything in return but thank you for offering: I'm just happy to help fuel your Mini mania..!"
That's two of us happy Tim, thanks again for a brochure I did not even know of!

The English Landar R6 brochure that Tim sent

And the US version that I had

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Unipower on film

Aren't these British Pathe movies wonderful little trips down memory lane? Look here, the 1969 Earls Court Motor Show in London. We see a cut-away Reliant Scimitar, a Mini 1275 GT, an Aston Martin DBS, the Harris Man designed Leyland Zanda, a Bristol 411 (with Anthony Crook guest appearance), a Mercedes-Benz C111 (like the Aston and the Mini in a fashionable sort of 'Inca Yellow'), a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and a Triumph TR6 with no doors. But best of all is another yellowish coloured Unipower GT in Mk2 guise (from 1:25 to 1:41), including a period bird in typical Mini skirt. Oh behave!

Monday 21 February 2011

Camber/Maya files: HPN14D

I believe HPN14D must be the first of the Camber GTs as it is the only car that appears on publicity shots with its low head lights and original nose with vertical air intakes. Could it be the prototype that was built by Heron Plastics in Greenwich in 1966? It could well be. Strangely it features on the first Maya brochure too, again with its Camber nose. However, the car was converted to a Maya nose later as another picture shows, when it appears to be repainted too. And later on again it got a targa roof modification. The last picture that I found of it dates from the early 1980's where the open roof is clearly visible, and the group picture above shows that too. There is no current DVLA description for HPN14D.

Presumably the Camber prototype receiving some adoration 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Were these pictures taken in Greenwich?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This shot appears on the first Maya brochure
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And there it is again. Now with Maya GT front end!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

 Unusual targa roof conversion was added later
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

UPDATE May 16, 2011: The car appears to survive as a convertible! Click here
UPDATE November 1, 2011: There is film footage of it at the 1968 Oddicote hill climb, see here
UPDATE November 2, 2015: It now becomes a spaceframed 4-wheel drive… click here

Saturday 19 February 2011

Cars & Car Conversions collection

In the Mini derivatives' heydays (let's say 1965-1975) there were three magazines in the UK to watch. They were Hot Car, Custom Car and, naturally, Cars & Car Conversions. Now, that last title was far from complete in my archives, but that has been changed now that I've bought myself someone else's collection. Gosh, they smell terribly moldy but there's a wealth of information inside. So, yes, I will be reading this weekend. Still missing the early issues though (most of 1965 and much of 1966). Let me know if you have these. I have tons of old paper to swap.
CCC magazines. Bless you who cannot smell them

Friday 18 February 2011

Camber/Maya GT history

I don't have a favourite Mini derivative, I just like some more then others. The Camber/Maya GT is one of those, with a most intriguing history and a great style. Or at least that's what I think. Excuse me for ventilating my personal taste.
Anyway: I have set myself the task to find out how many Camber GTs and Maya GTs were built (supposedly 6 of each), and how many survive, but am unsure to this day. Apart from the Camber that I photographed in the UK and the Maya I shot in Japan, I have now amassed many, many more historic pictures of both models. But even with 4 different brochures in my drawer (it must be one of the worst marketing/sales effects in the car's history with the supposedly 12 cars made - three per brochure!), and over 60 historic pictures of Camber and Maya GTs, the history of these cars still remains mysterious. So far I have been able to track down 9 different registration numbers but then the cars could have swapped numbers easily. To clear things up, hoping you may be able to help with new info, I shall discuss each of these 9 cars over the next few weeks or months to show what I have discovered so far. Resuming for now, the registration numbers of these 9 cars are:

NPM14F (Camber GT)
RLL8L (Camber GT)
FNU400H (Camber GT)
HPN14D (Camber GT)
DEN70D (Camber GT)
KOO589 (Maya GT)
HPN13D (Maya GT)
RKM473G (Maya GT)
PAP14F (Maya GT)
???208H (Maya GT)

UPDATE 28 March 2012: there are 10 cars now, as PAP14F has been added to the files

As rare as the real thing: a Camber GT in a cartoon
Illustration Martin Honeysett for Alternative Cars magazine

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Nameless buggy named

Stimson Mini Bug owner and great Mini derivatives enthusiast Paul Wylde sent in a scan of the Mini Magazine article that features the Mystery Mini based buggy, or Baya/BMC hybrid as the author of the piece appropriately calls it. He writes:

"This bright orange is one of only two made by a Devon based businessman. He realised that in overseas markets such as Greece and Malta there was a huge demand for beach vehicles, particularly the VW variant, but parts for the cars were expensive. Minis however, were still plentiful and very cheap, so he resolved to produce a buggy based on Mini mechanicals, which he could sell then as kits. Brilliant idea. Soon he had a mould, with the main tub ofthe shell based on the GP variant ofthe VW bug and the front adapted to accept the A-series. A spaceframe was designed with bars running around the front and back of the car to accept the Mini's front and rear sub frames, which bolt straight on. Simple eh?
Then it all went horribly wrong. The recession hit big time and interest in the project from overseas buyers faltered, hence only the two made. Apparantly, the other example still survives in the hands of the businessman's son."

Well, that was back in 1997 when the article was published. The car must have a new owner by now.

Hat tip to Paul Wylde

Monday 14 February 2011

Back from the UK

Just returned home after another jaunt in the UK trying to photograph some cars and speak to some people. Meanwhile, the mystery below was solved (more on that soon) while I understand the Mini Marcos Mk1 that was offered on eBay made only 1500 GBP. That's not too much for such a rare car.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Mystery Mini derivative (7)

At first I thought the car below was a Siva buggy, but when I looked better I noticed it was completely different. With a more straightforwards chassis and much different body. A DIY project? I don't think so.
Not a Siva, but surely a Mini based beach buggy too

Then I came across another picture of a similar car and knew for sure: this was another Mini based beach buggy that was sold in some sort of numbers. But who did it? And where? And what was it called? I noticed the registrations are very close, but I'm not sure what that could imply. Were they based on brand new Minis? That seems incredible. I found that the top car was featured in Mini magazine back in 1997 but unfortunately do not have the issue that it was feautured in. Naturally I have asked the guys there to look it up. But meanwhile you may be able to tell more...
And there's another! Note the close registrations

UPDATE 16 february 2011: see here

Monday 7 February 2011

Maximum Mini T-shirts

You like Mini derivatives? Be proud of it! I'd like to have some T-shirts made and you might want one too. Let me know if you do, what size you'd need and I will send it over as soon as it's there. I'm looking for good quality shirts and print, expect to pay around 30 euros including postage to an address in Europe or the UK, posting to the US and other exotic locations will be slightly costlier. But then again, sufficient demand will lower the price.

Friday 4 February 2011

Mystery (just about) solved

Big thanks again to Graeme Farr who dug up all the information he could on the Mystery Mini derivative #4. The car was built and raced by panel beater Robin Officer from Invercargill, NZ who later came to work for McLaren in the UK. Graeme sent me a scan of an old article in a 1973 mag that interviewed Officer, and it reports:

"He picked up what was left of a Riley Elf that had rolled itself into the wall with some help from the driver we'd suppose. This he got for the bargain price of nothing (...) Robin had big plans for the Elf. It was to be the lightest thing that Invercargill had ever seen, and the sleekest. The 1098cc motor was given to Bryan Taylor to prepare and Robin chopped into the body with a real vengeance (...) When it was finished it just had to be the most radical racing saloon of all time. In truth it bore very little resemblance to a saloon. More of a pretty, low, little GT car. The roof was lowered and it had a fast-back. The roof was hand beaten alloy. The front was 'fast' and also beaten from alloy. The whole car was completely altered. In fact it was so low that the carburettor was at eye level and the driver sat flat on the floor!"

Officer caused a major sensation at the Teretonga race track and made 14.9 seconds on the standing quarter and 110.97 mph at the straight. However, when the NZ racing assocation decided that standard body profiles were a must soon after Officer's car hit the tracks, the Elf Sprint was canned for the next season. The engine was transferred to a Mini Clubman with a limited slip diff that he sold in 1973.
So where is the car now? Graeme found out too: "I Spoke to the supposed owner of the Elf – John Guthrie from a tiny place called Ohai. He said he hasn’t seen it for 6-7 years and he was just storing it for his friend Wayne McDougal who died. Wayne's son has it now. They put a new floor in it and did some other work.  Wayne got it when Robin Officer's dad said if someone didn’t come and pick it up it was going to the dump. It was indeed sitting under a tree. Still in its orig purpley-blue paint and a reddy-orange roof – still had the pattern on the side. John said it is complete apart from two of the alloy flares – and the bonnet was badly bogged up by a previous repairer. The shell lived in Johns rafters in his shed for quite a few years. It was very light and very low. Robin had lightened everything – even the pedals are all drilled with holes. It has Elf tailamps – which isn’t obvious from the photos."

And what happened to Robin Officer? Apparantly he emigrated once again, this time to sunny California. There he built a couple of replica Ferrari sports car bodies before he got a job with talk show host Jay Leno, doing restorations on his collector's cars. At one stage Robin got ill with cancer and apparantly Leno assisted with finance to help nurse Officer back to a good health, so don't say unkind things about Jay Leno! The next step is to get in touch with Robin now...

Robin Officer in 1973

UPDATE 7 February 2011: Graeme just brought in the latest on Officer and his Riley Elf Sprint: "I found Robin's number in LA and gave him a ring. He had just been watching the superbowl and was well drunk! Very nice guy though – and still annoyed his Dad gave way the car – apparently it was just a casual comment to Wayne McDougal that he could have it as it had sheep living it! Wayne’s widow has the car – and the kids won’t let her sell it. Robin has no photos of it – well I think he said that!" 

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Derivatives abundant

How about a nice project for the 2011 season?
Not too difficult, or perhaps slightly more challenging? Or even a car that will make it to the road or track without having to do anything to it? eBay UK offers it all, with no less than 9 Mini derivatives for sale at the very moment. What's your favourite?
How about one of those funny Grantura Yaks? Comes with TVR pedigree! 

This Hustler Hellcat is even rarer, and has an Aston Martin link. Well, sort of.

Rare too, but in a terribly rough state: a Jiffy Pick up. Who dares?

From the other end: the infamous Mini Marcos TransXL remains unsold

Or a freshly restored Minus in a nice shade of green. I like it.

But this NCF Blitz may be better suitable for British boulevards and beaches

While a Phoenix Estate is slightly more practical though. Needs work, desperately.

And look at that. A Stimson Mini Bug. It comes with a set of moulds too!

Last but not least there is an Alto Duo. That's the best one I've ever seen.

Update 2 February 2011. And there is number 10: a 1971 'barnfind' Mini Marcos that was rolled into storage no less than 31 years ago. or that's what the seller writes. I wonder what price it will make.
Update #2: not everything is what it seems. Have a closer look at this Mini Marcos and you might spot that this car may be more special than its seller seems to realise (thanks to Richard Porter).

Wilsdon's world

Remember this post?
As I wrote back then the Mini based Mobi-One car was said to be owned by a mister Mike Wilsdon in the 1990's, and  now I have come across a great article about the man and his wacky collection of things motoring. It was written in 1987 by Giles Chapman for Classic and Sports Car magazine, and the Mobi-One is mentioned in the article too. But look at the main picture in the article below. Mister Wilsdon appeared to be the lucky owner of a rare Status Minipower too, one of 20 made and one of only 8 with the original body that ex-Lotus designer Brian Luff built back in the early 1970's. This one in Granny Smith Green. Wowie.
I have asked Giles if he knows of Wilsdon's current whereabouts but unfortunately he does not. He remembers Wilsdon had to give up his building in Kew at the last time he was in touch with him, which was around 1998. So what happened to Mike Wilsdon and his cool collection of cars after that period? Somebody will know.

UPDATE 7 December 2011: Still not a trace of the man, but his Minipower was last seen in 2004. See it here