Wednesday 30 March 2011

Meet the Mini Countach

You have undoubtly heard of the Unipower GT's nickname 'Mini Miura', made up after a French journalist described it as such in his magazine report. But how about the 'Mini Countach'? I did not know it existed but after I was sent numerous messages that a most unusual Mini derivative ended up on good old eBay this week I noticed some definite similarities between the two thoroughbreds: the bull from Bologna and the Bison from Blighty, 'cause that's what it is named.

So what really is this Mini Countach thingy? Well, apparantly it is the one and only CJC Bison and is registered as such on the DVLA database. It was built (or at least finished) in 1994 and MOT'd until June this year. The current owner has recently decided to sell it and I have been in touch with him. Unfortunately he cannot tell me much more about this intriguing one-off creation, so that leaves me with more questions once more. See the ad here. Oh, and excuse me for the Photoshop fiddle on the picture attached. I just couldn't resist doing that...

Thoroughbreds? The Bison from Blighty and the bull from Bologna

Monday 28 March 2011

Swiss kits

It's been busy. I have returned home doing stories in France, Germany and Switzerland and had a good time with some very unusual cars there, although unfortunately none of them Mini based. However, I had to think of one while passing some wonderful Swiss mountain villages on the shores of the Lake of Konstanz. It's been a while since I found out that Switzerland had an official importer for the Stimson Mini Bug and I had one rather incredibly 70's picture with a man wearing a cap that even made Jackie Stewart look meek. The side of the car mentions 'Carrosserie Brühwiler Luzern', and 'Bausatz ab fr 3400,-' meaning 'Kits from 3400 Swiss francs'. I never found out who this company were and if they ever sold any kits or cars. My newly purchased collection of Automobil Revue year books make no mention of it at all.

Very '70s in a Mini Bug Mk2: Jackie Stewart eat your heart out

But funnily, arch Mini derivative fan Paul Wylde surprised me when he sent in a similar picture that clearly shows the same car and probably the same man although now on the shore of a Swiss lake and with (I think) full jet ski gear in a fitting colour. Now that's even groovier! It makes you feel all ready for the Summer, or at least that's what I thought. But who knows more about this Swiss Stimson importer? Apart from these pics I found two shots of a pink Mk2 Mini Bug in Switzerland on the internet, this one wearing a Zurich registration. It could be the same car...

Same car, same man but now with Swiss lake and groovy jet ski gear!

Another Swiss Stimson Mini Bug Mk2. Or could it be the same car?

Sunday 20 March 2011

Camber/Maya files: RLL8L

Time for part four in our Camber/Maya files series, this time with the Camber GT known as 'RLL8L'. That registration wasn't given to the car until 1973 by which time it was allready seven years old. So what happened before that time? Well, it was sold new to John D Green, a photographer by profession but racer by choice who raced the car in anger on England's tracks for just one season. Green had previously raced a Mini Marcos so he was well into his Mini derivatives. It must have been a pretty quick car too with its 1148cc, 108bhp strong engine built in early 1967 by Broadspeed of Birmingham, straight cut gears and limited slip differential. Broadspeed also fitted adjustable hydrolastic suspension.

After the 1967 season John D Green offered the car for sale in Autosport magazine in January 1968. A buyer was found in David Marley who kept on campaigning the Camber for another few years in club sprints and hill climbs before he decided to have it road registered in Summer 1973. With road spec engine (the Broadspeed engine was sold), trimmed interior and number plates he drove it until 1977 before putting it in storage and it wasn't until 2006 that it came out. By then the gearbox was rebuilt and a 1293cc engine with sportier spec was built by Competition Engine Services of Aylesbury. Shortly after that I photographed it for the Maximum Mini book.

Despite the Camber nose Marley believed the car was a Maya GT and not a Camber GT, and fitted a chrome Ford Mustang badge on its bonnet as that has some sort of similarities to the original Maya logo! But a lovely chassis plate of Camber Cars Ltd, Rye, Sussex, England under its bonnet was not to be missed. The car carries number 669 A 103 - I think that may be for the third Camber built, probably in September 1966. Shortly after the book came out the car was sold for the third time, now to the very enthusiast Bryan Purves who is currently working on a thorough restoration.

Camber was raced in anger during the 1967 season
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Autosport advertisement in which the car was offered for sale. Nice price…
Picture courtesy Autosport magazine

Original rear: no reversing lights and no number plate 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Great shot, this was late sixties when the Camber GT was still unregistered 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Original Broadspeed engine with signature chrome rocker cover was sold
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And current engine, built by Competition Engine Services of Aylesbury
Picture: Jeroen Booij

Great car. It should be on the road soon again after 34 years
Picture: Jeroen Booij

UPDATE 2 June 2015. I received a message titled 'Discourteous to say the least' from David Marley. He wrote (unedited): "Hi Jeroen, I have just read every article you have published on the Camber/Maya GT including my own car RLL8L. I find it incredible that I have been written out of this car's history considering the four years that I raced it in sprints and hill climbs with considerable success after buying it from John d Green. After trimming it for the road and having it registered in 1974, I used it on the road for two years I then mothballed and garaged it for forty years. I was invited by Will Kinsman to enter it into the Goodwood Revival meeting 2009, the Mini 50th launch year. Someone who had history with the George Holmes family in Camber, Sussex offered to buy it and wanted to put it on the road. Bryan Purves also offered to buy it, at a lower price, which I accepted as he said he was going to put it back on the track and would keep me informed as to its progress. I have never heard another word from him and I see from his website that he is still seeking original information about the car. In view of the attitude to write me out of this car's history I really couldn't care less about clearing up any missing data. I have sorted out the original engine specification sheet from Broadspeed and also the build plans for the 'High Speed - Low Cost' Terrapin Racer but I have no wish to be involved any further after the total ignoring of my part in this car's history and they are now in the waste bin. David Marley Nulli praeda sumus"

What a strange man!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Mystery Mini derivative (9)

Hey, what's this little red riding thing? It clearly has some Mini Moke influences but it definitely isn't one. The front may have some Stimsonesque characteristics but it is neither one of Barry Stimson's creations. And it's also not a one-off as I have seen pictures of another similar car. So what is it? You tell me. The Metro wheels suggest it is a Mini Metro- rather than a Mini derivative and the registration shows that's right: on paper this is a 1981 Mini Metro HLE. But it isn't. And I think it could just as well have been based on a Mini. Mini derivative connoiseur Paul Wylde sent this one in, asking what it could be but I have no clue too. Do you?
Blunt nose with no badges doesn't give much away. It's registered in 1981

Construction is basic and base is a Metro, as the wheels show. But it's not a one-off

UPDATE 31 MAY 2011: I received an e-mail message of Richard who believes this car to be the prototype of a car named 'Roamer' built by a man named George Davies of Birmingham. Apparantly the car is indeed based on the Mini Metro and has a steel frame of 50 x 50 x 1.6 mm tubes that's been clothed with steel too. I couldn't find any more on the Roamer or Davies, so the question remains: who knows (even) more?

UPDATE 28 August 2012: A similar car is to be auctioned in the US. Click here

Monday 14 March 2011

Meanwhile, in Auto Collector & Classic

It was a bit of a surprise to notice that French magazine Auto Collector & Classic pays attention to Mini derivatives in this month's issue, especially since I occasionally contribute to this nice monthly. So imagine my surprise when I found that most of the pictures used for the three-page article came from my archives! And that without being mentioned! Fortunately it is followed by a four-page piece about a Unipower GT that comes with new pictures that you will not have seen before. A good reason to buy it anyway.

Well-known archive pics, but no mention of Maximum Mini here

Friday 11 March 2011

Sarcon Scarab for sale

With only two cars built by the late Allan Staniforth between 1969 and 1972 it's not very often that you see a Sarcon Scarab for sale. Still then, the prototype was sold only four years ago with the original and complete set of chassis jigs and body moulds. Some years after that I found out that the only other (production) car, this one fitted with fibreglass body instead of aluminium as on the prototype, survived too. That particular car was sprinted and hill climbed in the 1970s by a chap named Rick Branson but went off the radar after that. Funnily it re-appeared not in the UK but in Belgium still in its original blue colour. The current owner told me he planned to restore the car but never got around to finish it. He has now decided to sell the car (click here for the advertisement). The price may be on the steep side, however you'll have serious trouble finding another one!

Sarcon Scarab survived in Belgium, but in poor state

A complete restoration was planned but never finished

Now for sale. It's almost unique but remains unfinished

Thursday 10 March 2011

1967 festival footage

Okay, okay, the Americans had their Woodstock Festival which is said to have been pretty good, but the Summer of Love gave the Brits the 'Mini Festival' that BMC organized on the 24th of May 1967 at Brands Hatch. And that, too, appears to have been quite a day, as you may have already seen on this cool footage that somebody was so kind to post on youtube. Psychedelic wheels abundant in the beginning with Minis dressed up as a plane, a boat, a dog house, a merry-go-round and - goodness - a compost heap. What did these guys smoke? But then at a sudden it gets really interesting with a string of Mini derivatives following. Apart from the Moke with hardtop in Gold Leaf colours at 1:30 you may notice:

1:49 - Mini Marcos Mk2 (I think)
1:51 - Timeire (a cool one-off that unfortunately does not survive)
1:52 - Landar R6
1:55 - Cuda Mini
1:56 - Unipower GT Mk2 (I think)
1:57 - Cox GTM (or an early Heerey GTM, I can't tell)
2:00 - Mini Jem Mk1
2:01 - Another Mini Jem Mk1 (that looks much like the car that was built by Hot Car magazine)

And now with some cutting and pasting... voila!

I have seen a few more pictures of the festival and it appears more unusual Mini based creatures made it to Brands Hatch that sunny day. Among them an awesome selection of Mini Margraves by Wood & Pickett and a few MiniSprints. With so many fans attending there must surely be more pictures..?

Wednesday 9 March 2011

C&SC Bumper issue

Classic and Sports Cars' latest (April) issue just arrived here and it turns out to be a bit of a Mini derivative bumper issue. In the first place there is a story on the Greece Beach Car (see more by clicking here, here and here) in what is my favourite section of the magazine, 'Lost and Found'. But least as interesting on these same pages is the MiniSprint Estate that was used by Rob Walker Racing as a fast delivery van. The car was thought lost for decades but has now resurfaced in Western Australia in a sorry state, but with plans to restore it. Furthermore there is finally a good interview with Anita Taylor, the gorgeous racing driver who managed to beat many of the men in the 1960s driving Fords and Minis. Together with brother Trevor she also piloted a low slong and rear engined Mini based special named Aurora. Unfortunately there is hardly any mention of that car in the article but it may ever make it to an article as it survives to this day and, like the Beach Car and the MiniSprint, will once be restored. Now, go and buy that magazine.

That's the MiniSprint estate in its heyday. Picture: Cars & Car Conversions

And that's the cover you should be looking for

Monday 7 March 2011

A thing of status

If I had to write something about all the Mini based beauties that pop up on eBay I could fill this blog with them. I may better not, although I couldn't resist mentioning this one here (click). It is, of course a Status 365 body. That's pretty rare. As you may now only 38 were made but I know of only one such car that actually is on the road. But there is another reason for bringing it up here too: the ad itself. Alledgedly being totally serious the seller writes: "Hi and welcome to my auction for my Ferrari fibreglass shell to fit a classic Mini. This rare fibreglass shell fits straight on to a set of classic Mini subframes. The shell is in good condition and looks very individual. 70's retro and comes with everything needed to complete, front screens, rear screen etc. Just needs dona (sic) car." That's just brilliant mate.
Status 365 shell, it may even be unused. But it's not a Ferrari

Friday 4 March 2011

Camber/Maya files: FNU400H

Blimey, this has become a bit of a special story that I only recently found out about. Take a big breathe if you are interested in this third part of the Camber/Maya files series, with special attention to the Camber GT with registration FNU400H. I have only been able to track down much of its history recently thanks to the car's last two owners and have found out that its a most unusual history too.

Log book for a most unusual Camber GT, or was it Nerus GT?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Where to start? Well, logically that would be on 20 October 1969 when the car was registered. But it now appears that this wasn't the first time the car was registered. In fact, I am sure it is the same car that I described last time: DEN70D. So what could have been the reason for that? Well, as you may remember DEN70D, with its modified head lights, was shown at the Racing Car Show in January 1967 at the stand of Camber distributer 'Checkpoint Race & Rally Equipment Ltd.' that had also become the owner of Hastings based Nerus Engineering: a tuner that specialized in Minis. And what better way to promote your engineering company than with your own sports car? Yep, they turned the Camber GT into the Nerus GT by just re-registering it and putting another badge on its bonnet. Nerus also happened to be involved into the development of a Silhouette type race car which used the same badge. All easy! 

All the badges that have graced the cars: Camber, Nerus and Maya
Pictures Jeroen Booij archive

According to the log book Checkpoint's sold the car to somebody in Prestbury, Cheshire, bought it back in september 1970 to sell it again to Bangor, North Wales. More owners followed: a garage in Aylesbury and a man in Ardley, Bicester. But it wasn't until 1988 that Simon Mogford spotted it in an advertisement and went to collect it in Oxford. The reason for Simon's interest was a good one too: his father was sub-contracted in 1966-1967 to build the Camber and Maya GT for George Holmes! Simon says: "My dad has his own engineering company down in Hastings back then and this project was just work that came along. He produced the whole car. and I remember him redesigning the head lights too. I also remember going with him to Brightom to get screws for the car's dashboards."

The Camber GT (or Nerus GT - note Nerus badge) as bought by Simon in 1988
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Head lights make clear it can only be the show car. Note flared arches
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Remarkably Simon's father Kenneth Mogford recognized the car as the one on the Racing Car Show stand. And even more remarkable: albeit without its Nerus tuned engine Simon bought the car with all the moulds, including that for the Camber-, as for the Maya nose section too! Simon continues: "When we moved to the isle of Man I took the car with me in 1992. My dad and I reckoned that at the time, with all the interest from Japan in the Mini Marcos, there could be a market for them and we figured that we could sell new bodies at 850 GBP. But unfortunately we never had the finances to do it. When I moved back to Hampshire I took the car and all the moulds with me and decided to sell it as I never got round to restore the car."

The original builder Kenneth Mogford planned a revival for the Camber GT!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And this is where the last owner, Mini enthusiast Andy Clayton, comes in. Andy bought the Nerus registered Camber GT in 1998 with the idea to restore it to its former glory. But as he was also in the process of buying a house back then he decided the car project had to wait for a while and Andy parked it on a site in Bramley where dozens of club members of the Mini Cooper Register kept their cars too. But this is where disaster struck in July 2003. Andy: "There was a massive fire destroying most of the Minis and my car too. The sites around it where developed for housing and it is suspected that somebody put fire to the building to get rid of the Minis and be able to start building there, too." Soon after the fire the site was cleared and Andy believed that the moulds where destroyed too. It later appeared this was not the case but remains unsure if they survive to this day. Andy: "They could have been thrown in a skip." Simon Mogford heard of the fire too and went to have a look but did not find any evidence of the moulds surviving. And that's where the unusual story of FNU400H ends. Funnily 'Nerus Engineering and Co Ltd.' is still in business in Worthing, but while they specialize in motor bodies they have nothing to do with the old company apart from the name that they have taken over. It really ends here and unfortunately this story won't be continued.

On the Bramley site in a sorry state. Original silver grey was under orange paint
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

As the interior shows there was plenty of work to do there, too
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Ouch! And this is what is left of the Camber GT after the fire. What a shame
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Drag strip derivative

Mini variants have been entered in just about any kind of motor sport, but drag racing? Yes, even in drag racing, as this picture proves. The unlikely contraption that you see on it was named 'Sod Buster' and could be seen in the B class during the 1967 drag racing season on Santa Pod raceway. It was raced by a gentleman named Jack Fisher who timed it at 13.967 seconds at a speed of 92.17mph on the drag strip. Compare that to a modern Bugatti Veyron that takes the quarter mile in 10.2 secs @ 141mph and I guess its not even that bad.
Note the chunky Webers. Picture: Brian Sparrow