Thursday 28 April 2011

The season is here!

What a lovely start for the 2011 season we had last weekend. It's the time when I start planning trips and events. What are your plans? Let me know if you have something Mini based to tell or show. Stories and pictures on shows, races, projects, road trips and holiday travels: anything goes!

A much modified Mini Marcos Mk4 qualifying last Easter Monday at Castle Combe. Picture: Will Belcher

UPDATE: Richard Porter of the Mini Marcos club adds via e-mail: "That was Matthew Howell in Pete Crudgington's 'Granny Smith Racing' Mini Marcos when he had a bit of an excursion at Camp corner during practice for the President's Cup race for 4- and 6-cylinder Marcos cars. He had already set the fastest lap by nearly 2 seconds. The race itself was interrupted while a big Marcos was recovered. Howell was beaten off pole by some of the 1800s and 3-litres but outcornered them one by one to win by a comfortable margin. Two other Minis driven be Ewen Sergison and Gideon Hudson provided some entertainment further down the field, until Hudson retired his yellow Mk.III just before the red flags came out." Thanks Richard!

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Camber/Maya files: NPM14F

It's about time for a follow up in our little Camber/Maya series, so here we go. Other then the last time (click here), but especially the one before (here now), there is very little information on the fifth Camber GT that I found out about. The car is (or was? It's not in the DVLA database) registered 'NPM14F' making it a 1967 registration. That means this car may well have been built around a brand new Mini base although it may have been reregistered too.
Anyway: I have found only two pictures of it wearing a particularly nice two-tone paint scheme and wheels that supposedly come from a Triumph. But hang on, if you look closely to the front you may also notice that it is fitted with pop up headlights! Probably a conversion done privately, but what a nice touch it is. I wonder if Camber bosses George Holmes and Derek Bisshop ever thought of it themselves…

UPDATE July 2011: We have tracked it down! Story here.
UPDATE March 2014: And now with colour picture. Click here
UPDATE August 2022: Pictures emerge of the car in its long-term hiding place. Click here

Nice paint scheme. Wheels are supposedly Triumph and seem to be 12"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Original Camber GT nose is modified and comes with pop up headlights
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Bitten by the Bison (2)

There are many good ways of spending Easter but our man Buffalo Bill has certainly not been drooling around with eggs as he's spent most of the days in his shed working on the CJC Bison. Good man. He writes: "I have, with much elbow grease, been able to prove that it IS possible to polish a turd! The CJC now gleams (apart from all the bits where there are chips, scratches etc.) - and it is amazing how good it looks!"

"The brakes are fixed, the master cylinders changed (which was an 'interesting' job - the builder had clearly fitted the masters before he attached the body to the chassis...) and most of the electrics now work. It was also like it had the stiffest clutch ever made in it, which was also soaked in oil, so I pulled the flywheel off (when I take the engine out, there is one part of the chassis that im going to chop and move about 10mm, that will make the job far easier) and once the flywheel was off the reason for the clutch problem became apparent, as the bronze bush in the primary gear was spinning and was so worn that it was down to the steel, it had actually overlapped itself where the split is in it. I think the gear itself is junk, but that's a job for next time."

"I've had a good response from the neigbours (bar the noise of the thing, thats another job I have to sort!), my friend's wife thought it was a TR7 while another neigbour thought it was a Ferrari (what's even funnier is that her son actually does own a proper one!). Anyway: I am going to make the templates for the glass this week so I can get that ordered, and I was hoping to be able to cut the bond and ease the glass out, but on closer inspection it is so fragile it's just going to break."

CJC Bison: clutch and most of electrics are now sorted out... are the master cylinders. Note pretty amazing Countach style interior

Thursday 21 April 2011

Unsolved mysteries

Just one more plead to take a look at the unsolved Mystery Mini derivatives that have been featured here. As said, 4 out of 10 have been cracked. That still leaves us with 6 obscurities that need deciphering...

Cracked: a Moke lookalike, Japanese racer, buggy and Elf Sprint, see below

To be cracked: Mini based sports cars and utilities. See below for details

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Mystery Mini derivative (10)

After six months that this blog is in the air it's time for the 10th Mystery Mini derivatives now. Out of the previous 9 mysteries 4 were solved by you guys. Not bad. But here is a bit of a special one as I have been looking for more information on it for many years now, but have failed to find out much.

First there was the old ad from a well-known classic motoring mag. I got in touch with the seller who unfortunately could not remember whom he sold the car to, while most of his archives were destroyed in a flood and he lost all photographs and records of older transactions. Hmmm.

Then there was the colour picture, sent in by Emilien Pillot of France, who took it in 1993 when the car was offered for sale at another garage in Newhaven. This garage appeared to have vanished but I tracked down the previous owner who then said he could not remember the car. Hmmm. How on earth can you forget that shape? So there we go. Once again any information on this unusual rear engined sporty is welcome.

This gullwinged Mini based creature proves to be a hard nut to crack

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Bitten by the Bison

You will surely remember the CJC Bison: the 'Mini Countach' that was offered for sale recently (click here if not). Well, meanwhile the car is sold to a friend of this blog who wishes to remain anonymous but is kind enough to keep us posted on the resurrection of the beast. Let's call him Buffalo Bill. Initially he was rather sceptical about the car, calling it 'Count-tacky' and 'Lambaguni Testicala' but now that he's picked it up that's all changed. He writes: "It is far better than expected. There is a full 'S' motor (inc. box); 'S' front discs; 'S' master cylinders; 'S' servo; Weber carburettor with 'Team Coldwell' manifold and fully rose jointed rear suspension (similar to early Cox/GTM but far better in design and layout). It is running a steel box chassis with Mini suspension grafted into it, with proper anti-roll bars and coil overs. I bet it handles very well. The quality of the design and the grp is amazing, far better built then many cars that I have seen."

"The worse part is the trim which is wreaked due to the water pouring in through the gaps. All the glass is knackered as well, a lot of its de-laminated, so it needs most of it remaking. I got it going today, it took a while as all the loom is either red or blue wire - of course nothing inside works and all the fuel pipes had broken! Once it fired it roused the dead - man its loud! It is the first Mini engine I have ever started that was blowing as much flame out the Weber as it was out the exhaust! Amazingly it did drive, but the clutch is sticking. The rear wheels are awesome as well, they are 8 x 13 with 225/60 tyres - man, thats going to cost!!"

"Next weekend I am going to swop the master cylinders, the rubber brake, clutch and fuel lines and the front discs - hopefully it will MOT easily - it certainly looks as if it will. It has been built with some care, everything has little access hatchs, so, for example if you need to swop a headlamp bulb, you simply open the little hatch and easy as that! Who ever built it was obviously a) a clever guy, and b) must have wasted a fortune!"

The CJC Bison runs after some much needed TLC by our man 'Buffalo Bill'

Monday 18 April 2011

Cox GTM and coachbuilt Minis in mags

An unspoilt Cox GTM is rare, so the chances of finding one in Hungary may be virtually extinct. Still, there is a beatifully restored example of the species in the hands of Gergõ Fehér in that country. Gergõ bought the car in derelict state in Scotland and worked years on its restoration that is featured in this month's (May) Mini magazine. Nice story, superb car. Go and buy that magazine.

Gergõ Fehér's restored Cox GTM in Mini magazine...

More Mini derivatives in magazines this month as TKC Mag (that's what Total Kit Car magazine officially is named) writes about coachbuilt Minis describing the Radford, Wood & Pickett, Oyler Contessa and Bertone Mini VIP. You won't find new information here and the pictures are well-known too but this is part one of a series so we may be surprised in the next TKC mag.

...and coachbuilt Minis in first part of 'TKC mag' series

Thursday 14 April 2011

Innocenti based Beach cars

Let's stay in Italy for another while after our Targa Florio exploits. Lovely food and wine, nice folk and some great cars there. Hang on, forget the obvious stuff from Modena and Maranello, I'm talking Mini derivatives here. What else? And the Minimach certainly is not on its own. How about some sunny Mini based beach cars from Italy? They're different from the English ones. And just three of these were built on Innocenti Mini base by a coach builder named ORO. They were given the name 'Mini Mare' and at least one is known to have ended up as a tender to the private yacht of Mister Ferdinando Innocenti himself. All three cars were said to be similar with wood surrounds plus wicker work seats, boot, grille and bumpers although they came in different colours: white and ivory. One of the three cars was also said to have been forlorn in a fire but that now seems to be untrue as pictures of a third car were made by Francesco Marziali of Florence, Italy recently. And with bright orange paint and an unusual spot light at the roof that third Mini Mare is least as striking as the other two.

First of the Mini Mares was owned by Ferdinando Innocenti. Picture: Mark Zerafa

And Innocenti Mini Mare number 2 in ivory paint. Picture: Mostra Scambio 

And the missing number 3 with unusual roof spot. Picture: Francesco Marziali

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Minimach film footage

Like me, you may have liked yesterday's pictures of the Italian ESAP Minimach in competition during the 1968 Targa Florio. Then you may also like this 8mm film that is digitalized and uploaded on youtube. It gives a bit of the atmosphere of what it must have been like on Sicily in May '68 with brutally strong machinery in between the olive trees. Look really good and you will spot the Minimach at 4:20!
8mm evidence of the ESAP Minimach in '68 Targa Florio

Source: youtube

Monday 11 April 2011

Minimach at the Targa Florio

Mini derivatives a very British affair? Surely. But let's not forget the odd Italian too, like the fascinating ESAP Minimach: a car that was clearly inspired by the Unipower GT. In fact the prototype was based on one, and that's why Universal Power Drives Ltd. was not particularly pleased when they heard of it for the first time when entered for the 1968 Targa Florio. I never found any pictorial evidence of the car in that event and when I went to Italy to see the Minimach in the flesh and speak to the creator's daughter it was rather dissapointing that she did not have any pics either. But thanks to 'Enzomanz' some pictures of the ESAP Minimach in anger at the Sicilian event have now appeared at the forum The same car was entered that year in the 1000 kilometres of Monza too and two more pictures of the car in that event have been uploaded too. Thank you Enzomanz, whoever you are!

Sicily here we come! First of the two ESAP Minimachs did the '68 Targa Florio

Cool colour shot at the Targa Florio. ESAP is followed by equally rare Fiat Moretti

Next Italian event: the 1000 kms of Monza in 1968. Note Gulf GT40 behind

Monza 1968 again. Twin oil coolers will have been much needed in Italian heat

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Biota bonus

After yesterday's Dutch Biota galore here another unseen show picture that I dug up from the archives. This was not taken at Amsterdam but at the London Racing Car Show in January 1968, where the Biota brand made its debut. In fact the bright green Biota Mk1 on show was the prototyype with aluminium body and was used to plug a mould later that year by Specialized Mouldings Ltd. of Huntingdon.
Bill Needham, who was involved with the Biota's development provided me with this cool shot when I interviewed him about another Mini derivative he built: the Coldwell GT. Needham never liked the car, he told me back then. My idea was to use the picture for my book but it was in a too sorry state to do so. So there we go now for the blog. Thanks again Bill!
Too scruffy for the book but not for this blog: unseen pic of Biota Mk1 prototype
By the way: the car survives and is undergoing restoration

Monday 4 April 2011

Today, 40 years ago

These days my mailbox gets jammed with press releases that are related to the upcoming Amsterdam motor show that is held close to my home. I am not much interested in the 'AutoRAI' as it is named but I'm sure I would have been 40 years ago, when Biota launched their car on this particular show, and brought over from Dinnington a Mk1 with hardtop giving the little Mini derivative gull wing doors. I have never seen such a hardtop fitted to a Biota and doubt if they ever sold any. But fact is that the little roadster managed to attract some buyers in The Netherlands, proving that marketing does sell cars!
I know of four cars on Dutch grounds and there may even be more. The yellow Biota Mk1 registered '48-72-RR' made it to my book as did the unregistered red car. That is in fact the very last Biota Mk2 ever built and comes with full Cooper S spec. It was never put on the road and remains unregistered to this day. 

UPDATE 9 July 2012: Another Biota Mk2 surfaces in The Low Countries. Click here

Biota ad that proudly mentions the Amsterdam Motor Show

Dutch Biota Mk1 that made it to the book. It's a lovely car

Another Dutch Biota Mk1. Unfortunately I have never seen it in the flesh 

This Dutch owned and registered Biota is a Mk1 with Mk2 nose

Still unregistered, the very last Biota resides in The Low Countries too