Thursday 28 July 2011

I need you for Maximum Mini

Ladies and gentlemen, I need your help.

For my next visit to the UK I could do with another one or two (or three) photographable cars. There are quite a few really rare machines that I am still chasing, but meanwhile there are some more, ahem, regular ones that I'd like to have featured in the next book, too. However, so far I haven't been able to track them down. See them in the list below in alphabetical order. If you happen to have one of these, or know somebody who may know somebody who owns one, please get in touch through the comments below or at

ABC Tricar - yes, the three-wheeler, see more here
ASD Minim - according to its builder 7 were built, see also here
Beaver Mini - again 7 of them were around at one time, see here
Boxer Sprint - at least one was built as shows the brochure
Brookwell Trifid - four made, but are there any survivors?
Elswick Envoy - plenty of them made, but who has a proper one?
GTM Rossa Mk1 - I only see Mk2s - the earlier cars seem rare
Heerey GTM - these should be around in the UK. Who has one?
Magenta - I prefer the Magenta Sprint but like the 1100 based one, too
MDV Van - I have seen pictures of a few, but not one in the flesh
Mean Sonora - Do any Mini-based Sonoras survive at all?
Minus Maxi - And did anyone ever see one of these lately? Pic below
Navajo - Again 7 were built. The one that I know of is totally dismantled
Onyx Tomcat or Bobcat - There should be plenty of these around
Ranger Cub - These seem much rarer then the supposed 200 built, pic below
Seagull - At least one was made, and that's the one in the brochure, see below

Who could not love the 3-wheeled Ranger Cub? I need one to photograph

Mini based Seagull. It's strange, it's rare and I'd be dead keen to see one

A Minus Maxi. On the web you can find a blue one too, but who owns one?

Minimach returns to Sicily

We have seen period pictures (here) and even a lightning fast bit of film footage (here) of the ESAP Minimach during the 1968 Targa Florio at Sicily, but isn't it nice to know that the car returned to the island last Summer, too? Current owner Stefano took the car to Sicily for the Ruote a Raggi Rally to drive the same twisty road circuit that it did over 40 years ago! Keti Padoan, youngest daughter of ESAP founder and Minimach builder Gianfranco Padoan was there too, driving an MG TD.

Palm trees, sun and a rare Mini derivative. That's Keti behind the wheel
Picture courtesy:

And another shot of the ESAP Minimach 40 years earlier when Keti's father drove it at Sicily

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Minis at Le Mans: 1969

This is the last in the Le Mans series as no Mini powered cars made it to the French track after 1969. That year, a Unipower works car was entered to the endurance race. Production for the Unipower GT was taken over a year earlier by Piers Weld-Forester who began to concentrate on a comprehensive racing publicity campaign. He had three light weight works cars built and entered one for the 24-hours race of Le Mans in June 1969. The car is said to have been built with a special ultra light carbon fibre body by Specialized Mouldings but I am not too sure if that is the same car that was used at the Le Mans test day on 30 March 1969 (it was - UPDATE here). When you look at the pictures below you will notice that there are quite a few differences in the test day entry (number 53) and the actual 24-hour race entry (number 47). Number 53 did well at the test day, when it came in 24th overall. It is the car that survives today in the hands of Gerry Hulford who owns it since 1976 (UPDATE - unfortunately it does not survive but was written off in September 1970 - more here)

During the actual race in June 1969 Weld-Forester was to drive the special light weight Unipower GT together with Stanley Robinson, a customer who had bought the works racer. During practise it was reputedly clocked at 140mph on Mulsanne Straight and the French nicknamed it ‘la puce jaune’ (the yellow flea) for it being both tiny as fast. When it later lost a wheel at speed there was no serious damage, however the Unipower did not qualify for the race, probably because the time it set at practise was not enough for its class. So despite all the effort the Unipower team was never able to prove itself at Le Mans. Once again, the 1969 event was won by a Ford GT40.

Stanley Robinson kept on campaigning the Le Mans car after its maiden race, and did the 1969 Nurburgring 500 kilometres in it (9th in class); the 1970 Spa 1000 Kilometres (did not finish) and the 1970 Nurburgring 1000 kilometres (32nd overall). After that he converted the Mini based race car to Ford Cosworth FVA power and kept on racing it throughout Europe until it was written off at the Nurburgring in 1970.

The Le Mans Unipower GT is ready for testing. I think this is still in London

But this clearly is the Le Mans pit street. No mirrors for aerodynamic reasons?

And a colour picture at the very same place. This is test day on March 30, 1969

And a rear view please. Note wide arches and ventilation holes in rear screen
Picture courtesy l'Automobile

Number 53 Unipower GT came in at a respectable 24th on the test day
Picture courtesy

This number 47 is the actual Le Mans entry. I think it is an entirely different car
Picture courtesy Beroul

The air duct now runs along the complete front. And that's a massive spot light!
Picture sent in by Roald Rakers

During qualification the car made 140mph but unfortunately it did not qualify
Picture courtesy

UPDATE 27 February 2013: More insights and details about the Unipowers at Le Mans. Click here

PS: Drop me a line in the comments below when you enjoyed my articles about Minis at Le Mans. I may be tempted to do a similar series for Mini derivatives in other famous races or at other famous tracks as I have so much more material. See for the other posts in this series:

Monday 25 July 2011

Deep Sanderson makes healthy price

It's been sold: the aluminium bodied Deep Sanderson 301 that was auctioned this weekend (more here and here) at Silverstone Auctions' inaugural sale. Not for the 46,000-50,000 price that was estimated, but for 40,000 pounds. Still enough to become the best paid-for Mini derivative that I know of. The seller believes it could have made more, but is happy with the price that was paid for it in the auction as the market is considered to be weak at the moment. He says the car is bought by a European man, based in the UK. It will remain in its home country and will be raced regularly in the future, too. That's nice.

UPDATE 2 August 2011: Now that the auctioner has published their results it appears that the car did not make 40,000 but 36,000 pounds. The seller wrote to me to explain: "The hammer price was £36,000. You then add 10% commission to that - £39,600. Then you add in VAT of 20% on that commission, giving a total of £40,320. I earned £40,000 for my car. The man ended up paying well over £41,000 when you factor in transport costs etc."

The Deep Sanderson 301 races towards a healthy price
Picture courtesy Andrew Wright 

Thursday 21 July 2011

Rare pics of ultra rare Marcos

Look at these. They are tiny pictures that were sent over to me years ago. Because they are so small, I have put them together. But they show a super rare Mini derivative that I'd want to share with you never the less.

In fact, I believe it could be the only vehicle of its kind left in the world. It's the Autocars estate, based on a Mini and built by Jem Marsh of Marcos fame. So in a way it is a Mini Marcos, but not as we know it. Marcos built six prototypes for the motor manufacturer Autocars in Haifa, Israel. Four were estates, the other two fastback saloons. And according to Rory McMath who worked at Marcos at the time, they came in red, yellow, blue and green. At least one of the estates was used for crash testing at MIRA and three (two estates, one saloon) were shipped over to Israel. But production of the cars never came off the ground (an unlikely story - read it in my book, it's illustrated with nine more lovely shots, both historic and current).

What happened to the other cars is mostly shrouded in mystery. The saloon that made it to Israel ended in a kindergarten as a kiddies toy, but according to Yohay Shinar, who sent me pictures of it, it is gone there now. One of the estates, red in colour, is said to have been used by Jem Marsh's wife Judith for years and was spotted by Rory McMath some 10 years ago for the last time. The yellow estate car that can be seen here survived and was restored in the early 1990s after which it was exported to Japan. These snap shots were taken just after it arrived there, but it hasn't seen much use since. I saw the car twice while in Tokyo and unfortunately have to say it is a a considerably worse state now. That's, too, why I like these pictures. Anybody out here who ever saw one of the other five cars built?

Autocars Marcos estate that's in Japan could be the only survivor of its kind
(click up for bigger image)

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Mystery Mini derivative (13)

Attention to all mudpluggers: what is this car? It is said to be Mini based, and the wheels certainly give an indication to its motorisation, but that is all I know. Could it be one of the twelve chassis, built by Brian Luff in the early 1970s to become a Status Minipower? Fact is that some of these very ingenious chassis' were built up with self-designed bodies and used for autocross racing. So who will say?

Could this Mini based autocross special be based upon a Status Minipower chassis?

Monday 18 July 2011

Other Deep Sandersons for sale

Will the Deep Sanderson 301 that I wrote about on Thursday really make 50K at auction this Saturday? (UPDATE: It won't, see here). It's clearly a historic machine, but it would also be the highest price ever paid for a Mini derivative (or at least that I know of - let me know when you know better). Anyway: I thought you might like to take a look at the prices that Deep Sandersons made in the past, and so collected some old advertisements. We've seen that the car that will be auctioned on the 23rd was advertised twice in the late seventies/early eighties for respectively £1000 (click) and £2000 (click), but here are some others:

July 1964: LawrenceTune sell out. A Deep Sanderson 301 1964 Le Mans car among it
'Best offer from  £700 will be accepted'
Picture: Guy Loveridge

August 1966: another Deep Sanderson 301 is offered for sale. Asking price is £350
Picture: Anthony Hines

September 1980: the Deep Sanderson 301 with chassis number 6 is advertised for £2400
Picture: Jeroen Booij

Last but not least, this car (click) is currently for sale too. It is said to be chassis number '1001' but I have my doubts about that as it was built up in 2004 from an unused body and chassis with number '1007' that was owned by Chris Gow for quite a few years and later acquired by racer and collector extraordinaire Duncan Rabagliati. Christopher Lawrence took over the body and chassis from Rabagliati (for £5100) when these were sold at an auction in April 1998 and beautifully turned them into a car to race at the Le Mans Classic in 2004. It has to be the best looking DS301 and was also the car that was used for photographs in 'Maximum Mini'. Shortly after I photographed it, it was sold at auction to Japan for £34,500 in September 2005. The Bonhams auction catalogue described it back then as: "This car, chassis number ‘DS3GT 1001’ was one of the two 301 Coupés which were built for, and ran at, Le Mans in 1964. Driven by Chris Lawrence/Gordon Spice, this car was the one that actually took part in the race, the other having been seriously damaged at White House in practice (read the story here). After 40 years in storage the car was totally rebuilt by Chris Lawrence for the 2004 Le Mans Classic with the help of a partial road car kit from the Rabagliati Collection, and is wholly authentic with total documented history and FIA papers."

Thursday 14 July 2011

Le Mans Deep Sanderson to be auctioned

The only Deep Sanderson 301 with aluminium body, built by Williams and Pritchard in 1961, is offered for auction on 23 July this year. I have tried to trace its history with some of the documents and pictures that I found, as the car in case is a rather special one. It is the 'DS 301' that was shown at the London Racing Car Show in January 1962 and the car that was raced at Le Mans in 1963 (click here for story) and entered for Le Mans in 1964 although it did not make it to the race that year due to an accident (click here). Strangely, the car wears chassis number '16', but perhaps that may have anything to do with the 1964 crash after which it must have been rebuilt. The works number '2 ARX' that it wears is unfortunately not with the car at the moment. Although there are some pictures of it with that number, it is said to have never been road registered untill 1970. It now comes with the registration number 'DGN 804H'. Designer and builder Christopher Lawrence sold it in Spring 1970 after it was registered and it made some appearances in ads and on pictures since. The current owner bought the car only a few years ago to have it restored by Lawrence, and it was raced a few times in the last two years. It is now estimated to make a price of 46-50,000 pounds when auctioned later this month. Not bad when you take a look at the old advertisements that I found! When interested in the auctioning of this piece of motoring history, click here.

UPDATE: It's been sold, but not for the estimate. See here.

The aluminium body takes shape at Williams and Pritchard's in Winter 1961
Picture courtesy Williams and Pritchard Register

The first Deep Sanderson 301 in primrose yellow, just finished for the Racing Car Show

Here the car can be seen at Le Mans in 1963, it is green by that time

And this is what it looked like after the crash while testing at Le Mans the next year 

Car and creator: Chris Lawrence in the Deep Sanderson just before he sold it in 1970
UPDATE 7 May 2012: This is not Lawrence but Bob Duncan some years later. Full story here

In the late 1970s it was offered for sale privately at 1000 pounds only...

...While in the early 1980s its asking price had doubled to 2000 pounds

This is a FIA document that I have of the car. It dates from 1986 

And here it can be seen in 1995 at Silverstone. I don't think the '2 ARX' plate is real

And finally, the car as it was in Spring 2011. Estimate is 46- to 50,000 GBP now...
Picture courtesy Guy Loveridge

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Another Camber GT survivor

Good news from the Camber/Maya front as I understand that another car survives. First there was this one; now it is the Camber GT registered NPM 14F (click here for more) that appears to be still with us, too. Rebecca, who got in touch, wrote: "I am emailing you on behalf of my dad. He built and still owns the Camber GT pictured on your site, registration NPM 14F. As a child I remember this car in the condition you show on the pics. Sadly it's not like that now as when I was about 7 he hit the dustbin lorry and wiped out the front, but he has kept it and is always saying he will one day restore it. I am now 38 and it still is in a sorry state. He has lots of photo's and info about them and I'm sure you would learn alot from him."

Rebecca was kind enough to give me her dad's phone number, so I got in touch with Derek to ask him a bit more about the car. Derek was more then happy to discuss the car and he told he'd built it in 1967 and taxed it a year later. He bought the kit directly from George Holmes who was in his late 30s or early 40s while Derek was 26 or 27 at the time. He used it as a daily driver and made a trip to Germany in the car in 1968 or 1969, remembering it felt pretty small on the autobahns in between all the big BMWs and Mercs! Originally it used the 850 engine of the Mini that Derek used as a donor, but after a few years it was replaced by a 1000. Another couple of years on and it was time to fit a 1300 with race cam and big valved Cooper 'S' head! According to Derek the big SUs that he fitted, too, were perhaps a bit too big.

On the few pictures on my blog, the car was black with a stripe, but according to Derek it had various colours in its earlier life. Originally it was red, but at one time it became gold with a yellow stripe and people used to call it 'the Banana Split'. Derek says the car needs a comprehensive restoration now but he has too much work on his hands to do that at the time. Funnily he met one of the chaps who used to work in George Holmes' workshop, building the cars. They got to talk about the Camber and Derek was given a brand new badge that he'd kept all the time. Derek says: "That makes me think it's got to be done one day!" When there's more time, he will look up his old pictures, so stay tuned for those.

UPDATE August 2022: Pictures have emerged from the car in its long-term hiding place. Click here

Derek's Camber GT in happier times. The pop-up lights were his own design

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Crikey, a turbo'd, fuel injected Sabre Sprint!

When was the last time you saw a Sabre Sprint? In my case, it's been a couple of years, so why not pay some attention to this little-known Mini derivative here? In fact, Sprint owner Wil Ker sent me some pictures of his car which he's had for a few years now.

He writes: "I see 'Buffalo Bill' keeps hassling you with his Bison news, so I thought I'd bother you with my Sabre Sprint. Although it has been turbocharged for 12 months now, I've never been happy with the carburettor. It was just impossible to calibrate properly, with a big compromise between cruise and driveability. So I took the plunge and fitted fuel injection. It's still early days and it needs tweeking, but I'm happy so far.  As it's a daily drive and fuel economy is key hopefully it'll pay for its self pretty soon. I am confident in saying that it's the only 998cc turbocharged fuel injected Sabre Sprint in the world, be nice to be proved wrong though!"

"On a seperate note, I'm soon to start making plans to get as many Mini variants (or other quirky kit cars such as Clans) joining me on a trip to the IMM in Hungary next summer. My plan is to do it as a charity run. My Nimbus will hopefully make it there too, being driven by a mate or my Brother." Now that's what I call a great idea mate. Who likes to join the club?

That's Wil's Sabre Sprint. Don't say it looks like a Mk3 Ford Escort. He knows that  

But, hey, you won't find that under any Sprint's bonnet. Mini engine, yes, but turbo'd and fuel injected!

Friday 8 July 2011

Wanted: ABC Tricar

A rare ABC Tricar has turned up on eBay this week, but unfortunately the Mini based three-wheeler is in a terrible state and has a non-original repro 'Clubman' nose. However, it made me wonder again if somebody knows of a Tricar that is slightly more photogenic, as I'd love to shoot one on my next visit to the UK. In my own archives I found details of five cars (you may note that they all come with local - Brierley Hill, Dudly - registration numbers!) and you can find out more about these below. Any help in tracking down a good example of the breed would be very much appreciated.

AFD 95J - Yellow, the works demonstrator, on sorn since 1986
LFD 504L - Yellow, now in Minnesota USA, too far for me at the moment!
EFD 654K - Green (originally white), on sorn since 1990 and very rough, Cardiff
HFD 601K - Red, on the road, seen in Leek at car show in 2008
XFD 90H - Blue, on the road, but where?

An ABC Tricar as seen in Leek, Staffordshire in 2008. Who knows its whereabouts?
Picture courtesy John B./

The eBay ABC. It's non-standard and very rough. Too bad for the book, unfortunately

UPDATE 6 september 2011: Trevor Powell, son of ABC Tricar designer Bill Powell, has a wealth of information about the Mini based three-wheeler that he is willing to share. See here

UPDATE 2 November 2011: Nothing heard of the man who reacted to this article, but by now I am in touch with the owner of the red car.

GRAND UPDATE 7 January 2021: Click here.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Minis at Le Mans: 1967

Quite unexpectedly 1966 had become a great year for the promotion of the Mini Marcos after it finished 15th overall in the 24 hours race at Le Mans (click here for the full story). Jem Marsh, amazed himself that the French built and French entered car finished, believed he could do better and so built up his own Le Mans Mini Marcos for the next year. In fact, two Mk3 works cars were built up with aerodynamic noses and spats over the rear wheels and were both used in a variety of races with their 1293cc engines, sup[posedly rally spec built. 'HHU34D' became the car to do Le Mans, but before it went to France it was also used by the FLIRT racing team (First Ladies International Racing Team), click here for some superb film footage of girls driving the car at Castle Combe! 

At Le Mans, Marsh was to drive the car himself together with Christopher Lawrence who, by then, had become a Le Mans veteran after having driven his Deep Sandersons there in 1963 (see here) and 1964 (see here). The two works cars were tested in April that year (numbers 51 and 63) by Marsh himself and Tim Lalonde who'd driven several races for Marcos Racing before at the Nurburgring and Mugello. They did well and supposedly made 141mph at the Mulsanne straight. Lalonde came in 31st out of 41 cars entered, most much bigger. 

But trouble started at the scrutineering when a French driver who was first reserve protested the roof line of HHU34D, hoping to get a race himself (you can't blame the British for often not being the biggest fans of the French!). But determined to race Marsh and Lawrence worked overnight, cutting the roof, replacing the windscreen at a different angle and pop riveting an aluminium sheet over it to finish it off with Aerosol. They just managed to have the car finished on time for the next morning. Imagine the surprise of the officials when the little team came back for having it scrutineered once again! They couldn't find anything wrong with it now. According to Marsh the more upright screen made the works Mini Marcos 5mph slower, but at least they could qualify it for the race. Lawrence started the race and went well, but it wasn't for long. When the timing gear on the 1293cc rally spec engine broke they were forced to retire in that very first stint after just 13 laps. Disillused they went home.

However, the works car did race more succesfully at other events. Jem Marsh came tenth overall in the Coppa Citta di Enna in Italy in August 1967, fifth in class at the Nurburgring 500 kilometres that year and 15th overall in the nine-hour race at Kyalami in South-Africa. The car remained on that continent and was restored in Zimbabwe some years ago. 

UPDATE 26 June 2020: I don't believe the car in Zimbabwe is the 1967 Le Mans car anymore. It seems to me the car does survive though and is in a private collection in Japan - for more details click here.

UPDATE 1 July 2020: It seems I was wrong in my earlier update. Zimbabwe car looks to be the real deal after all..? Click here

The Mini Marcos works racer 'HHU34D' at Castle Combe at Easter 1967 
And here at Le Mans during testing on 9 April 1967. Tim Lalonde is driving
Picture courtesy Axel Desjardin

On the weighbridge prior to the Le Mans 24 hours race. Roof is unmodified here
Picture courtesy Beroul

And in the pit. Note altered roofline and raised wind screen, done the night before the start

The same car still with the raised roof, with Jem Marsh at Kyalami in South-Africa 

HHU34D survives in Zimbabwe where it underwent a major restoration some years ago
UPDATE 26 June 2020: Probably not the 1967 Le Mans car - click here
Picture courtesy Rob Noyes-Smith

The Le Mans Mini Marcos' engine as it is now with big Weber carburettor
UPDATE 26 June 2020: Probably not the 1967 Le Mans car - click here
Picture courtesy Rob Noyes-Smith

And the car's interior as it is now with a modern three-spoke wheel
UPDATE 26 June 2020: Probably not the 1967 Le Mans car - click here

Picture courtesy Rob Noyes-Smith

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Another unique BMC Special

Look at this! It is a one-off special, said to be based on an Austin or Morris 1100 (don't say I didn't warn you) but fitted with a 1275 engine. It is registered in 1969 as 'BMC Special' and last driven officially on the road in 1997. Now it is offered for sale for the enthusiast looking for something else. Don't say it's ugly as I absolutely love it! It's for sale at 400 pounds only. That's cheap! Thanks Richard Hawcroft for the tip.

UPDATE 10 July 2011: It's got a name: the Chambers Special, after its builder. And a one-off it is.

Now that is one way to customise your 1100! Nose looks much like that of New Era Mini

A baby Volvo P544? Relatively tall and round 4-seat body should be much spacier then its base

Speaking about period style, have a look at this dashboard with cool centre console 

'Frenched' Cortina rear lights suit the rear well. Could that be a modified MGB boot lid?

1275 engine may be from a Mini but scuttle is clearly 1100. It's a non runner now

Alto Duo is indeed a Guinness record car!

Remember this article? Well, Karl Bowers from the UK does, and he wrote to me recently about it with a (for me, at least) fantastic novelty. Bowers, in actual fact, was the man who drove the (only) electric Alto Duo to its Guinness Book of Records record on the M25 exactly 24 years ago today! He built one such car and both the body that I found in the UK as the chassis that is now part of the car that is in France belonged to that specific record car. Karl, who was surprised to find out they were split, writes: "When I showed my son the photos, he thought I should try and buy them back!"

So what exactly happened? Karl: "From about 1980 to 1990, I converted many cars to battery power and especially the Mini's. During that time I looked for a kit car supplier who provide a specialised very modern looking car that would capture the imagination (not like the Sinclair C5 at the time, which destroyed the potential of the electric car). And so, the ultimate aim for me, was to take on a challenge never achieved by an electric car. So, I modified the Alto Duo to handle the motor and battery pack system to achieve a 40mph cruising speed and a range of over 100 mile range and furthermore, to complete driving 'non-stop' around the M25 would be the ultimate challenge or dream, in my case."

So did he ever market it or intend to build more? Bowers: "During 1989 to 1990 there was a lot of interest in the car. The car appeared at two international motor shows and on national television and stirred up a lot of interest but, as you may know from experience, people and businesses get very excited about new things and then suddenly frightened off especially when it comes to buying or investing. In the attached photocopies are an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, and some newspaper coverage. I may have some more articles around hidden in my attic!"

Bowers' Alto Duo, originally a Mini derivative, has to be the only
 one that made it to the Guinness Book of Records...