Wednesday 28 December 2011

Cox GTM is Best Find of 2011

The poll for the Best Mini derivative found in 2011 is now closed and with 38% of the votes, the 'time warp' Cox GTM that resurfaced earlier this year in Cheshire and sold in May (see here), won. Tim Whight is it's lucky new owner who is currently restoring the car. I asked him what his plans with the car are and this is what he said: " Of course, I bought the car off eBay, totally knowing nothing about these cars, but wanting a Mini engined variant and especially an early GTM with the Cortina back lights. So this car was for me. At the time of when the auction was ending I didn't have any free time to go up north and pick it up as was off to the IMM in Switzerland, so asked my very good friend who didn't live far away to collect for me and keep it at his untill I got back from Switzerland, then me and my dad went to pick up the car."

"It's now at my place half stripped in the queue of cars to be restored. Hopefully it will get to our unit soon where myself and my brother can start work on her. The plan is to get a 1071 engine of a friend of mine and slightly tune the engine. At the minute I have collected a lot of Alexander 60's tuning parts so I was going down that route, but I also have a few Downton tuning bits and so I am stuck with which exact route to go down. But I know there will be no major modifications to the whole car. The plan is to keep it pretty much as it is in the pictures on your site: a plain straight 60s colour with no shiny wheels, and everything to be period of the time!" An excellent choice, I would say. For the poll results: second place was for the CJC Bison, a.k.a. the Lamborghini Mini (24% of the votes), third for the lost Prisoner Moke (19%), fourth for the Innocenti Mini Mare (13%) and fifth for the converted Camber GT (6%).

The good thing about this Cox GTM is that it is unmolested and very period

Interior, too, is as it can be found in Cox' brochures. That will be retained 

A 1071 engine with some Alexander or Downton bits may be fitted here soon

Friday 23 December 2011

Seasons greetings

Warmest Christmas wishes and looking forward to welcoming you in the new year. Oh - and don't forget to give this year's Christmas puzzle a try to win a copy of Maximum Mini volume 2 (click here). Also: if you have not yet voted for 'Best Find of 2011' do tick your favourite's box on the top right hand side of my blog. Cheers!

Imaging: Jeroen Booij

Maximum Mini Christmas puzzle 2011

This time of year is full of traditions. So let's continue that theme here with our Christmas puzzle. It's like last year's (click here) but this time focusses on head lights rather then rear light clusters. The brief is simple: you give the full name and model designation of the cars that these lights belong to and the first who has them all right wins a copy of Maximum Mini volume 2 as soon as it is there (once again: don't hold your breathe - it will be there in the end). Send your answers via the comments below up until December 31 of this year. Good luck!

UPDATE 31 December 2011:
And we have a winner! Paul Wylde of Brierley Hill, a.k.a. 'Mini Buger', cracked the puzzle within a day! Congratulations Paul - you will be one of the very first to have a copy of Maximum Mini volume 2. The solution is: 1. ABC Tricar; 2. Zagato Mini Gatto; 3. Fletcher GT; 4. Midas Bronze; 5. Peel Viking Minisport; 6. McCoy (or Birchall McCoy or McCoy GT); 7. Davrian Mk8; 8. Mini Marcos Mk3 (but visually similar to other Mk1 and Mk2); 9. Stimson Mini Bug Mk2; 10. Kingfisher Sprint; 11. Cox GTM; 12. Sabre Sprint Mk2; 13. Elswick Envoy; 14; Status 365; 15. Landar R6; 17. Maya GT; 18. Davenport Special; Hustler Hellcat (but visually similar to many more Hustler models); 19. Phoenix Estate; 20. Sarcon Scarab; 21. Alto Boxer; 22. Gecko (or Autobarn Gecko); 23. ASD Minim; 24. Nimbus Coupe; 25. Biota Mk2.

Click on the picture to see it bigger

Wednesday 21 December 2011

The tale of the Mini powered Méan Sonora (2)

Last week I have been trying to trigger you with a story about the Mini powered Méan Sonora (click here) - here's the unveiling of that cliff hanger. It actually comes from Jean-Pierre Jacques and Daniel Dodeur of l'Amicale Méan Motor Engineering who found out the history behind the Méan Sonora BMC Mini. They wrote: "In 1967 the organizers of the Copenhagen motor show asked Jacques d'Heur to build and display a car that was powered by a Mini engine. Monsieur d'Heur liked the idea and promised them to do so but totally forgot, being busy building other cars. Some months later, in the mid of winter and with 12 inches of snow on the ground, a lorry entered the Méan castle grounds to pick up the finished car. Jacques d'Heur suddenly remembered about the deal he'd made, but only had an unfinished Sonora and nothing like a donor Mini to complete it."

"He acts quickly, though, and phones up all the local scrap yards to ask if they have something suitable for him. Over 40 miles ahead a Mini 850 with good running gear is located and is picked up that same day. Just five days later the Méan BMC Mini is finished and ready to be transported to the motor show in Denmark. Another three months later the car returns from Copenhagen and that's when these pictures were taken, at the castle grounds. To this day it remains unknown what happened to the car. It is also unsure if any other Mini powered Méan Sonoras were built." Perhaps somebody here will be able to tell? I am also interested in the show, could that have been the 1967 Racing Car Show that took place in Copenhagen? With some avid readers from Denmark here, I'm sure we may be able to unearth some pictures of the venue. Peter Camping, who instigated the chaps from l'Amicale Méan, also continues to research the Mini powered Méan, so there's nothing that can stop us, I would say.

UPDATE 19 August 2014: We got 'm! Click here

The Mini based Méan Sonora on the lawn of its birthplace in Belgium 

It's unknown if Mini based Méan remained a one-off. Note Sonoras behind

Long rear deck hides Mini power. Wheels (13"?) are clearly not Mini

850cc Mini engine was sourced at a scrap yard some 40 miles from Méan
Picture courtesy l'Automobile magazine

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Model Mini derivatives

Needing a Christmas present for your beloved? How about a model Mini derivative? There are quite a few of these for sale and you may just be in time for Sunday when you order one now. See below a quick selection. Feel free to add more that you know of in the comments below.
Black Broadspeed GT (or a GTS?) in 1:43 from Spark
'63 Le Mans Deep Sanderson 301 in 1:43 from Bizarre models
And Deep Sanderson's 1964 entry, again from Bizarre models

The Le Mans Mini Marcos of 1966 in 1:43 from Spark

And the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos in 1:43 from Spark

Famous French MiniSprint in 1:43, again from Spark

Sports Tottini as a model! (more here) Seller/scale unknown

Nice Wildgoose Brent, once again from Spark and in 1:43

Beach car is just released by Spark: our own Best Find of 2010!

Monday 19 December 2011

South African Special

Thanks to dr. Greg Mills of South Africa I can share another great story about a unique Mini derivative. In this case it's the Mead Special: a one off race car, designed and built by Ron Mead in South Africa in 1970. The story was written and sent to me some years ago by Mills, who currently owns the car and is working on its restoration for quite a few years now. I have shortened it considerably but hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Naturally any additional information on the car is more then welcome.

"I first met Ron Mead, then 74, in 1983 when trying to find ways to make my Mini go faster and stop at all on a limited student (i.e. non-existent) budget. I had been referred to him by various Mini fundis who saw him as the font of all tuning knowledge. I was not disappointed. His garage in Table View in Cape Town was an Aladdin’s Cave of Mini bits-and-pieces – eight-port heads and straight cut gearboxes – and included his beloved Mini based special. He helped me out then in the same way as he had been kindly to many others: I went away armed not only with good advice on how to make my car go faster, but more importantly in his opinion, with two Minifin brake drums purchased for the costly sum of two Rand to attempt to make it stop."

"I made a point of calling him up on my return to South Africa in 1990 after a five-year study absence, and was saddened to be informed of his passing. After some detective work, that year I managed to locate his Special in a township backyard, which had been stripped of its stroked-and-bored 1500cc engine and other ‘trick’ bits, and borrowed the money to preserve what I instinctively thought was a slice of motorsport history. My hunch proved correct as I found out more about its constructor."

Ron Mead on one of his racing bikes. He got involved in Minis later in SA
Picture courtesy Greg Mills

"Ron Mead is regarded as one of the great privateers in the Isle of Man TT, finishing third in the lightweight event in 1950 on one of his self-built KTT Velocette and Manx Norton based 250cc specials. a gifted rider/engineer from Crewe in Cheshire, Mead was not only an ace-tuner but no mean rider, finishing third in the World Championship as a privateer in 1949 with a fourth in both the Lightweight TT and third in the Ulster GP. During the war years, Mead worked in the Rolls-Royce aero-engine department in a ‘reserved occupation’. After his own competitive motorcyling career ended, he joined Cyril Kieft as a tuner, the steel industrialist having turned his attention in motorsport initially to manufacturing 500cc single-seaters for, among others, Don Parker and Stirling Moss."

"Mead emigrated to South Africa in 1966 leaving his job at Tecalamit in Plymouth, where he worked on the design of fuel injection systems, to do so. He took up employment at BMC, later Leyland, in Blackheath, working mainly on the engine development side. But his then home in Rugby soon became a Mecca for Mini aficionados, and Mead found the time to prepare engines for Andre du Plooy’s indecently fast Cooper S in Killarney’s Argus Modified Production Car Series. It was during this time that he started building his sportscar Special, a glassfibre-bodied spaceframe employing Mini front uprights on all four corners, with inboard front brakes driven off Mini automatic driveshafts. The engine was housed on a Mini front subframe placed at the rear of the car. With plans both to race the Special and drive it on the road, he had managed to test it at Killarney before ill-health intervened. Hopefully his Special will once again be seen on South African race-tracks, a small slice of the motorsport legacy of a selfless and largely unheralded engineering talent."

UPDATE 9 April 2020: Still under restoration but now in the hands of a new owner. Full story here.

The one and only Mead Special is being reconstructed in South Africa
Picture courtesy Greg Mills

Friday 16 December 2011

This GTM is not afraid of the cold

So you have parked your Mini derivative in its heated lock-up now that a supposed harsh winter is approaching? Greased the suspension points, took the battery out and waxed the body? Good. But not everyone pampers his car when temperatures hit minus Celsius degrees and salt is used to grit the roads. How about Edward Todd and his GTM Coupe? Pictured below are Todd and navigator Andy Brown on last year's Christmas Stages Rally. But Todd seems not afraid to use his car anyway (Holy cow! - click here). He's entered the car again for this year's event (here). Go-go-go!
Todd's GTM Coupe is campaigned all year. Here at last year's Christmas Stages Rally
Picture courtesy Russell Hunter

Wednesday 14 December 2011

The tale of the Mini powered Méan Sonora (1)

Years ago I stumbled upon a brochure for the Méan Sonora. A pretty two-seat sports car with space frame and fibreglass Spider or Coupé body that was built from the mid-1960s on in the tiny little village of Méan in one of Belgiums more rural parts. Not a lot were sold, despite even having a British importer. Hot Car magazine wrote about it: "Competition in the special-body field, such as this Méan kit is refreshing, providing a challenge to our designers". Being a kit car the Sonora could be built up with a multitude of engines, all placed amidships. Méan Motors was also happy to provide you with a built car, in which case you just had to chooose from NSU, Ford, Renault, Simca, VW or even Porsche power! But hang on, in the brochure a Sonora could be seen with a Mini engine, too. There was even a sign 'Méan BMC Mini' to explain the noteworthyness of that specific car. I became intrigued by it, and found a few more pictures of the car. From what I read about Méan Motors I learned that the chap behind it, Jacques d'Heur, must have been a colourful charachter, too, triggering me even more.

So when I was in Belgium not too long ago, I decided to take a look at the old address where the cars were built, although I knew Monsieur d'Heur had moved from it years and years ago. When I got there the old works premises turned out to be a big surprise - they were nothing less then a castle. And a pretty one too! Unfortunately there was no one at home and I returned home with no more information. However, more recently fellow Dutchman Peter Camping, an enthusiastic subscriber to this blog, researched the Mini powered Méan a bit harder. He got in touch with Daniel Dodeur of 'l'Amicale Méan Motor Engineering' - a club dedicated to Méan and its cars, who was able to unveil the tale of how the Méan BMC Mini came to be. A good story, really, that I will share with you in the next part.

UPDATE 21 December 2011: Part 2 can be read now here

The brochure picture of the Mini powered Méan Sonora that started it all

Another publicity shot: an unassembled Sonora Spider kit sans engine

A works Sonora was rallied, too. This is on the 12 hours de Huy rally of 1965
Picture courtesy

While a mean looking Méan Spider was raced. Who knows the venue?
Picture courtesy

The only picture I have of the works premises - a castle! Unfortunately I couldn't see it

The Méan BMC Mini from another angle. Suspension clearly is not BMC sourced
Source: l'Automobile magazine

Monday 12 December 2011

Derivatives in 'British Classics'

When Bart Vanreusel of Belgium tipped me off about an article on Mini derivatives in German magazine 'British Classics' this weekend, I rushed to the main newsagent here in Amsterdam to get it. And I wasn't disappointed. The cover article is laid out over nos less then 10 pages with the 4 major players in the Mini derivatives market of the 1980s-1990s as stars: the Midas Mk1; GTM Coupe, Mini Marcos Mk5 and GTM Rossa Mk2. A good mix with two of them front wheel driven and two with the engines placed at the mid/rear. Above that they are beautifully photographed by Stephan Lindloff with words (richly quoting from a certain book) by Karin Riess. What surprised me most was that all cars, with their German and Austrian owners and photographed in Germany, are on British registrations. I wonder if you can simply insure and drive these cars in Germany on foreign plates? That would mean importing them is real easy.

UPDATE 12 December 2011: Andreas Klein adds: "Just a short answer about the foreign plates. It is not legal to own and use cars in Germany with British plates. I wondered about this too, but have no explanation. Maybe they did it just for the pictures?"

4 Mini derivatives in big article. 'Die kleinen Strolche' means 'The little rascals'

Featured Mini Marcos is an early Mk5 of 1992-vintage. Buy the magazine here

Friday 9 December 2011

Rare shot of Broadspeed GTS found

Look at that! It's a rare picture of the Broadspeed GTS in action. The only works race car based on a Broadspeed GT made it over to The Netherlands in the late 1960s where it was raced by Tonio Hildebrand, a bit of a charachter in both society and motor sports circles (more here). Hildebrand raced it in Dutch events and in every picture I have seen of it, it appears to have underwent a colour change! This recently unearthed picture was taken by Hans Hugenholtz at the Welschap track - an airfield course that was used only from 1969 to 1971. The car was sold twice more after Hildebrand's ownership, after which it languished for decades in Amsterdam, very close to my home. When I tipped off a Broadspeed fan about its whereabouts in 2007, he immediately went over to collect it.

Hildebrand and the Broadspeed GTS in action at the Welschap track
Picture courtesy Hans Hugenholtz

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Is this Status Minipower still alive?

Mike Wilsdon (more here) must be one of Britain's best kept secrets, as he manages to create a near Sir David Livingstone-like status of myth here. As you may know by now I'd love to get in touch with Wilsdon about the Mini based Mobi-One - the car that can virtually park on a postage stamp - that he owns, or owned (more here) plus his Status Minipower. Actually, fellow Minipower owner and reader Andy Downes was in touch with him years ago. More recently he wrote to me: "I thought you might like these Status Minipower pictures – they were sent to me by Mike Wilsdon in 2004, so please credit him if you publish! They are of one of his cars (he told me he had two at one time) in a barn with loads of other stuff. You can clearly see the ‘orrible orange spaceframe in some of the pictures." That does indeed look pretty much similar in colour to Andy's! (here). At least it tells us the bright green car survived until some 7 years ago. Andy lost touch, so what happened to it (them?) afterwards..?

UPDATE 16 December 2020: The car survives. More here.

Very dusty but very much the real thing: Wilsdon's Status Minipower
Picture courtesy Mike Wilsdon

Orange was a signature colour for Status' spaceframes, 20 were built
Picture courtesy Mike Wilsdon

Mini power at the rear for Status Minipower, it appears to be complete
Picture courtesy Mike Wilsdon

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Ogles of America

Somehow, Ogle founder David Ogle must have found a clever way to sell his cars abroad. 16 Of the 69 Ogle SX1000s built are said to have been exported to the USA when they were new. That's almost a quarter of the total production. However, the last year or so these American Ogles are exported back to the UK and Europe rapidly, or so it seems. I knew of three that were sold recently from the US, and now number four has just arrived ashore in northern England, too. Oddly, that particular car has been prepared for historic racing, but it seems to have a nice slice of heritage, too. It's new owner Guy Loveridge wrote: "It is left hand drive, reputed to have been raced at Sebring, and is illustrated in Orlando High-School's Year Book for 1964 as a member of the faculty owned it!" More to follow...

First, there was this car (chassis number #32) that made it from the US to the UK

About a year later Ogle SX1000 #60 was sold from New Mexico, USA 

Only to be followed shortly by #58. Sold by its American owner since '65!

Meanwhile, Ogle SX1000 #37 has landed in the UK, too, after a life in the US

Monday 5 December 2011

University challenge

The Phoenix of last week's Mystery Mini Derivative is not the only Mini based car emerging from BP's 1974 Buildacar contest. In fact, the winning entry was based on a Mini, too. And Jon Barber sent me a link of the vehicle in question in motion! See it here. The thing was built by the boys of Cranleigh public school, came with five doors and 60 cubic feet of luggage space, or four seats with masses of leg room. A Mini Van found in a scrap yard provided subframes and suspension plus shortened and narrowed roof. The engine, however, came from a 2CV and was placed under the front seats. Thanks Jon!

But apart from the Cranleigh entry and the Phoenix, there were several more Mini based creatures, or so I found out. Langtree Comprehensive school came over with an aluminium bodied and boxy shaped Mini based thingy; William Temple School had a Postman Pat-like Van with four-wheel steering and, again, Mini power and then there was a Mini-based contraption using a much altered and ultra wide Messerschmitt body and chassis! The boys who built the cars must be in their early fifties now. Where are they? And who has more information about the contest and the unusual vehicles it gave birth to?

Cranleigh's winning entry was part Mini based, as more BP Buildacar cars
Picture courtesy