Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Monkees' Mini

You may have noticed that David Jones, lead singer of the American pop group 'The Monkees' passed away sadly yesterday. Like many stars of the swinging sixties, Jones had a soft spot for cars, owning plenty exotics. But it was fellow Monkee Michael Nesmith who commissioned Radford to build one very special Mini when on tour in the UK in 1967. The car was based on a new Austin Cooper 'S' and came in Sable (chocolate brown) with gold coach lines and a beige leather and Wilton wool interior. The laminated windows were tinted in double Shadowlight so that not much of that inside could be seen, though, including the quarterlights and electronically operated side screens. Apart from serious soundproofing Radford's also incorporated a 'flow-through' ventilation system with extra vents throughout the interior. To further reduce noise the standard radiator fan was replaced with a thermostatically controlled electric fan.

The dashboard, with Radford’s name laid into its veneer, was made to Mike's specific wishes and included a Halda speed pilot and no less then 25 independent switches with warning lights to almost every switch, even one to see if the doors have closed properly. Apart from a VHF radio, the stereo tape playing system was specially designed to feed through six speakers placed througout the interior. The bonnet was modified for better ventilation of the 1275cct power unit, tuned by Taurus and said to deliver 100bhp while being as silent as a Rolls-Royce. Zero to 60 mph could be achieved in 7secs round, 90mph took just 20secs. According to some sources it was the most expensive Mini Cooper ever built, costing Mike just under £4,000.

Modern Motor magazine's correspondant wrote in 1967: "When I saw the Mini before Mike took it over, Mike still had a few of his own gimmicks to add. Back in the States he will fit a special radio-telephone system which will not only open the gates of his three-acre estate, but do a countless number of other jobs. Within a 20-mile radius of his homestead, Mike will be able to press a button (for his wife Phyllis presumably, or the family cook and chief bottle washer) and have the stove turned on to cook a late meal. If he wants his dog to meet him at the gate, he will just flick another switch and the dog’s kennel will open. Now that, I reckon, is something."
I would definitely say so, too. But you know what I am thinking of: what on earth did ever happen to this very desirable Mini? Could Mike still have it, some 45 years after taking delivery?

Mike Nesmith and his then-wife Phyllis with the Taurus tuned Radford Mini
Picture courtesy Gene Trindl

At £4,000 this car was said to be the most expensive Mini ever built in 1967
Picture Viewimages

Delivery of the car was made into a press event in a London hotel on July 3, 1967
Picture Mirrorpix

Daydream believer... Note serious sound proofing and the lack of a radiator fan!
Picture Viewimages

Dashboard, mostly designed by Nesmith, was said to inspire Radford Mini-de-Ville
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Ha! What's there not to like? But where on earth is this car now?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive


  1. Hi Jeroen, someone on FB say this car still lives in UK.

    He has seen it at a carshow, will foreward any pictures, that might be posted.

    Jens Christian / Denmark

  2. The car is 100% not in the UK, that's just heresay. I have a mate who claims to be Elvis ....