Saturday 28 April 2012

Zagato Mini Gatto for sale

What can I say? One of my dream Mini derivatives has come to the market. I searched the Zagato Mini Gatto for years only to find it in 2007 in the Milanese shed where it had been parked decades earlier. The owner said he'd never sell it, but was to get in touch with me if he'd ever change his mind. Fast forwards five years and the car is on eBay (click). I asked the current dealer who offers it for sale why it is dismantled (with just 4107 kilometres on the - Alfa-Romeo - clock it certainly wasn't when I found it). He replied: "The car passed through 3-4 ownerships in the last years. The guy who sold me the car told me that one of the previous owners started a restoration, but the works were stopped soon because health disease of this guy." Unfortunately it seems that this chap used sand blasting methods of stripping the paint off, which appears to have badly warped the panel work. Apart from that I understand he is looking for a price I will never be able to afford, so all there's left is hope that it finds a good home. Do get in touch if you buy it, as I have lots and lots of information and old pictures of the Gatto.

UPDATE 3 May 2012: Car remains unsold. Current owner now plans to restore it himself.

The Zagato Mini Gatto was complete when I found it in Milan in 2007
Picture courtesy Pieter E. Kamp

Thursday 26 April 2012

Maya GT owner calls in

Remember this car? Well, I was contacted by its original owner Mick Glazier recently who cleared up most of its earliest history, filling in some gaps. The mysterious chassis plate, for example, was made by him. Mick wrote a long letter, which I just reproduce here: "Dear Jeroen, thank you for your interest in the Mini Maya, and to share with me your information regarding he last purchaser Mr. Kazuo Maruyama. I was surprised to read that my beloved Mini Maya is residing in Tokyo! I am pleased to share my photos of how it looked when I had finished 'KOO 589' in 1971. As there was no chassis number I invented one, M/M stood for Mini Maya, 19746 was my date of birth (it should be 19476-JB). One of the photos is of the interior of the Maya being black with my little nephew, aged 2, who is now 33 years old."

"I had so much pleasure building and driving that little car, perhaps I need to put the records straight. I purchased the body shell with a spare front end (white ), and no windows or screen from Tony Archer Motors on the 18th December 1971. Then set about the passion of my build. Most of the running gear was from my old Mini (registered KOO 589). I fitted a new rear sub frame / Mini Van petrol tank, cutting and fitting the side and Rear windows from 1/4" Perspex. Wheels were 6" steel rims, also with two quarterlight winkers on the front sides. I had to source a new front screen from Pilkington's on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, I fitted and reshaped the bonnet to a snug fit with internal catches before fitting the engine / wiring loom / lights. Had fun with the earthing but got there in the end."

"Not sure about the paint remarks, the body was rubbed down and any imperfections filled out, sprayed with the appropriate fibreglass primer and with the blue metal flake paint that was the latest customizing craze at that time. I also sprayed yellow and green coach lines about one inch above the bottom of the doors, going around to the Bonnet over and back to the rear of the car, and it looked a dream. All the time I had it there was no crazing on the body work. The inside was all black with a small alloy and leather steering wheel. My wife is from the Philippines and we are planning to retire there in about two year's time, so we won't be far away from Tokyo. Who knows we might be able to meet up? Thank you once again hope to hear from you soon. Take care for now and best regards, Mick" Well, that's one great story, Mick. Now let's hope the car will be soon treated as good as it was treated by its original owner. Drop me a line whenever you make it over to Japan!

The Maya GT was painted in metal flake blue when Mick owned it. It's now in Japan
Picture courtesy Mick Glazier
'KOO 589' was built with Glaziers' Mini serving as its base. Sourcing screens was challenging
Picture courtesy Mick Glazier
Glazier's nephew, aged 2 here, poses in the car that gave his uncle so much pleasure
Picture courtesy Mick Glazier

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Mystery Mini derivative (21)

Now here's one Mini derivative that has been haunting me for a long time. Not in the last place because it is Dutch, like myself. I first learned about it when reading Jan Lammerse's excellent book 'Autodesign in Nederland' about Dutch cars and full of obscure stuff. According to Lammerse this one was built by one 'H.E. Nieuwenhuis' and raced at Zandvoort in 1968. I found out the 'H' stood for Henk Nieuwenhuis who raced the boxy Mini based special at only two ocasions: in April and in August of 1968. I also found that, after his special, Henk Nieuwenhuis raced a Lotus 23 for a team named 'Van der Herberg Racing'. The Mini engine of his special is said to have been a 1293cc and placed at the rear. In Lammerse's book there only one sketchy picture of the car in a dark colour.

Henk Nieuwenhuis' Mini based special at the Zandvoort track in 1968
Picture courtesy Jan Lammerse - Autodesign in Nederland

Imagine my surprise when flicking through old magazines last weekend only to find a picture with the Nieuwenhuis Special in the background. The car now came in a much lighter shade and despite the picture being not very clear, its gullwing door can clearly be seen. It was involved in an accident at the start of a race - and yes, this was the April race I found out about earlier. Race number 13 fitted the bill, too, so it can only be one and the same car, I would say. On the same picture a Mini Marcos that was involved in the accident, too, can also be seen. In fact this is the ART (Algemeen Racing Team) car (this one) that I photographed recently (now in blue, see here). With the Mini Marcos tracked down, the Nieuwenhuis Special is the next one to go now. Who knows if it survived? Dutchmen, come in!

It was involvoled in a crash in April 1968. Note gullwing door and ART Mini Marcos!
Picture courtesy Autovisie magazine

UPDATE 24 January 2019: Henk Nieuwenhuis tracked down on the isle of Crete and interviewed for Maximum Mini 3. More images of the car can now be seen here.

Monday 23 April 2012

A sad looking Mini Marcos Mk1

Don't ask me why but early Mini Marcoses keep on finding their way to here. After several articles spent recently on these rare beasts (here, here, here and here) it's time for yet another! Friend of this blog Colin just sent me a message, writing: "Hi Jeroen. Just been sent these photos of a very sad looking Marcos. Is it a missing car for one of your readers? It was in the background of a Mini for sale last week, so I asked about it - I thought it may have been that stolen race car." Well, I'm pretty sure it's not that, but 'MAB 223D' clearly is a Mini Marcos Mk1. Just look at the rear screen, outside filler cap, notched arches, perspex side screens with sliding openings and narrow number plate recess at the front. I can't see the footwells in the floor but I bet they are the earliest 'kinked' variant, too. Do we like it? Oh, yes. Drop me a line if you are interested 'cause Colin thinks the owner could be tempted in selling. Cheers mate!

'D' registration indicates it (or its base) was put on the road in 1965 or 1966

These notched wheel arches are typical for the Mk1 Mini Marcos only

Outside filler cap is another Mk1 feature, as are perspex sliding windows

There are a few modifications but this Mk1 looks pretty much like it should

Friday 20 April 2012

Was W&P Paris show car scrapped?

I've had several messages about yesterday's Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave Elite (click here) that was on show in Paris in 1978. According to some the car was metallic blue with a blue vinyl roof and blue interior, which made me dig up some more pictures. In fact, W&P showed one such car in their late 1970s publicity material that definitely looks like it. It comes with yellow headlight bulbs, too, which may say something about its French background. The only thing different are the wheels. I also came across one photograph of a Wood & Piockett interior in blue velvet (or 'dralon'), being rather incredibly oppulent and even more incredibly blue. It's from a left hand drive automatic car and could well be the show car again. Question remains if it survives. According to Danish W&P owner Jens Christian Lillelund it doesn't. He wrote: "The Paris show car is scrapped. I had a mail from a guy who said he owned a Margrave dash, and some W&P parts with "Paris show car" written on the back." But what happened to the rest of it?

Could this Wood & Pickett brochure car also be the 1978 Paris show car? 

Nudge bars are typical for French Minis and for Wood & Pickett's conversions
Picture courtesy

Same car? Wood & Pickett interior is incredibly oppulent. Yes, I tought of this, too!

Thursday 19 April 2012

A Margrave Elite in Paris

Wood & Pickett converted Minis have been sort of plentiful in the two decades or so that they were (coach)built, although there appear not too many survivors these days. I was sent this picture earlier this week and wondered if anybody out here may know more about the car. It clearly is a Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave Elite, but according to my source it was on display at the British Leyland stand at the Paris Motor Show in 1978. And it certainly appears to be the star attraction out there, too. That's rather unexpected I would dare to say. Apart from the typical nudge bars, portholes and faux landaulette hinges, the sunroof and the velvet trimming may be less obvious clues to this particular Margrave Elite. Who knows more or remembers seeing it at the show?

PS: Like the looks of the Margrave Elite? Two are currently for sale. Click here and here when interested.

A Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave Elite on British Leyland's stand in Paris '78
Hat tip to Roald Rakers (again!)

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Hustlers for Summer

Last Summer I stumbled upon one very nice and rather unique Hustler Six for sale in sunny Italy (see it here). This time I was tipped off about one in county Durham for considerably less. Perhaps not so glamourous, but in fact you could even make money with this one as it has been professionally converted into an ice cream van. And it's not on its own. In fact I have seen more Hustler Sixes that were converted in mobile ice cream vending machines, although it has to be said that this 1985 example looks like the best I ever came across. According to its seller it was built in a series of seven and comes with four-lid freezer and hand wash sinks plus ample space for shelving pop, sweets and crisps, too. Click here to make him an offer and you will definitely be a huge hit with the kids this Summer.

UPDATE March 2016: I know more about these vehicles now. Although they look like converted Hustler Sixes, the six-wheeler ice cream vans are not that. They were marketed and sold as the Vendavan Ice Star.

Hustler Six is registered as a 'Vendavan' and nicely converted into ice cream van. It's for sale
UPDATE: Not a converted Hustler. This is a Vendavan Ice Star
Picture courtesy eBay

This one was also advertised a couple of years ago but needed lots of work
UPDATE: This does appear to be a converted Hustler rather than a Vendavan
Picture courtesy eBay

An extra big roof on this one, that was to be found on eBay about a year ago
UPDATE: Not sure about this one! Converted Hustler or Scamp perhaps?
Picture courtesy eBay

Another Vendavan that's still in use on the Scottish east coast, see it here!
UPDATE: Not a converted Hustler. This is a Vendavan Ice Star
Picture courtesy

And that's what a Hustler Six based Vendavan looks like from the rear
UPDATE: Not a converted Hustler. This is a Vendavan Ice Star
Picture courtesy Dave Harris

You do have to be careful with these sweet little machines though...
Picture courtesy

Thursday 12 April 2012

More Minipower remarks

I have lost count how many articles I spent on Mike Wilsdon and his Status Minipowers meanwhile (click the Status Minipower label at the very bottom of this article to find out). But that doesn't matter really as another puzzle part of the Minipower story fell into place when Stuart Hards contacted me. Stuart wrote: "It's strange but I haven't thought about my Status Minipower (or the other kit cars I owned back in the 80's & early 90's) for probably 15 years. But I was looking through my bookcase a few weeks ago and just happened to look at the book 'Amazing Mini' by Peter Filby. After seeing the Status in there again, I thought I wonder if I google it what would come up? So that was how I came across a few web-sites with pictures of the Status on and in particular my old car YVF 904L."

"I owned this car from late 1982 until August '84. This is all from memory as I didn't keep written records from then, just a load of photos. I live near Norwich, Norfolk and bought it from a local guy who lived between Norwich & Great Yarmouth. I was just 17 at the time, probably too young to really appreciate this car properly! When I bought it, it had a private number plate on: YCL 2. This stayed on the car for a month or so until the guy could transfer it. So I know that the photos that I have seen on the internet of YVF 904L were after I owned it (it's also the car that was featured in Maximum Mini - JB). Anyway, I drove the car for the summer of '83, going to most of the kit car shows of the time. It was whilst at Hindhead kitcar show that I met Mike Wilsdon. We chatted and he told me he had another one (I'm guessing its the green one) and if I ever wanted to sell mine, he'd be interested in buying it. At the time I didn't want to sell, but kept his number anyway. It was either late '83 or early '84 when the car was involved in an accident with a tractor. It pulled out of a field and didn't see me (probably being so low, i was hidden behind the hedge, he claimed!). The front of the Status sustained some damage, mainly to the fibreglass front. Nothing too serious! Being only 18 and short of money, I needed another more practical car. And so thats how I came to call Mike and do a deal with him to buy the car as it was, with the damage (although still drivable). We arranged a collection date to coincide with the Hindhead '84 show. I traveled down with the car and we went to the show. It is probably the only car I've owned that I regret selling, and I have owned a lot of cars over the years!"

"As for driving it, well it had a right hand gear change. A sort of sliding one, with the gears back to front eg. first gear was where 4th normally was. This didn't bother me, even when swapping between cars with a normal gear change. Handbrake was also on the right. It was fitted with an Austin 1100cc engine but was pretty quick due to the lack of weight. Handling was very good, ride was a bit harsh! Don't know how it would cope with all the speed humps we have now, as it was quite low! I've dug out all the photo's from my loft, but they're all on 35mm film & in albums. I need to scan & put them on the computer. This may take some time as I have a lot of albums! I also owned a Mini Marcos, GP beach buggy, GTM Coupe, Dune buggy and others, so there's a lot of pics in total. Hope this is of some interest to you." You bet it is Stuart! Thanks very much for all this! The last owner I managed to track down was Chris McMahon, but I am not sure if he still has it and cannot reach him anymore. Who may know where it is now? Stuart would love to find out.

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

National colours galore! Hards' Minipower plus Arkley SS and Mini Marcos in '84
Picture courtesy Stuart Hards

'YCL 2' registration was on the car when bought, but was soon to be changed to YVF 904L
Picture courtesy Stuart Hards

Mini mill was an 1100. Pretty quick, says Hards. Note wide track and signature orange chassis
Picture courtesy Stuart Hards

Wednesday 11 April 2012

This blog in 'The Hez'

Well, what can I say after reading Richard Heseltine's 'The Hez' column in today's Classic Car Weekly?
I feel extremely flattered!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Wheels Day 2012

To be really honest I'd never heard of Wheels Day, but it certainly appears to be one cracking event that I should visit next time. Held in Aldershot, Hampshire its idea is plain simple really: let's just fill a field the size of Hyde Park with cars. Not ordinary ones, but classic cars, preferably the odd and unusual. And it works. According to motoring journo, fan of automotive oddities and reader of this blog, Richard Heseltine, who went there last Friday, "It was a fun show, with more than 2000 classics, hot rods, kits and assorted weird things all gathered together in an informal setting." Richard was so nice to share his photographs of the Mini derivatives presented at the show, too. Thanks very much for that!

Now that is one neat GTM Coupe. Registration number indicates a '65 Cooper 'S' donor
Picture: Richard Heseltine

The Hellcat may have been the most basic of the Hustler range; this one seems richly equiped
Picture: Richard Heseltine
And that's what a Scamp should look like! Rugged and well used. That's a funny hardtop, too
Picture: Richard Heseltine

Saturday 7 April 2012

Urban Legend 4: the 1966 Le Mans Mini Marcos

How about a good story for Easter, full of mystery, intrigue and the ever lasting hope of resurrection?
You may know the Urban Legends series published at these pages, all about rare Mini derivatives of which not much is known about their survival. They are all intriguing in their own way. But the biggest mystery of them all may be the Mini Marcos that became 15th overall at Le Mans in 1966. Not just because of its heroic finish as the only British car at that year's endurance race in between all sorts of big Fords and Ferraris (full story here). No, mostly because of its mysterious disappearance afterwards (more here). It got stolen, or so it is believed. Not right after the race as most sources mention, but much later on. In 1975, according to French Mini historian Enguerrand Lecesne. Lecesne wrote a book about French Minis in racing ('Mini Cooper S de la série à la compétition'), including a full chapter about the French entered Mini Marcos. A must-read if you ask me.

This Mini Marcos (at the 1966 24-hours of Le Mans here) is missing since 1975 

Well. Lecesne has been searching for the car for way too many years now. All to no avail so far, although he did manage to trace down much of its history. According to him it was raced again in 1967 at the 1000 kilometres de Paris at the famous Montlhery track; hill climbed in Corsica in 1968 and later on rallied near Nice with a new owner, who took out the big radiator that was fitted originally to the car. It was sold again in 1973 to Michel Tasset in Paris who changed the car's colour from its famous sky blue to maroon. But then it happens and the car gets stolen in the autumn of 1975. By that time it had had five owner of which monsieur Giraud, a sponsor of Le Mans entrant Jean-Claude Hrubon, was the first. After him followed msr. Asse; mrs. Albertini and mrs. Mercier, before Tasset took it over.

Trouble was that pictures of the car's later life were very scarce. I'd never seen any until last week when 4 images of it, dating from Tasset's ownership, were unearthed by Lecesne. Two were taken very shortly before it got stolen and by now they appear to be the last trace known of this fascinating little car. The images can be seen here. Not only Enguerrand Lecesne has been looking for this little racer with its chequered history for years now. Michel Tasset has been doing the same thing since it was stolen from him on that fatefull day, some 37 years ago now. Wouldn't it be almost as heroic as the car's Le Mans finish if they would ever succeed in finding it again?

UPDATE 9 December 2016: The car has been found. See here.

Wide arches; Le Mans filler cap; rear lights all remain unchanged from its famous '66 outing
Picture courtesy Michel Tasset, through E. Lecesne

Mirror and foggies were added later on. This clearly is the 1966 Le Mans Mini Marcos, though
Picture courtesy Michel Tasset, through E. Lecesne

Tasset (pictured) changed colour from sky blue to maroon in mid-70s before car got stolen
Picture courtesy Michel Tasset, through E. Lecesne

New colour can be seen here. Also note interior with signature Mini Marcos dashboard
Picture courtesy Michel Tasset, through E. Lecesne

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Ahoy McIvoy

When an estate version of a sports car may be called a shooting brake, there are a few Mini derivative shooting brakes in existance. I am not kidding you. In fact, I just found a brochure for one such car: the McIvoy. That is, of course, an estate version of the McCoy! It was built by Birchall Automotive and later by NG Wynes Glassfibre from 1986-on. And, yes, it may have been more of a work horse then a glamour wagon but I do quite like it. Hey, at least it's different!

They sold for £2,495 (or at least offered for sale at that price), which was a lot more money then the McCoy coupe which was initially available as a kit from £1.175, later £1.795 and later again £1.950. But, boy, did they have to make a brand new set of moulds for it. Or at least for its rear. And its doors, as these are different, too.
I have no idea how many were ever built but there cannot be too many of these around as I have never ever seen one. The A-Z of Kit Cars thinks there may have been 5, but I doubt it. Dave White of the McCoy Owners Club (really! click here) told me years ago he knew of one (see it here). Could that be the sole survivor?

The McIvoy's prototype body, here on display with Birchall Automotive in 1986
Picture courtesy Kit Car magazine

And that's the finished thing, as shown in Birchall Automotive's brochure

A shooting brake? At least the typical Norfolk backdrop suggests so for McIvoy

Same car again, I can't remember the source. Note that logo says it's a McCoy

This comes from a later ad by NG Wynes. Skirts suggest this is another car?