Thursday 31 May 2012

Urban Legend 5: the WSM 1100

Don't think I am running out of Mini derivatives material - au contraire - but as I mentioned before on these pages, there are a couple of creatures based on Mokes or 1100s that I find least as interesting as the stuff you will usually find here. See here and here to get an idea of what I mean. In fact one car that's been intriguing me from the very first time I heard about it deserves a place in our gallery of Urban Legends. It is the WSM 1100 that was built in 1965 by Douglas Wilson-Spratt and his team. After he'd joined forces with Jim McManus in 1961, WSM (Wilson-Spratt-McManus) soon started converting Sprites in lovely aerodynamically shaped coupes. Several were built and they proved quite succesful on the track, too. And there were not just WSM Sprites. A few more models followed.

When Wilson-Spratt could lay his hands on a rolled MG 1100 in 1965 with wrecked body work but undamaged chassis, he decided to turn it into a 100mph and 30mpg four-seater for personal use. A unique body was crafted by aluminium specialists Alec Goldie and Fred Faulkner of Peel Coachworks of Kingston-on-Thames. They transformed the car into a shapely 2+2 with aerodynamic nose section, inspired by Ferrari's 275 GTB, and long Kamm tail. The WSM 1100 retained it's donor's 94" wheel base as well as its interior and hydrolastic suspension and was painted bright red before Douglas Wilson-Spratt's private number 'DWS 97' was issued to it. One source mentions that the engine was the car's original 1100 bored out to 1139cc and now fitted with twin 1 1/2" SU carburettors, while another one believes the car was equiped with a 1275 Cooper engine.

Although WSM reportedly received several enquiries about replicas, the WSM 1100 remained a one-off. According to some because Wilson-Spratt was put off by the 70mph speed limit that was about to get introduced in the UK. The one built car was sold in late 1966. Perhaps its new owner was not too happy with it, as it was advertised for sale again less then a year later. This time in Charlton-on-Otmoor (Oxfordshire) and for 795 pounds, but that's where the trace ends. In the 1980's it was reportedly seen in a scrap yard, while in 2001 a former WSM Sprite owner said he'd seen it in original condition in Devon but despite several attempts it was never rediscovered. Another 10 years passed when Wilson-Spratt passed away in March last year, but his 1100 remains as mysterious as ever...

The WSM 1100 under construction at Peel Coachworks in London in 1965
Picture courtesy

Finished in splendid aluminium. The new body was rivetted to the 1100's chassis
Picture courtesy

This WSM was built from a rolled MG 1100 for Wilson-Spratt's personal use
Picture courtesy The Motor

The donor vehicle's 94" wheelbase was retained. Nose was Ferrari 275 GTB inspired
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car used a Kamm tail which was rather long due to 1100's wheelbase
Picture courtesy

Alec Goldie (left) and Fred Faulkner of Peel Coachworks who built the car's body
Picture courtesy

Wilson-Spratt entered the car for a few events. Here at Woburn Park hill climb
Picture courtesy

At the start of Woburn Park, probably in 1966. Note standard Austin 1100 behind it
Picture courtesy

Great duo. The 1100 was often used to tow more competitive WSM Sprites to races
Picture courtesy

Wednesday 23 May 2012

MiniSprint Van is one cool conversion

MiniSprint Estates used to be rarer then hen's teeth. But things change. Last year I reported about two such cars being built (click here). Lastest now is a Mini Van that's being Sprinted! Only 110cms tall I believe this has to be the coolest Van I have ever come across. A classic spec rebuilt 1310cc engine has been fitted by now, as have classic Cooper 'S' wheels... Yes, it is non-original but, boy, do I like it!

Classic conversion, classic colour. Is this the first Sprinted Mini Van? 

Both roof as waistline are chopped 40mms. The result is cracking

Monday 21 May 2012

Where is MiniJem estate?

Okay. We know by now that the McCoy Estate materialized (see here). But how about other estate versions of existing Mini based sports cars? I understand an effort was made to make such a version of the MiniJem in 1969. Not privately, but actually by the factory. By that time the Jem was built by Fellpoint Limited as the Mk2. I have a set of pictures of that car, taken in 1993, but not a lot of information comes with them. What you see is a pretty angular but neat looking conversion, using the rear windows upside down and an opening rear screen hinged at the top. What I did learn was that the car was later rescued from a scrap yard in Southampton in around 2001 by Mike Brown. Unfortunately Brown then sold it on for restoration and it disappeared from the radar. The car's chassis number is RS-M2-1076 and as you can see from these pictures it already needed full restoration back in the 1990s. Did that ever happen? I would love to find out.

MiniJem estate was given a rather angular rear. Note Mini number plate light
Car is said to have been built by Fellpoint Limited as an estate prototype
Screen cracked, engine badly rusted. It didn't look good back in 1993
Chassis number indicates this is an early Mk2 MiniJem. What happened to it?

At least one more MiniJem got the estate conversion although that was done privately. Its result, dubbed the MiniJem GTE, was built as a college project. The car used the back end from a Reliant three-wheeler mixed with Mini Jem rear windows upside down! Like the other Estate, it is a 1969 Mk2, too, and the car survives in the hands of a Mini Jem collector in the UK, although it hasn't been on the road for many years now. The picture below dates from March this year.

Although it's longer, the MiniJem GTE used its rear windows upside down, too
Picture courtesy

Thursday 17 May 2012

Swiss SX1000

Several Ogle SX100s were exported from the USA in the last few years (see 4 of them here), and I know that two of these returned to the UK. Another went to Italy (see here), while last week I received a sign of life from the fourth. It's the cream coloured Ogle with chassis number 60 that now found its way to Switzerland. I understand that it looked like a nice and original car in the pictures, but turned out to need a nut and bolt restoration in the end. But then the new owner is determined to tackle things right. The restorer Markus Tanner went as far as Belgium to find a furniture cloth that is very similar to the one originally used on the seats. There was some questioning whether the grille was a modification or not but according to Tanner the one found on this car, is supposed to be right. It seems Ogle changed the design of the grill during the production run. He could be right there, as I have seen other late SX1000s (69 were made between December 1961 and December 1963) with similar fronts.

SX1000 from New Mexico looked nice in the pictures but turned out to be nasty
Picture courtesy Bruno Meier

Restorer believes the grille apperture was changed throughout the Ogle's lifespan
Picture courtesy Bruno Meier

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Caribbean connection: Barbados specials

Let's stay in the Caribbean for another while after yesterdays treat (click here). Why not? The weather is nice, the atmosphere relaxing, the seafood fresh, and yet there are some more Mini derivatives. Yes, some 80 sea miles eastwards from Petit St. Vincent we arrive at the shores of Barbados. Several Terrapins were built here after Allan Staniforth paid a visit to the island, and I will write more about these soon.

But what I also found is that a local chap named Michael Gill used to race and hill climb two Mini based specials back in the early 1970s here. The first was an open top sports car named 'Minilan' that used a 1293cc engine. I now quote from the Barbados Rally Club's web site: "His finest hour to date came at Bushy Park; driving the Minilan, he set the pace at the opening race meet on Independence Day 1971: the only driver to win all three races in his Group, he was the circuit’s first Champion Driver and its first outright lap record-holder. And it was there that Gill’s other talent would be best displayed, as designer and constructor of some remarkable racing machines. In 1972, there was the spaceframe Fort Royal Special (later 'Royal Bank Special'), Mini-based, with components including the front suspension from Irishman Alec Poole’s Mini, which had competed at Turners Hall the previous November. This proved completely reliable until the Players No 6 International in November, where it non-started". Gill stopped racing in the late 1990s but appears to be still active in the Barbados racing scene. I bet he has some more good stories to tell.

UPDATE 20 september 2013: More pictures of the Minilan are found. Click here.

Michael Gill behind the wheel of the Minilan special he designed and built
Picture courtesy
Gill and his Minilan did well at Bushy Park, a dirt track constructed at an old plantation
Picture courtesy
The Minilan at the start grid behind a VW special that was named 'Foolishness'!
Picture courtesy
The lack of a proper body suggests that Gill's second Mini racer was inspired by it!
Picture courtesy
'Royal Bank Special' used spaceframe, much modified suspension and ultra wide wheels
Picture courtesy

Monday 14 May 2012

Robinson Crusoe's Mini derivatives

Looking for the perfect holiday accomodation? Look no further. The private island of Petit St. Vincent in the Caribbean can be rented from 300,000 dollars a week. Not cheap, but then this could easily be the best place in the world for relaxation, offering all the delightfull cliches of a true Robinson Crusoe island.

But that's no reason to write about it here, is it? Nope. Miguel Plano from Canada alerted me about Petit St. Vincent's means of transport. You guessed it: Mini derivatives. In fact the very few cars that made it to the island's shores are plain simple Mini based Moke style vehicles with fairground-like bodies, undoubtly made of fibreglass. I understand they are used by the resort's room service to zoom around bringing cocktails and lobsters to guest's cottages. I love it!
Reader Paul Wylde adds to it: A lot of kit cars went to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as steel cars out there only lasted 3 years. The islands are only miles wide and get salt spray from all directions. There should be a few Stimson Minibugs over there too." Is there a reader who's ever made it to this side of the world to confirm this?

Roomservice Petit St. Vincent style. Sump and suspension confirm Mini base
Picture courtesy
And there is a hardtop, too. For shadow rather then rain reasons I may assume
Picture courtesy
There are 22 cottages and villas on the island. I'd love to explore it with that car
Picture courtesy
Oops! Forgot the cocktails. Reader says more fibreglass Mini kits made it to Grenadines
Picture courtesy Conde Nast Traveler
Wind coming from all directions gives salt spray. It makes steel cars rust rapidly
Picture courtesy
Who ever visited these islands and knows about more Stimsons or other Mini derivatives here?
Picture courtesy

Thursday 10 May 2012

Mystery Mini derivative (22)

A, errr, mysterious Mystery Mini derivative this time. Simply as no informatioon whatsoever is known about this one. The picture comes from Paul Wylde who knows nothing about it either. I am just guessing: the tall glasshouse, sliding door and black (?) paint: could this be a proposal for a small London cab from the 1960s based on an Austin Mini? You tell me.

Obviously Mini based and with Black Cab influences. But what is it?
Picture source unknown, through Paul Wylde

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Stoneleigh kit car show 2012

I love it when people send over pictures of Mini derivatives at events that they have visited. And reader Colin Baines did just so after he went to Stoneleigh for the annual National kit car show held last bank holiday weekend. Thanks to him you can see here a selection of pictures of Mini based creatures that made it to there. Cheers mate!

ABS Freestyles are often referred to as Funbuggies. And fun they are, I can tell!
Picture courtesy Colin Baines 

The Domino HT (for Hard Top) was launched after the open top Domino Pimlico
Picture courtesy Colin Baines 

That's a Scamp Mk3, last of the Scamps to use the Mini mechanicals
Picture courtesy Colin Baines

GTM galore. The red cars are GTM Coupes, I think the white one is an earlier Heerey GTM
Picture courtesy Colin Baines 

And that's even earlier: a Cox GTM, and a very famous one, too! I love that car
Picture courtesy Colin Baines 

It was built by the chaps of Cars & Car Conversions magazine over a series of issues
Picture courtesy Colin Baines
Great detailing. Then-editor Richard Hudson-Evans raced it at the Nurburgring in 1970
Picture courtesy Colin Baines

UPDATE 9 May 2012. Richard H. wrote: "That white GTM in the photo is a 13" coupe, not a Heerey - look at the front arches and the rear bumper. I think it might be a fully grp one that someone on the GTM forum made the floor for, it’s a well-known car. Richard P. added: Here are some cars that Colin missed. We had two Minuses on the stand on Sunday, which was a big plus! The Berkeley T60 hiding at the back of the arena was originally Excelsior powered but has had the Mini conversion." Thanks Richards!

Sunny colours at the Mini Marcos' club stand in Stoneleigh
Picture courtesy Richard Porter 

Great pair of Mini Minuses. A bonnet bulge is neccessary here and there
Picture courtesy Richard Porter
I'm not a fan of Mini powered Berkeleys, but they are a Mini derivative in a way
Picture courtesy Richard Porter

Tuesday 8 May 2012

You decide: Jem or Marcos?

Thinking about a holiday in France or Italy this Summer? Then you should know about two cars that are now offered for sale in these two countries. Both come in light blue with contrasting go-faster stripes and both are believed to be quick enough to cope with Alpines or Alfa-Romeos. Go to France if you prefer the Mini Jem (a Mk2); go to Italy for the Mini Marcos (a Mk1). See both cars advertised in our Maximum Mini Marketplace section here, together with some more Mini derivatives. Want to advertise your car here for free, too? Then simply drop me a line.

Lovely Mini Jem Mk2 is in France.You may know it from the book

Mini Marcos Mk1 in Italy is least as nice. It retains its British registration

Monday 7 May 2012

More Deep Sanderson history unearthed

Remember last year when the prototype Deep Sanderson 301 that also raced at Le Mans was auctioned? Of course you do (click here if not). Running towards the actual sale I wrote several articles about the car although you may not recall the 5th picture from this article of which I said : "Car and creator: Chris Lawrence in the Deep Sanderson just before he sold it in 1970". My source was a sketchy one as I'd copied the picture from a copy, but at least the man on it looked like Lawrence. Well. He wasn't. I received a message from Chris Duncan a while ago who wrote it was his father Bob Duncan sitting in the ex-Le Mans car. Bob owned the Deep Sanderson between 1973 and 1983. They wrote:

"Dear Jeroen, please accept our apologizes for this taking so long to get to you. My father has just arrived in America and we have finally got the images scanned so we can send them over to you. To run back over the history which we are certain of: Bob Duncan purchased the car in 1973 for the price of £150 from a gentleman who lived in Surbiton, in Greater London. The car was purchased at that price on the understanding that it would be restored and not broken up for parts. In addition to the car itself, the car also came with two 6” alloy wheels and two 8” alloy wheels, both with CR81 (Intermediate) racing tires. The wheels on the car as purchased were alloy wheels with Dunlop racing CR65. The car had been road registered for a period of at least 6 months and was allocated the plate of DGN 807H, which was a 1970 Plate. I have no history re the car in the period up to the point of when I (that's Bob) purchased it."

This confident looking man is not Christopher Lawrence but Bob Duncan
Picture courtesy Bob & Chris Duncan

Famous 301 was bought as a road registered non runner. It never used famous '2 ARX' plate
 Picture courtesy Bob & Chris Duncan

Photos taken at Blackbush aerodrome. Note dry sump oil tank bottom left here
 Picture courtesy Bob & Chris Duncan

"When purchased, I completed sufficient work on the engine to make it running and was naturally anxious to drive it at the first opportunity. At that time I worked for a large company which had several factories within 60 mile radius. One of which had an entrance road of approximately ½ a mile and I made the necessary arrangements to try to car out. Never having driven the car before I took it rather easily on the first couple of runs. On the third run I drove the car fairly quickly and turned round at the end of the straight. Much to my surprise I found that when on full lock the steering went ‘over centre’ and I was unable to get the wheels back to the straight ahead position. This was achieved by dropping the lower wishbone and physically hauling/pulling the wheels back into position. Obviously the steering demanded some immediate attention! Around that time a book on how to build a single seater racing car was published the title of which was ‘High Speed, Low Cost’ (that's the Terrapin-JB). The author was Alan Staniforth. This car was based on around a Mini engine but featured a means of designing and constructing an un-equal length converging wishbone front suspension. Over some time cut away all the original front suspension mountings and fitted the newly designed units. The actual design necessitated a changed in spring rates and lengths and also new shock absorber units. This was a departure from the original front suspension concept of trailing link and necessitated to move from hard springing and soft damping, to hard damping and soft springing. I drove the car at a disused airfield and was delighted with its performance and the suspension only had to be balanced to provide the best ride in both flat out straights and cornering. The photograph of the car enclosed, shows the car still wearing it’s longer springs, hence the front end is sitting high. The photograph was taken at a British Automobile Racing Club Sprint at Blackbush aerodrome. I entered the car at a Historic Sports Car Club meeting at Silverstone and during scruiteneering I was advised that the car was ineligible due to the front suspension not conforming to the original trailing link design."

"I swore considerably and with great passion and towed the car away. My next task was to track down Chris Lawrence, who at that time had his premises at Ravenscoft Arches. I telephoned and was most receptive to my request for information on the trailing link front suspension. I called in to see him a couple of days later and was given a very warm and friendly welcome, of course we talked virtually nothing apart from Deep Sanderson’s. The Deep Sanderson 302 (Cortina GT engine) later replaced by the 3.0-litre Martin V8 then owned by Peter Dodds. This car was fitted with, would you believe, front converging link wishbones very similar to those which I had fitted to my own car. I was also given a tour of the facility at the Arches and saw the prototype Monica Phase 1 & 2. Phase 1 had the Martin V8 and the Phase 2 had the 5.5L Chrysler V8. Chris was immensely helpful and provided me with copies of the original trailing link suspension. He also provided two of the original, lower links, which he said were spare. Eventually these were fitted and I ran the car at several meetings, although this was becoming more difficult due to work pressures. I retained the car until 1983 when it was sold to a gentleman in South Wales who had a road going version. At that point we moved to Scotland and I lost interest in the car. I did try a couple of times to find out some information. However my contact, Mr. Williams from South Wales did not respond. Again, if you require any further information or clarification, please do not hesitate in contacting us. I will speak to my dad over the phone and email you personally as the computer presents challenges! All the best, Chris"

I was much pleased with the Duncan's letter and am of course happy to correct Lawrence's name on the picture mentioned. Meanwhile the Welsh Deep Sanderson has been tracked down, too. It was sold a couple of times more before ending up in Germany in the early 1980s. In fact I just had a look at it with its current owner who is restoring it for the track. But that's another story. More about it soon.

Not too many people can claim to have had a genuine Le Mans car on the drive
 Picture courtesy Bob & Chris Duncan

Wide arches were necessary for wide JA Pearce wheels. Note Le Mans roof light
 Picture courtesy Bob & Chris Duncan

Tuesday 1 May 2012

The crazy Caraboot

Discussing Mini based campers with a reader of this blog yesterday I thought it was about time to write something about these camping creatures here. There have been a few. The Wildgoose camper conversion are of course best known of them all (there were two variants, the tall one even quirkier then the other). But there was also the Murray Caravan Company building similar vehicles from a place called Orrell in Lancashire (who knows more?). And then I have also heard of a thing called the Pickaback Coachbuilt De Luxe of 1965 (again: who knows more?). But best of them all has to be the Euxton Caraboot, built by Euxton Coach Craft in the village of the same name in Lancs. This rather incredible vehicle combined a Mini with a camper, a caravan and - can you believe it? - a boat! I have a sketchy copy of the 1965 brochure ('Join the mobility without hotel worries!') but the web provides us with even better stuff: a lovely British Pathe movie in full technicolor. Click here to see it. We are going on a Summer holiday, la la la...

UPDATE: want to know what it was like to take the Caraboot out on a holiday in '69? Great story here

Press shot of the Euxton Caraboot. Note paddles behind doors and boat on roof top

Road holding, anyone? but who ever said a Mini was not roomy enough for camping? 
Picture courtesy British Pathe