Tuesday 27 November 2012

The '66 Le Mans Mini Marcos being built

And once again a set of cool period pictures has resurfaced. This time of the Mk1 Mini Marcos that wrote history at the hallowed ground of Le Mans in the Summer of 1966 (full story here). We've seen plenty of pictures of the car in action at Le Mans, but not many of it being built up. The images show just that, with the car being in the middle of assembly outside Jean Claude Hrubon's workshop in Levallois, Paris. It's unpainted and the engine has not been installed yet. I was made aware of the pictures by the Mini Marcos Owner's Club, who's webmaster Richard Porter knew to tell me they came from French photographer Guy Le Page. Thanks very much, chaps. Oh, and there's still no news about the car itself, which is still missing after it got stolen in 1975...

World's most famous Mini Marcos before it got famous and before it got painted
Picture courtesy Guy le Page 
No engine, no door frames, no foggies and not too many air holes in the front yet 
Picture courtesy Guy le Page
The car's first outing was at Montlhery on April 2, 1966, so this must be early Spring
Picture courtesy Guy le Page
Chassis plate can be seen, but not the number. It has to be one of the earliest cars
Picture courtesy Guy le Page
Engine was a 1275 'S' in Monte Carlo rally spec, ordered from BMC Competitions Department!
Picture courtesy Guy le Page

Saturday 24 November 2012

Wood & Pickett Mini at auction

Now this could be a nice Christmas present. A fully restored 1969 Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave, originally based on a Mk2 Cooper 'S' and in a lovely deep blue colour, too. It is said to have been sold through Stewart & Ardern and has been owned from 1973-on by a man in the music trade. He supposedly transported people from the Small Faces and Humble Pie in it, while it was later sold to a chap of Moody Blues and later Wings fame. No suprise then that it comes with an 8-track stereo system with 16 tapes. Oh, and a Rolls Royce cigarette lighter. It's estimated to make £27,500-35,000 and will be auctioned on 18 December. See the auctioneers full description here

Pacific blue paint and pitch dark windows. Just like Mike 'Monkees' Nesmith's Radford
Picture courtesy Barons auctioneers

Minilites, Dunlop radials, electric windows, Webasto sunroof, Princess door handles etc. etc.
Picture courtesy Barons auctioneers

Music stars have set here. But no one could ever see them through the tinted glass
Picture courtesy Barons auctioneers

Friday 23 November 2012

Build your own Broadspeed GT (or buy an ex-works car)

Over to the 'Ads from the past' category, from a time in which some desirable Mini derivatives were very affordable but no one seemed to want them! It looks like Broadspeed Engineering was all at a sudden fed up with their Mini based GT. We're talking 1968 1966 here. Yes, Ralph Broad just signed a deal with Ford, had BMC pissed off and had to move from his Birmingham works premises as a new ring road was laid out there. And so he sold the remaining GT roofs as kits for the enthusiastic DIYer for 299 GBP. Not bad. But perhaps the ad that appeared one month later was even more tempting. Broadspeed than also offered the demonstrator as well as the GTS racer for 950 and 999 GBP respectively. For some cool footage of the racer and Broad himself, click here - and here to see where it finally went.

Now who ever said the Broadspeed GT was never available as a kit?
Thanks to Pete Flanagan

Bargain sale: ex-works Broadspeed GTs for 950 and 999 GBP o.n.o.
Thanks to Pete Flanagan

Wednesday 21 November 2012

The Fletcher files (2)

Care for some historical background? Then take a deep breathe for the story of another one of the four Fletcher GTs that were supposedly built. We've seen one with an Ogle front and a Fletcher rear last month (click here if not), so how about one with an Ogle rear and a Fletcher front? That is exactly what this funky green machine appears to be, hence its nick name 'Flogle'. The car was bought by the current owner in 2005, with a 1970 registration and not too much of its early history known. However, the chap in question was determined to find out how his car came about. And not without succes.

With chassis number 'FO 1 8 66' it seemed like it could be the first car built (Fletcher Ogle number 1, August 1966). If indeed the first car built it also seems to make sense that this would also be the car that was entered in several races by Norman Fletcher. And so next call was to find more evidence about these. And he succeeded again. Our man got hold of a stack of first class pictures that were taken during the Nurburgring 500kms in 1966; one of the races in which the original Harry Ratcliffe tuned 1293 Cooper 'S' powered Fletcher GT was entered. The car was raced by John Handley, who'd previously raced for Team Broadspeed. These pictures, however, showed a car that looked nearly identical to an Ogle SX1000, so with the classic Ogle styled front. There were some modifications though. Some of these included the fitting of three round rear lights rather then one cluster plus a hood and roof scoop. When the owner took off the rear light clusters of his car, three round holes came to the light. And there was also evidence of a modified bonnet and roof, as a roll bar had clearly been fitted. The later registration seemed also very plausible as the car had been campaigned on the racing track for several seasons. Great sleuthing work!

But why the revised nose section? This remains one of the main questions here. Two theories seem plausible. In the first place the race car was damaged at the front during a later race at Silverstone. Perhaps Norman Fletcher decided not just to repair it, but modify it, too. The second thought is that he wanted to modify the design of the car anyway and started with this one. All other Fletcher GTs have the modified rear following the Racing car Show of 1967. I believe this last to be the most plausible theorie, also adding to the prototype-value of this ex-racing car!

There's no doubt about this being the front as redesigned by Norman Fletcher
Picture Jeroen Booij
But that's clearly an Ogle SX1000 rear with just some modifications, isn't it?
Picture Kiain Ballogh
Detail of a superb shot of the '66 Nurburgring 500kms race start. Fletcher is in the middle
Picture courtesy Paul Ogle
Former Team Broadspeed driver John Handley racing the Fletcher at the Nurburgring
Picture courtesy Paul Ogle 
The chassis number of the car seems to indicate it was the first car built by Fletcher's
Picture courtesy Paul Ogle
John Handley later damaged the front; the reason for its redesign? Note Mk1 Mini Marcos behind
Picture Jeroen Booij archives
Parting shot. Round rear lights and roof scoop were big clues in the car's history provenance
Picture courtesy Paul Ogle

Monday 19 November 2012

Market round up (Autumn 2012)

Well, well. I've been away for a couple of days only to find a jammed mail box on my return with plenty of notices about cars for sale. Strange cars of course, as many readers by now know that the 'the weirder the better' adagium fits nicely to these pages. Thanks chaps. So take a deep breath and off we go with an update on the market for murky Mini based cars.

How about a Wildgoose? These crazy campers do not make it to the market very often, so this could be a rare chance to own one. This one is the 'Popular' model rather than the slightly more practical 'Super VEB' and it needs lots of work to turn it into a holiday dream vehicle. That hasn't distracted the (Italian) seller for asking a whopping price, though. See the ad here.

Slightly more down to earth - price wise at least - is a good old DIY creature as I love 'em. It's based on a 1961 Austin Mini and comes in the shape of a two-seat roadster. According to the seller, based in Haywards Heath, it was last on the road in 1976 and he has been kind enough to take off the wheel arches to show what it's like without. Even weirder! See it here.

Next is a real oddity: the one and only BAL Special. You'd never believe it to be Mini powered, until the 1000 engine is revealed under the rear lid. Yes, it's rear wheel driven! This special was first registered in 1990, but the Mini engine seems a lot older (note gearbox). I have no idea what kind of modifications were made to fit the slim wheels (2CV?) but they certainly fit the design well. See the ad here.

Over to France, where a (AEM Scout based) Commanchero 6 has turned up for sale. I have never seen one in the flesh and am quite sure they are rare beasts. However, this one is believed to be the first in a series of 20 (!) for a hotel chain in the Middle East - who knows more about that? It comes with 1300 'Cooper' engine, wooden dash, 13" Weller wheels and a little trailer that probably started life as a roof box. Ad here.

From six wheels over to half of that, with the Earl Special. Another Mini based one-off three-wheeler. It's been offered for sale before but appears to be resprayed now (earlier it was red). The design and build were carried out by a Mister Les Earl in 1985 who made the frame from square tubes. It looks to be in an excellent condition with 1275 engine, disc brakes, new seats and full MOT. See it for sale here

Last but not least there is a Hustler. Nothing special you think? Think twice, as this is the Hustler Sport of which only 1 is said to have been built by legendary draughtsman William Towns (and not 4 as the seller states). It should have a 1275 engine but now comes with an 850. Unfortunately the rear deck, roof and lower body parts (including the huge front splitter) appear to be missing. It's in Oxfordshire but you can see it here.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Mystery Mini derivative (27)

Okay, this is a special one, thanks to Marco Santos of Portugal. Marco wrote to me as he knew more about another Mystery Mini derivative posted here over two years ago (this one). In fact that was the very first mystery motor on my blog. Anyway: it was called 'Gnat' and that was about all I knew. Marco wrote: "This car is the 1973-1975 Gnat Sports 1000, manufactured in England in the Midlands, it was a wedge shaped buggy type of car or a convertible car, depending on the style, with Mini A-series 998cc engine. Made for a while by a maker called Gnat Cars. About 3 were made in the 1970s." Actually I wasn't too sure about that all, but Marco turned out to be right about such a car existing. Or having existed. I'd never heard of it, but did find a vague picture of the thing, with the extra information that it was built by 'Midland Motor Panels'. So there we go. This, too, is a Mini based Gnat. But then it remains mostly shrouded in mystery. So who knows more about this groovy roadster?

Now that is a wedge shape! This Mini based sports roadster was also named Gnat
Picture courtesy autopuzzles.com

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Mokes in movies (2)

You know I have a soft spot for tacky old movies, especially when a Mini derivative is squeezed in it somewhere. There's the Quasar Unipower in this French flick, and the Unipower GT in this Spanish one. You may also remember the Mini Moke based creature in 'Journey to the Far Side of the Moon'. Now, last week, I learnt about another hevily modified Moke that made it to the silver screen. The movie in question is called 'Salt & Pepper' and is of 1968-vintage. It's a James Bond parody with Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford as secret agents, and appears to be very tacky indeed. Instead of a Lotus Esprit submarine, taking a dive into the Atlantic Ocean, they use an 'amphibious' Mini Moke to splash into the river Thames - see the trailer below. We know where Davis and Lawford ended, but how about this weird Moke with all its '60s accessories? Could it still be on the bottom of the river?

'SALT 1' is a 'bullet proof' and 'amphibious' Mini Moke. It surely is heavily modified
Picture via Pete Flanagan
Unlikely means of transport for unlikely secret agents Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford
Picture courtesy youtube.com
Seen here in the streets of London before it makes a splash in the river Thames
Picture courtesy youtube.com

Definitely one of the tackier late 1960's cult movies. But does the Moke survive?

Monday 12 November 2012

And there's Mini Mare number 6!

At first I believed there were only two Mini Mares, built by Carrozzeria ORO but I soon learnt that three were built. Then came along number 4 all the way in the USA. Not much later followed by number 5 - as believed in sunny Portofino. Now, guess what kind of car was just seen on the Auto e Moto d'Epoca show in Padua, Italy? Yep. A Mini Mare. Another! Richard Heseltine, enthusiastic as ever, spotted it at the show and sent over the picture below. He wrote: "I thought you might be amused by the attached. I saw it at the Auto e Moto d'Epoca show in Padua (Padova) at the end of October. I'm afraid I don't have any info to go with it. The car was on display alongside a Ghia beach car and a Viotti-bodied Fiat 600." The car looks pretty similar to the one of John Stanmeyer, including the ship's wheel on its bonnet. I asked John if he'd hastily restored his and shipped it over to Italy, but he hadn't: "Can't be mine… our Mini Mare is sitting 10 meters away from me here in the barn!" So who knows more about this one?

An Innocenti Mini Mare on display in Padova. It looks to be the sixth car known now
Picture courtesy Richard Heseltine

Friday 9 November 2012

Fangs for sale

Not all of the Nota Fangs may have been Australian (see here), but most certainly were. In fact every now and then one comes up for sale Down Under. I understand a grand total of 107 Fangs was built, but not all of these came with Mini power. Reader Don Clayton was kind enough to point out not one, but two Fangs that are currently for sale: one in Victoria and one in New South Wales, both of them are Mini engined. See the ads here and here. Thanks Don!

Fang's sharp appearance is said to have inspired the name for this Aussie sports car
Picture courtesy photobucket.com 

I think this is a Nota Fang Mk2 as it uses the big rear lid that later cars have
UPDATE 1 July 2019: It's a Mk1 that's been updated, see comment below
Picture courtesy photobucket.com

This NSW based Fang definitely is an earlier one. It's even said to be #3 built
Picture courtesy justauto.com.au

Thursday 8 November 2012

The Janspeed Unipower

We've seen some old ads of Unipower GTs here before, with cars being offered for sale for mouth watering prices (click here if not). But I'd never seen the ad that Pete Flanagan sent in recently. It's for a particularly desirable car, being the Janspeed Unipower GT which was equiped with lots of extras. The Janspeed car, originally white in colour and with 1071 engine, was raced by Geoff Mabbs from 1967-on and was later sold to Brian Harvey who painted it red to suit better with the Cars and Car Conversion colours, the magazine that he promoted. Harvey raced it for one season before selling it to Piers Weld-Forrester - the man who later took over production of the Unipower. Somehow the car ended up in Belgium, from where it's offered for sale now, once again. (click here and scroll down). A nice slice of Unipower heritage indeed! Thanks Pete, keep them coming.

Monday 5 November 2012

McIvoy (a.k.a. McCoy Estate) lives

When I posted about the McIvoy - a 'shooting brake' version of the McCoy - a while ago, I had a whole lot of responses (click), including one from a former Birchall Automotive employee who built these cars. Last in the line came from Mike Allen, who spotted a McIvoy last week in Bollington, Cheshire. And Mike was smart enough to take some pictures, too. He wrote: "She’s in a sorry looking state but actually one that wouldn’t take a lot to put right. The shell looks sound and little crazing that I could see, just ingrained dirt. From the McCoy owners club, it looks like this originally had white doors and bonnet (not easy to make out the reg but it looks the same) and then used to tow either a caravan or camping trailer with a roof box! Couldn’t believe it when I saw it, had to go back home and get my camera! How many left? One, two? Can’t be many. I’ve only ever seen one before and that was at either a kit car show or meet, I can’t remember now. Any idea whether the body moulds still exist? Cheers, Mike." I have no idea, but as the subject proves popular somebody else may know...

McIvoy is very rare. It looks pretty sad, but isn't that bad says reader Allen
Picture courtesy Mike Allen
Birchall Automotive used one as a works van. That car was registered Q516 HNG
Picture courtesy Mike Allen
Oh yes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But this car could be unique
Picture courtesy Mike Allen

Thursday 1 November 2012

The non-Australian Nota Fang

You know the Nota Fang and you know it was Australian. Right. But did you know that the sharply styled, rear wheel driven and Mini powered Fang (or Nota Type 4) was built and offered for sale in the UK, too? It was. As a matter of fact Nota instigator Guy Buckingham was an Englishman. He used to be a clock maker in Buckinghamshire before he moved over to Australia in 1952 and started building the Fang there. He made a few other models first, of which one was featured here before as a legendary motor (see here and here). But with the Fang production grew more rapidly. Buckingham's son Chris helped building the cars and expanding the company and in the 1960s they'd become a small motor manufacturer in Parramatta, New South Wales.

But while Chris stayed Down Under to run the company, Buckingham senior returned to the UK in the early 1970s. And it didn't take long before he decided to set up a branche of Nota Engineering there. In fact the Fang was offered for sale from Wootton Bassett, Wilts in early 1972. I'd seen a press picture of the UK-built Nota and there was a report in Custom Car magazine, too. But more recently Richard Heseltine sent me a copy of a brochure I'd never seen before (thanks!). It shows the same car as in the article, registered 'EUD 715K' and I wonder if it's the only non-Australian Nota Fang? According to Peter Filby "It seems no more than two or three cars were ever built here" but is that true? And if so, where did these cars go? Questions, questions...

A press shot of the British-built Nota Fang with back drop that cannot be other than English
Picture Jeroen Booij archives
According to Guy Buckingham 'EUD 715K' was hastily put together. Is it still with us?
Picture Richard Heseltine archives  

The same Fang was road tested by Custom Car magazine in their July 1972 issue
Picture courtesy Custom Car 
On a London roof top. But were there ever more Nota Fangs in the UK?
Picture courtesy Custom Car 

This is the British brochure of the car I never knew existed
Brochure via Richard Heseltine