Tuesday 24 December 2013

Season's greetings

Ho-ho-ho! Best Christmas wishes from here and looking forward to welcoming you in the new year. 2014 is going to be an exciting one with the first Mk1 Performance / Maximum Mini Track Day in May. That same spring my next book - Maximum Mini volume 2 - should come out, too.

For now: give this year's Christmas puzzle a try to win a rare William Towns signed press pack (click here). Also: if you have not yet voted for 'Best Find of 2013' do choose your favourite on the top right hand side of my blog. Have a jolly time!

The first Nimrod built conquers the Alps on its way to Transylvania in 1974
Picture courtesy Mike Jupp

Christmas puzzle 2013: Name the Frame

Time for tradition. We've had Christmas puzzles focussing on rear lights (here); head lights (here) and on 'Faces & Places', believed to be too difficult (here). The theme for this year is: Name the Frame. Is it easier? I think so. The idea is simple as always: you give the full name and model designation of the 25 cars that these chassis frames belong to and the first who has them all right wins a cool prize. This year that prize is an extremely rare press pack for the William Towns designed TXC Tracer of 1985. I have never seen another, and this one is signed by the late Towns himself, too. Send your answers via the comments below up until December 31 of this year. Good luck!

UPDATE 2 January 2014: Not easy, and only one player. Come on guys! Anyway, the frames are named and they are: 1: Coldwell GT, 2: Nimbus Don Parker Special, 3: Maya GT, 4: Landar R6, 5: Whitby Warrior, 6: Deep Sanderson 105, 7: Biota Mk1, 8: Greenwood 'sidecar', 9: Hustler 4, 10: TXC Tracer, 11: Gecko, 12: Status Minipower, 13: Siva Buggy, 14: ABS Freestyle, 15: Andersen Cub, 16: Unipower GT, 17: Ranger Cub, 18: Jiffy, 19: Boro GT, 20: Stimson Mini Bug, 21: Mean Sonora, 22: Onyx Tomcat, 23: Jackson Sportster, 24: Lolita Mk2, 25: Sauter Special.

Name the Frame - click for a bigger image

Thursday 19 December 2013

Find of the Year - the 2013 nominees

Yep. It's time to introduce you to the nominees for the 'Best Find of 2013'. This year there were 8 cars suitable for a nomination - once again I picked out 5 of which I believed they are the best. Now it's up to you to decide which one wins the title. There's a poll on the right side of this blog and you just have to tick the box of your favourite find. The one with the most votes wins - it's simple as that. Now over to the candidates.

1. The Luna Bug. Mini derivatives hardly get more mysterious than this: a Stimson rip-off of which none would have believed it survived. It appeared in February this year only to vanish again short after its discovery. Speaking about mysteriousness… Click here for its story

2. The Japanese Unipower. Discovered in a derelict Japanese warehouse full of rare sports cars. The identity of this car is unknown to me and I would love to find out more about it. Two readers have made clear they have plans to go and see it. Click here for the story

3. The Mini Jaba. Found in a scrap yard in Spain this October, this could well be the car that was shown on the Barcelona Motor Show of 1971. The Jaba was meant as a neo-classic mimicking a 1930s car but based on the Mini. Will it be saved? Story of its discovery here

4. The Notts Nimrod. Not many Nimrods were built, and just a few are known to survive. This one, offered for sale in Nottinghamshire in January this year, was completely new to me. It looked nice and completely original, too, on its 1971 plates. Full story here

5. The American Elswick. You do not come across an Elswick Envoy very often, but how about one in the US, built to American specification with big bumpers and safety warnings? Bruce Rolland bought it and now plans to restore it to its former glory. Read his story here

Luna Bug could be unique, although the works demonstrator had a different reg
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde
An unknown Unipower GT in a derelict warehouse full of exotics - only in Japan
Picture source unknown
Retro styling a Mini in the 1970s. Mini Jaba made it to the Barcelona Motor Show
Picture courtesy foromini.minibcn.net
Nottingham Nimrod looks complete and original. It was sold on eBay in January
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk
That's Bruce in his Elswick Envoy. And, yes, it has central seating like the McLaren F1…
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Richard Oakes redesigns

What if Richard Oakes - undoubtly world's most prolific kit car designer - would have had the free hand in redesigning the GTM or Midas back in 1981? Well, they may have looked like this. He made these sketches for Alternative Car magazine at the time, writing: "Come on, Midas or GTM, perhaps you could make it reality - a British Fiat X1/9 with a bit more muscle!" Hang on - he did actually redesign both cars in the end. With the new GTM becoming the 1986 Rossa and the new Midas becoming the Gold in 1989. Both were considerably rounder in shape though. For good? I'm not sure...

These Richard Oakes sketches  never made it to a new GTM and/or Midas
Picture courtesy Alternative Car/Richard Oakes

Thursday 5 December 2013

Building a Racing Show Car in 1968

If I'd ever be able to time travel I'd choose London in January 1967 or '68 to go to, when the Racing Car Show was in its splendor with in Olympia's National Hall. Here you would stumble upon Deep Sanderson 301s, Fletcher GTs, Viking Minisports, Cox GTMs, Mini Jems and Mini Marcoses, all in their prime. Apart from the cars this was an Alladin's cave for accessories, too with all the people directly involved into these cars attending (plus some other interesting figures, too).

Marcos Components had three Mini Marcoses on their 1968 stand of which at least one was built from a bare shell on the spot. I'd seen one or two black & white pictures, but was much surprised when Olof Neergaard dropped me a line earlier this week. He wrote: "Thanks for keeping up the good work started with your Maximum Mini book and now continuing on the web. The 'Bird puller picture' made me remember some images from the (London) 1968 Racing Car Show. They show how Marcos promoted the Mini Marcos by assembling one or two specimen on location. Note the skinny tires and lovely blue metallic paintwork. A red car with "GT" strips also appears. These pictures are courtesy Swedish Mini Marcos racer Tommy Jagerwall who was there." I love 'm! Thanks Olof and Tommy. And Olof sent some more cool stuff, but that's for the next time.

UPDATE 26 January 2021: now confirmed: these pictures date back to the show of 1968, not 1967. More here.

Three cars on Marcos' stand in January 1968. '370 JEA' is their Mk3 demonstrator
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Front car (another Mk3) is metallic blue and ready to be assembled on the spot
Picture courtesy Tommy Jaggerwal

Some time later it's on its skinny tires, with the Mini engine now also in place
Picture courtesy Tommy Jaggerwal

Can I buy it Sir? I can finish the interior myself. Where is this 1968 show car now?
Picture courtesy Tommy Jaggerwal

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Mystery Mini derivative (36): South-African Coupes

Over to South-Africa, where a most unusual Mini Coupe was unearthed recently. What it is? Well, it's definitely not a Buckle Monaco, Ecurie de Dez or New Era Mini but that doesn't answer the question does it? Arch Mini fan Leon in Johannesburgh made me aware of this find. The thing is that Leon owns a similar car of which virtually nothing is known. Both use a long wheelbase Mini (Van, Traveller, Countryman, Pick-up) that was built in South-Africa, but Leon's car uses the Mini boot upside down, while the newly discovered car comes with what looks to be a specially made boot, giving the car something like a Saab back end!

Leon wrote: "Hi Jeroen, a second home made looking Mini coupe derivative has turned up here in South Africa. It has a similar side profile to mine, but different boot. Both seem to have been built on one of the longer wheelbase Minis." The recently unearthed green car dates from 1965 and appears to have only just been painted. No holes in the boot lid suggest that the tiny little slots below were used to house the rear lights. Thius while Leon's car uses the Mini Van lights . He adds: "Neither are very pretty. I'm not sure if there is any merit in restoring mine, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it? Regards, Leon." Of course you should restore the car, Leon! I dip really like both but haven't got a clue about its background. Who does?

UPDATE 7 November 2017: Full story in Maximum Mini 3, and a bit more here.

Mini Coupe uses long wheelbase of a 1965 South-African built commercial Mini
Picture courtesy www.kznmini.europefreeforum.com
Steel fastback is cleverly grafted upon that. Tiny tail lights just fit under the boot
Picture courtesy www.kznmini.europefreeforum.com
There are definite similarities in the side profiles to Leon's SA-built coupe, shown here
Picture courtesy Mini Marcos Owners Club

Boots, however, are totally different with Leon's car using a Mini boot lid upside down
Picture courtesy MMOC/www.kznmini.europefreeforum.com

Monday 2 December 2013

An American Elswick

Several Mini based cars originating from the UK made it to America through official channels. Some Ogles for example, and no less than 13 Unipowers according to my source. Unofficially a Foers Nomad and a Roamer even ended up in New Hampshire, or how about the the Innocenti based Mini Mare of John Stanmeyer?

But that there was an importer for the Elswick Envoy - I never knew that. And if you you'd have told me I would probably not have believed you anyway. It is true, though. Bruce Rolland from the USA managed to assure me, as he just bought one of these American spec Envoys. Imagine the trouble of putting these cars through the American environment and safety legislation! Or would there have been an exception for cars for the invalid? I'd like to know. Reader Miguel Plano had already spotted the ad some months ago and wrote: "I bet someone had the distribution rights for the USA and it never took off. This car seems to have never been registered in USA, with only 260 miles and original tires, that seems more than likely. There's an interesting story there if you can find the truth."

Whatever the story is, Bruce is now planning to restore his car. He sent over some pictures and the first thing that struck me were the big US-style bumpers. Information is scarce but Bruce knows the bumpers were an option and cost an extra 50 US dollars. He is desperately looking for more information about it now and hopes to track down an owner's manual. I haven't got one, but others may? If you can help Bruce just drop me a line and I'll pass it on to him.

Smile! Bruce Rolland in his newly acquired American spec Elswick Envoy
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland 
Big bumpers are a clue. But who can tell more about Elswick's American ventures?
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland 
This label is surely not meant for ordinary British Elswicks. How many more were there?
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland 

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Home grown Specials (5)

Why on earth would anyone take three totally different cars from three different eras and cut 'n shut them together into one motoring mix, previously unseen? The late Douglas Meredith provided us with the simple answer: "I wanted something different", or so he said back in 1997. And with plenty of time on his hands as a pensioned panel beater, Douglas from Welshpool set himself to the task of grafting together three cars to build one most unusual special back in 1989. The base was provided by a 1979 Mini 1100 mated to the rear end of a 60's Triumph Herald convertible and the front end of an 80's Ford Escort. Doug strengthened the Mini's floor, chopped back a set of Mini Clubman front wings and fitted these, narrowed and shortened a Escort Mk3 front and mig welded that on. The bonnet became a mixture of Mini Clubman and Escort. Next, he chopped the roof and rear end off the Mini, took a Herald and cut the rear off that, narrowed it by one inch, mig welded that on the Mini and made the convertible roof fit the Mini windscreen surround. Easy eh?! The wheel arches were subtly widened and the car was painted in a bright cellulose red. It took the much experienced Meredith three years of work and an estimated 2,600 GBP in costs. The Herald leftovers were used as a greenhouse to grow tomatoes and strawberries, so that was a nice bonus! He did sell the car not too long after that, though, and I understand that it recently made it over to The Netherlands. 

That's a strange bumper on a Triumph Herald isn't it? It looks narrower too.
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk 

Hang on, it's an Escort with a Mini badge. Or not? Bonnet is a mixture of these
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk 

There's no doubt that there's a Mini in the Meredith special. The conversion is all-steel
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk

Meredith wanted a convertible and that's were the Triumph rear came in
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk

The hood fits the Mini windscreen surround. Imagine the work going in it!
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk 

The late Douglas Meredith with his unusual Mini special back in 1997
Picture courtesy Martin Vincent

Friday 22 November 2013

Call of the Wildgoose

A picture of a Wildgoose camper van, posted by Henk van Brakel, recently unearthed a stack of contemporary Wildgoose photographs, most of which were previously unknown to me. Henk was kind enough to send all of his snaps over to here and who am I not to share them with you? You'll see both the Wildgoose Popular as the Wildgoose Brent versions, the latter of which was more expensive due to its pop-up roof. Henk thinks some of the Wildgooses (Wildgeese?) he photographed could well have been exported by now. Let me know when you know more about these specific cars.

This Wildgoose Brent ('PPX 272E') probably was the company's works demonstrator
Picture via Henk van Brakel
It's in the US now registered 'WLD GSE' in Washington and seen here at the IMM in 2009 
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel
Another US Wildgoose. According to Henk this  Popular resides in Florida now
Picture via Henk van Brakel
This Popular is well-known in UK Mini circles. It was restored by owner Rob Goodwin
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel
PPX 492E, another Wildgoose Popular snapped here at the Mini's 50th birthday
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel
Three Wildgooses in one picture! These were at the IMM in Gaydon in 2009
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel
This is the same car as the first one above but with a new reg number. BMW owns it
Picture Jeroen Booij
This looks to be the middle car from the three in Gaydon. Does it survive?
Picture via Henk van Brakel 
And the last of the three musketeers. Not much is known about this 1967 Popular
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel
This Wildgoose Brent, registered '948 GLR' looks to be spotted in the 1970s here
Picture via Henk van Brakel

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Ogle press statement

A lovely little piece of Ogle history was sent in by Paul Fleetwood, who wrote: "Earlier this year in one of your excellent blogs regarding the Super Ogle SX1000 you included a press cutting provided by Pete Flanagan" (find it here, and click here for some pictures of the car with Stirling Moss).
"I have an original press statement from Ogle Design announcing the same version, but unfortunately they did not date the statement. Would you know or be able to find out for me from which publication and it's date that Pete got that cutting from? Thanks very much for your help in this matter."Thank you Paul! And let's see how long it takes before a date is pinned to this press statement.

Press statement announcing the Ogle SX1000 Super. But from when is it?
Picture courtesy Paul Fleetwood

Thursday 14 November 2013

Where's Paul's bird puller?

Paul Edwards dropped a line on the forum to see if anyone out here knows more about the Mini Marcos he once had. He wrote: "I came across this forum while cruising for Mini parts and it made me think about my old Marcos. I was wondering if by chance it's still around or anyone knows of its fate? I bought it in the late 70's as being the car from the 1971 London motor show. It was white and fitted with a tailgate. The registration number was CHY 1K and it was fitted with a 1380cc engine and straight cut gearbox when I got it. For the 20-odd year old boy that I was it was quite the bird puller! Anyway after a fire I got urge for something a little less flammable and went on to the standard Cooper cars. The Mini Marcos was purchased by a Peter? in Merton I think. Did it survive or was it broken up?" Unfortunately I don't know anything about it. It did ring a bell, but all I could find was a picture of the 1969 Motor Show with a Mini Marcos outside. Now if Paul's Marcos really was a former show car someone should know it?

Another white Mini Marcos, not in 1971 but at the 1969 London Motor Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Unipower register updates (2)

Time for another update on the list of Unipower GTs (click here).

First, a message came in from Carlos Maciel in Portugal. He wrote: "Being a Mini nut (1 Mini Marcos, 1 Van, 2 Minis) I follow your blog with some interest. This brings me to the matter of Unipower updates. Portugal is home of one of the special lightweight versions: RR-28-52. But there is another one, I think its is a normal road version with a Cooper engine and registered RR-28-37. Please find attached two pictures to upadate the 'register'. Unfortunately I do not know the car's chassis number but it came to Portugal at the same time as RR-28-52: around 1968. Thanks for all the information you have been giving us. Regards, Carlos." And thank you, too, Carlos!

Another fantastic chunk of information comes from the United States. I now understand there were 13 GTs imported to the US by an official concessionaire in Rockville, Maryland. That's interesting. Question is how many of these cars remain as several are said to have been exported. Certain is that two cars from Colorado went back to the UK a few years back (now 'NOP 413F' and 'ROR 99G'). Two are said to remain in Rochester, one in New York, one in Minnesota, one in Arizona and one in Virginia. Information is very scarce, but there have to be people here knowing more.

Next, over to Japan, where a treasure trove is about to be opened - hopefully. The location of the orange colored mystery car is finally unearthed, and what a location it is. The car is stored in a two-story warehouse in Gifu that appears to be chuck full with British and Italian exotics. I understand the company housed here used to be Japan's Lotus concessionaire, but ceased trading many years ago. What happened to it afterwards is shrouded in mystery but fact is that the premises are hiding lots and lots of rare cars, including Lotuses, Maseratis, Abarths, Ferraris, many Minis and our mystery Unipower. To be continued. Meanwhile the orange/yellow lhd car in Japan is spotted for sale once more...

Another Portugese Unipower GT that has been in that country since 1968
Picture courtesy Carlos Maciel
This one is said to be Cooper based, and the other Portugese car being a lightweight
Picture courtesy Carlos Maciel
Japanese mystery Unipower rubs shoulders with Jeffrey J4 and Mini Marcos
Picture courtesy google street view
'Proauto' in Gifu looks to be a two-story treasure trove full of rare (Mini) stuff
Picture courtesy google streetview
Gorgeous left hand drive Unipower has been seen for sale several times now
Picture Jeroen Booij archive
One of 13 Unipower GTs that are said to have been officially imported into the US
Picture courtesy Flickr.com

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Stimsons in Scotland

We've seen Stimson Mini Bugs from Switzerland here, from The Netherlands and plenty from England too, so how about the Scottish? Well, I just found out that there was an enthusiastic outlet for the Mini based buggy in Edinburgh: Custom Hot Rodding, run by a chap named Vince Gonelli in the early 1970s. I came across a nice article in an old copy of Hot Car magazine and when I typed in the name in google more pictures came up from an Edinburgh based enthusiast who took them at the time. Hot Car wrote about the 'speedshop': "Although you might call it a 'goodie' shop the accent is on really useful equipment for the serious enthusiast. As there are few real tuning firms in their own right in Scotland, they stock a good selection of equipment produced by better tuners from the south (...). In most cases Scots customers prefer to do their fitting themselves but the arrangement exists whereby Vince's workshop side of the deal can carry out the work if required." Love it. Any Scots know if these cars survive? By the way: the rare Dutch-built Barclay Mini Bug of Andre de Wit (this one) has now come for sale. Click here when you are interested.

UPDATE 28 June 2022: another great shot of Gonelli's racer turns up. Click here.

December 1970. This is outside Custom Hot Rodding's workshop in Edinburgh
Picture courtesy Colin Lourie www.clourie.co.uk

Vince Gonelli in his Mini Bug racer. It used a 950cc engine with 45 DCOE Weber
Picture courtesy Colin Lourie www.clourie.co.uk

That's Vince Gonelli again in his Mk1 Stimson racer, now in wild stickering
Picture courtesy Hot Car magazine

He raced it throughout Scotland and northern England, here at Barns Ness, March 1971
Picture courtesy Colin Lourie www.clourie.co.uk

There were at least 3 Mk1 Mini Bugs in the Edinburgh workshop!
Picture courtesy Colin Lourie www.clourie.co.uk

Thursday 31 October 2013

Home grown Specials (4)

Time for another piece of imaginative DIY-work. Why buy that expensive Mini based fastback GT if you can build it yourself? That's what a certain John must have thought when he started work on his 'XP3 prototype'. What was the idea? Certain is that he sold it after not too long, as this old ad proves, sent in by Pete Flanagan. This is what it says:

If you want to be seen - buy my XP3 prototype

This unique car offers hand-made bodywork combined with 'standard' components that are easy and inexpensive to maintain. The above prototype is based on a little-used 1964 Mini ('Dry '64 cars had greater roadholding ability') and is powered by a 60 bhp 848 cc engine fitted with just one 1 1/4 in. SU and a special Piper head. This offers more than adequate performance for this light car and combines it with a good petrol consumption. Its specification is very complete including 13 in. steering wheel, complete instrumentation, bucket front seats, tinted windows all round, opening rear window and simply requires tailoring to meet its new owner's requirements. Mechanics include lowered suspension, competition shock absorbers, anti-roll bar, etc. This car has taken nearly a year to make and has cost over 1,000 pounds. Further enquiries and offers to 'John' (followed by a London address and telephone number). 
Like or dislike? Of course it gets my thumbs up, but it would be nice to see a bit more of it. Let me know if you can help with that!

John's homemade fastback. But what happened to this XP3 prototype?

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Top 10 Mini derivatives

How could I miss this! A Top 10 of Mini derivatives in the current (November) issue of Classic and Sports Car magazine. It's by Richard Heseltine who every now pops in here, too, to leave one or two pictures from his fantastic files behind. He writes here: "Whittling down the list to just 10 cars was no easy task, and we've cleared of all bar the sports car stuff" But limited or not to that area only, what would your Top 10 look like? Richard came up with this:

1. Mini Marcos
2. Unipower GT
3. Zagato Mini Gatto
4. Deep Sanderson 301
5. Cox GTM / GTM
6. Nota Fang / Type IV
7. Owen Greenwood 'sidecar'
8. Midas
9. Mini Jem
10. Ogle SX1000

I think mine should look something like this:

1. Lawther GT
2. Gitane GT
3. Camber GT
4. Mini Marcos (the 1966 Mk1 Le Mans car to be precise)
5. Deep Sanderson 301
6. Butterfield Musketeer
7. Zagato Mini Gatto
8. Bulanti Mini
9. Cox GTM (make that the '67 Car and Car Converions car)
10. Unipower GT

Erm, all pretty sporty too. And there are so many more! But it's nice to have a dream, or 10, isn't it?