Monday 29 April 2013

Mystery Mini derivative (32)

There have been umpteen cars built in the spirit of the good old Mini Moke. And the one you see here is no exception to this rule. Question is what it is exactly. According to reader Roald Rakers it was probably built in The Netherlands during the reign of the now abdicating Queen, but that's were the information ends. So there we go: who knows more about this squarish Dutch mock-Moke?

This Mini Moke lookalike is supposedly built in The Netherlands. Who can confirm this?
Picture through Roald Rakers

Wednesday 24 April 2013

The lost Coldwell GT of Macau

Ah - the Coldwell GT. Another legendary Mini derivative of which just four were made by Bill Needham in the late 1960s. As a matter of fact the very first car he built has intrigued me for a while now. It was Needham's own racer, which he sold in 1970 to a chap in Singapore planning to race it there. Probably to a man named Tony Lam as this name is painted on the car in old pictures that I found. In one local report the driver is named 林昔時, but I guess that could be the same name. There's not too much known about where he entered the Coldwell racer, but fact is that it made it to the Macau Grand Prix at the Guia circuit in November 1970. With start number 55 it qualified 21st there and had to start from the back of the grid. In the 45 laps race it did finish as a respectable sixth overall, though, with a works entered F2 BMW gaining first position and lots of more powerfull stuff to compete against. Not bad at all.

All in all an intriguing story, I think. When I asked Bill Needham some years ago about the car and its destiny he told me he believed it was crashed later as the new owner sent him a letter asking ‘Can you repair this part?’ while on a picture of the car - that his wife managed to dig up - accompanying the letter he had penned a circle around the complete front end! Needham never heard anything anymore and assumes the car is still there. Now that would be a cold case I'd like to investigate. Anyone out here with friends in Singapore's and / or Macau's historic racing scene..?

UPDATE 25 April 2021: I now understand the car overheated on day one, with the 8-port head and gasket damaged. A borrowed 1071 'S' engine with 649 cam, big valve head and 45 Weber was fitted next. 

The picture that was sent to Bill Needham with the complete front end circled
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Before the race. Tony Lam's name is painted on the Coldwell's ultra-low roof
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And again, behind the single seater. The car is tiny and so is the man leaning against it
Picture courtesy Natalino Couto

Needwell's ex racer at the start grid of the 1970 Macau Grand Prix. It came 6th overall
Picture courtesy

Rear view was never the GT's strongest point. The light blue car is an Elva Mk7
Picture courtesy

The Coldwell GT in hands of Tony Lam during the GP. Things were fine back then
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A map of what the Macau Guia Circuit was like back in 1970. A lap was (and is) 3.8 miles 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Racing 1967 style

When Richard Heseltine drops me a line it's always something that cheers me up. And when he e-mailed me yesterday it was once again the case. This time because he attached another lovely old picture with a Mini derivative in action (more here and here), now a Mini Marcos and definitely a Mk1. Richard wrote: "I've been reading about Mini Marcoses for sale on your excellent site and thought the attached might interest you. The pic shows Andy Barton's Mini Marcos at the Rufforth circuit near York in May 1967. I have no further info, other than car 141 (Lotus Eleven) belonged to David Taylor. Note the Cox GTM and Ginetta G12 in the background - fab stuff! I wonder where these cars are now. As an aside, Barton previously raced a very hot Morris Minor and went on to be a hugely successful Formula Libre driver in assorted single-seaters. Bye for now, Richard." Thanks again mate! Perhaps another reader here knows more about either Barton's Marcos with its ultra-wide JAP Magnas, the Cox GTM wearing number 133 or one of the other cars?

Andy Barton's Mk1 Mini Marcos in good company at Rufforth airfield in May 1967
Picture courtesy Richard Heseltine

Friday 19 April 2013

More Mini Marcoses for sale

Fancy a Mini Marcos? Several have turned up for sale in the last weeks or so, and in all different parts of Europe, too. None of them is a Mk1 or Mk2 - the one I'd prefer - but still you might find something of interest. Prices vary wildly, too.

There's a quite nice Mk3 to be found in The Netherlands (see ad here)
Picture courtesy
An Appendix K racer with Swiftune prepared engine is for sale in Portugal
Picture courtesy
A Mk4 in the UK with much modified body work (not my taste but who am I?)
Picture courtesy

And a shabby Mk3 in Belgium, unsold at auction but it may still be snapped up
Picture courtesy Francois Tasiaux
All parts are there, but layers of dust suggest neglect of some years at least
Picture courtesy Francois Tasiaux

Thursday 11 April 2013

Where is John Lennon's Mini?

Coachbuilt Minis of 1960s celebrities have a strange habit to seemingly disappear. Remember Enzo Ferrari's Mini Cooper, converted by an unknown coachbuilder? Or The Monkees Mike Nesmith's cool Radford? Or how about Mick Jagger's '67 Wood & Pickett? Footballer George Best's white Radford? Comedian Laurence Harvey's W&P? Anyone? Well, and then there's John Lennon's Mini, a black 1965 Austin Cooper 'S' equiped with black bumpers, wheels and pitch dark tinted windows by Harold Radford coachbuilders, too. It was registered LGF 696D not earlier then February 1966. Perhaps because Lennon was on tour in the USA for much of '65? Or because he wasn't a keen driver who only just had his driver's licence?

Anyway: after I wrote about it a few weeks ago (click here) I received a message from an anonymous reader. He wrote: "Hi. I've been into coachbuilt Minis for over 35 years and have followed up stories about this special breed of cars for years. As far as Lennon's Mini goes, when he moved to the USA he gave it to his then-butler, who in turn travelled the UK on his narrow boat and the car was carried around on this. But due to this it didnt last long thanks to rust, and it was scrapped. That's one story I heard. Then about 20 years ago I answered an ad about a half restored Radford Mini for sale in Holmfirth. The guy wanted 4,500 pounds for it. Once I was interested he told me if I gave him the asking price, he had the registration documents and logbook for Lennon's car. After that I never heard from him again." Strangely, the DVLA database says that LGF 696D is still on the road. Now who ever said something about Lennon's death and conspiracy theories..? The pictures below are screen grabs from 1966 footage that can be seen here.

UPDATE 7 April 2021: The car is shortly seen in 1968 film footage made by John and Yoko themselves when it was repainted green/cream. What's more: it was a hatchback! Click here.

UPDATE 27 January 2023: A replica is now in the making. Click here.

A black Radford Mini arrives in London. Pitch dark windows give no hint to who's inside
Picture courtesy

The car, registered in February 1966, is of 1965 vintage - the year Lennon got his driver's licence
Picture courtesy

It's him! Lennon steps out of chauffeur driven car. Where is his Radford Mini de Ville now?
Picture courtesy

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Swiss Sauter Special was Mini powered

And now for something completely different... over to Switzerland where one pretty special Mini based special came to life in 1963: the Sauter BMC Special. Sadly it doesn't survive as a Mini derivative, as reader Peter Camping found out. In fact not one but three Sauter Specials were built in 1963. The first one came with DKW 1100cc power, the second with a Fiat Abarth 1000cc and only the third and last with 1000cc sourced from a Mini Cooper. The engine was sharply canted forwards as the picture below shows and used a special inlet manifold to keep the SU carburettors straight. All of the three space framed cars came with independant wheel suspension and fibreglass body and were clearly made with the racing track in mind.

Funnily, the third car appears to be the only surviving Sauter Special now, although the Cooper engine is long gone. A BMW 700cc engine was fitted in 1966 when the car changed owners. That power train made place for a DKW three-cylinder with 850cc and a ZF 4-speed gearbox later. And it was in this shape that the Sauter Spacial was raced untill 1974. As 'Sauter BMC' the car was entered in just three racing events, all in the Summer of 1963. On the 4th of July that years owner Heinz Geissmann took it to the Les Rangiers hill climb in the Swiss Jura region. Later that month in the 'Slalom Rheinfelden, where Geissmann came first in class, and in August that year in Ollon Villars, not far from Montreux. Geissman came 56th overall here and fourth in class. That's almost 50 years ago today. Thanks to Peter Camping for chasing up this great story!

Heinz Geissman in the Mini Cooper powered Sauter Special in the Summer of 1963
Picture courtesy Sauter Engineering

Baby birdcage - extreme in several ways. It has to be even lower than a Landar R6
Picture courtesy Sauter Engineering

The three Sauter Specials under construction in Sauter's workshop. The company exists to this day
Picture courtesy Sauter Engineering

Cooper motorisation. Note engine is canted forwards while inlet manifold keeps carbs straight
Picture courtesy Sauter Engineering

Monday 8 April 2013

The Landar R7 that disappeared

The Radnall brothers built only four Landar R7s, and so far I tracked down two of these. One of them was sold new in the USA and is still raced regularly there in the hands of Carl Braun. Another spends its days in a Japanese lock up garage in a pretty sad state now. Pity indeed. From what I understand car number three was heavily modified in the USA and (sadly, I think) equiped with a Suzuki motorcycle engine somewhere in the 1980s. The fourth and last car appears to be missing, but I think it could be the one on the picture below. The image was sent to me by former Landar R6 owner Milton Holland (more here), who took it on a hill climbing event but couldn't remember when or where. I think it could be Harewood, where Frank Aston raced a Landar R7 in 1971 - and far from slow, too. He took the baby CanAm racer to 1st in his class during the event and also brought it home 1st in the 'Castrol BARC Top Test Run Off', or so I found on the Harewood Hill history website... Now, where could this baby be today..?

UPDATE 10 April 2013: Not Harewood but Shelsley Walsh! Both Chris Gittins as Alistair Cox are sure. Chris wrote: "It is on a section of track called 'crossing'. Alistair added: "It is indeed Shelsely Walsh. Interestingly, there's a picture on this page of the Dennis Pegg noted on the Harewood program in his Lotus XI driving Pandora / Mistron at exactly the same point in 1974 (see here). Oh, and I know the owner of the 3rd car you mention, the much modified car in the US. Have sent him a link to this." Thanks chaps!

Frank Aston in the Landar R7 at what could be Harewood Hill climb
Picture courtesy Milton Holland

Frank Aston drove the Landar R7 to victory in his class and in the Run Off
Picture courtesy

Thursday 4 April 2013

Mystery Mini derivative (31)

This is certainly not the best designed of Mini derivatives, neither the prettiest. The idea must have been simply to take an axle grinder and get rid of as many original body parts as possible, loosing as much weight as possible but not too much of the basic structure. Wings were replaced by something preventing the mud from flying into your face, and there must have been something of a 'rear deck'. Is it named 'Fargo Tiger'? The paint scheme certainly fits that name. But for the rest this is an unknown car at an unknown autocross event, probably somewhere in the 1960s...

UPDATE 8 April 2013: Richard Hawcroft wrote: It looks to have started life as a van, judging by the wheel base – look at the length of the sill. I think he's right!

'Fargo Tiger' autocross special is, erm, somewhat rough around the edges
Picture courtesy Richard Heseltine

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Mystery Moke is 'Caribbean's coolest car'

A mystery was solved recently - and I think not on pupose. Sarah Greaves Gabbadon, also known as Jet Set Sarah visited the isle of Petit St Vincent for a story there, only to bump into the cool cars that zoom around the island to deliver keys, crab meals and cocktails to guests. I wrote about these earlier (see here), having no idea what they really were. Well, Sarah found out! 
She wrote: "Tooling around a resort in a golf cart is fun but hardly unusual; every other luxury hotel bigger than your back garden uses them to ferry guests around the property. But at Petit St. Vincent, a sophisticated but un-stuffy 115-acre private-island resort in the Grenadines, they go one better, transporting guests from the beach to their hillside cottages and back again in a fleet of spiffy Mini Mokes (...) General Manager Matthew Semark told me that they make the bodies from their own fiberglass mold and source the vintage 1,000cc and 1,300cc engines directly from the UK. It takes about six months for the resort’s workshop to produce one of the open-top four seaters, which have manual transmissions and five-gallon tanks, and are serviced by PSV’s two ace Moke mechanics, Robert and Julian. Apparently one guest was so besotted with the rugged off-roaders that she ordered one as a birthday present for her husband. Try as I might I couldn’t get Matthew to divulge the total cost for importing parts from England, manufacturing the car from scratch in a remote corner of the Caribbean, and then shipping it back to the UK. But suffice it to say that that was one generous wife – with one very happy husband" Thanks for that, Sarah!

'The Caribbean's coolest car' says Sarah. And who am I to doubt that?
Picture courtesy Sarah Greaves Gabbadon

The men who build these groovy cars appear to enjoy doing so
Picture courtesy Sarah Greaves Gabbadon