Friday 31 May 2013

And where's James Garner's coachbuilt Cooper?

Let's have a look at one more celebrity owned coachbuilt Mini. Another one that seemingly dissappeared, just like John Lennon's, Enzo Ferrari's or Mike 'Monkees' Nesmith's (this is turning into a series or so it seems). Anyway: James Garner's Mini Cooper 'S', coachbuilt by Harold Radford of London and bought by him when filming in Europe. It must have been quite a cool car, in its gorgeous mid-blue / silver paint scheme and no doubt fully loaded, too. In an interview with Car & Driver magazine, back in May 2012 an interviewer asked Garner: "Of the cars you’ve owned over the years, is there any one you regret selling?" And Garner answered: "I wish I’d held onto my pale-blue 1966 Mini Cooper. After shooting The Great Escape in Germany, Steve McQueen and I both brought Minis home with us—they had to be among the first imported to the U.S. Steve was my next-door neighbor, and we’d race them up and down our street. I loved that little car and could do anything with it." So there we go. McQueen's does survive for a change! But anyone out there who knows what happened to 'UIL 807'?

UPDATE 29 September 2014: the car is scrapped in the 1980s. Read it here

James Garner with his pride and joy: a 1966 Morris Cooper S, coachbuilt by Radford
Picture Jeroen Booij archive
Well known picture of Garner and his 'Coop'. Wide alloys with Goodyears suit it well
Picture courtesy
Big boy. Sun roof surely was a special request by mister Garner. Is the interior blue, too?
Picture courtesy

Thursday 30 May 2013

Siva & Stimson on film

Well, well, it's been very quiet on here for a while. But there's a good reason for that as I was on another jaunt through the UK to photograph more cars and interview people for the next book.
Meanwhile, Paul Wylde sent over some cool film footage that somebody was kind enough to post on the world wide web (thank you!). I understand it is from a BBC programme called Wheelbase that was broadcast in the 1960s and 1970s and was all about the lighter side of motoring. In this particular episode presenter Michael Frostrick takes five buggies to the beach, of which two are Mini based ones: a Siva Buggy and a Stimson Minibug 2. "Well, what's the future of the beach buggy?" says Frostrick. "In a nutshell it's here surrounding me, it's fine for sports as long as you know the sort of sports it's fine for." Spot on, boy.

I am anorak enough to see if I could dish out more about the Siva and Stimson in question, and was not surprised to find out both were demonstrators. TRU 902J is the white car used in Siva's advertisments which later became the demonstrator of Skyspeed, Siva's distributor for the London area. It also appeared in a test in the September 1970 issue of Motoring News. NPX 144J, the Stimson, had a rather sad history as this was the car that got written off in Monaco in Summer 1970. Barry Stimson had managed to persuade Jacky Stewart to drive the thing on the F1-course in Monaco for a parade lap preceeding the race. Stimson’s business partner Ian Smith drove the car down to France where Morning Telegraph-journalist David Benson took it over for a report, and then crashed it just before Stewart had even seen it. Ouch! It did appear in Benson's write up though in July, 1971, of which I enclose another picture. The Wheelbase footage has to predate that, I reckon.

Two Mini based buggies in BBC's 'Wheelbase'. I expect the programme to be of 1970 vintage
Courtesy of

The white Siva Buggy was a demonstrator for Siva's London distributor Skyspeed
Picture courtesy Motoring News

The Stimson Mini bug before it was written off. The lady is Ian Smiths wife Liz
Picture courtesy Morning Telegraph

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Bitten by the Bison (8)

It's been over a year since we heard from our mystery restorer, working on the one and only CJC Bison, better known as the Mini Lamborghini (click here for his previous adventures). As a matter of fact things didn't look good for a while. I received a message earlier this Spring: "If you fancy a nice project, I am thinking of selling the Bison – less the engine and gearbox. The grp dust is playing havoc with my eczema (indeed my skin specialist thinks it may have been the trigger for it). It would do you perfect, super rare!" I answered in shock that I believed it wasn't a good idea and - to my own surprise - he listened! He dropped me a line earlier this week with the happy heading 'Mojo returned!'. It said: "I've bought a new spraygun so I could paint the side of my Mk1 Cooper S. That went okay, and I was bored on Sunday, plus it was a reasonable day. So… Just a single solid colour has made me cheer up about it. It needs a colour sand and probably a final quick pass over coat, but all the awkward bits and the edges are done." He made my day. Keep up the spirit pal!

Work is resumed on the restoration of the CJC Bison. The body is finished now

And with a first layer of fresh paint it is beginning to look like a car once again!

Monday 13 May 2013

Mystery Mini derivative (33)

You know Mini derivatives are everywhere, but this Mini based mystery motor was the last thing I expected to bump into while on holiday in southern France last week. It is, however, exactly what happened. I spent some time there on the Cote d'Azur where you see many Mini Mokes zooming around, and spotted this cheeky little tangarine thing in the town of Ramatuelle, not far from Saint-Tropez. Parked in between dull euroboxes it is clearly very different to a Moke. I have no clue at all what it could be as it doesn't look like one of the many other Mock-Mokes that I have come across so far. I do quite like it though, including the very neat interior it came with, trimmed in the colour of the hood. When I returned later it was still there, with no sign of its owner. Now, who can throw a light on it?

British registration is of 1963 and classifies it as a Mini Moke, which it clearly isn't
Picture Jeroen Booij

It's slab sided and all very simple, but built and detailing appear to be very good
Picture Jeroen Booij

There's a somewhat strange looking offset between bonnet and the rest of the body
Picture Jeroen Booij

I saw many Mini Mokes on and around the Cote d'Azur, but what on earth is this?
Picture Jeroen Booij

UPDATE 14 May 2013: Mick Davey wrote: "I bought this car for my wife in 2002 and understood it was built for RAF Culdrose with a view to throwing it out of the back of a plane. It looked quite different when we first got it - no hood and a different screen surround... We sold it quite a few years ago - surprised to see it is still on the road... As far as I know, it was a one-off, built from a Mk1 Mini, spending most of its life in Cornwall. The log book states it is a Mini Moke, registered in 1963 (I do have a copy of the log book somewhere in the house) but Mokes date from 1964, so yet another mystery surfaces. I named it Mini Poke just to be awkward." Thanks Mick!

Was the 'Mini Poke' built for army purposes? One former owner says so
Picture courtesy Mick Davey

Another reader remembers it being previously green. Davey says it was red when he bought it
Picture courtesy Mick Davey

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Low slung Swedish special: the Holmbarth

Not much is known about this car - a Swedish racing special with Mini or Mini Cooper power that Peter Camping found out about. It's known as the BMC Holmbarth 1100, which suggests it was equiped with an 1100 engine. The car was offered for sale in April 1970 through an ad in 'Sportvagnen och Vi' - the magazine of the Stockholm Sports Car Club. Seller was one Eriksson - there have to be more of these in Sweden - who offered it for sale for 6,500 Swedish crowns at the time. The only extra information he added to that was that it used a 10.5:1 compression and that it did the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds. Bjorn Bellander, who came past here once or twice before says he knew about the car "But the Holmbart never succeeded in racing and I never saw it on the track."

UPDATE 22 November 2018: The car survives! Click here

Swedish Mini powered Holmbart Special was as low as it could get. Does it survive?
Picture courtesy Sportvagnen och Vi / Peter Camping

Do we see twin SUs poking through there? 'Till Salu' sign means that it's for sale
Picture courtesy Sportvagnen och Vi / Peter Camping

The car was offered for sale in April 1970 but there the track appears to end
Picture courtesy Sportvagnen och Vi / Peter Camping

Monday 6 May 2013

Today 46 years ago

May 1967, Zandvoort track, The Netherlands. That's Tonio Hildebrand racing the Broadspeed GTS for the first time. It's a car that we've seen here once or twice before. Side exhaust, ram pipes - this car must have been noisy. I love it.

Tonio Hildebrand racing the Broadspeed GTS with its original UK registration EOP 88D
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Auto Revue magazine

Wednesday 1 May 2013

The Summer of '69... with a Caraboot

Remarkably, some of the best comments here come in from Australia. This one about a Bulanti was great, or how about the tale of Jack Kaines' Ecurie de Dez? Now, Doctor Rudy Rencoret of Sydney is next. He dropped me a line or two about a holiday he and his wife Sylvia undertook decades ago. He wrote: "In the Summer of 1969 we went around England and Scotland for about six weeks in my Caraboot. I rented it from a Mister Theobald in Preston, Lancs, who I might have found when I was looking for a caravan to pick up in Lancashire. This after I passed (successfully) my specialist medical degree in London. It was a marvellous holiday, starting in Windermere, on the Lake District, up to the Highlands of Scotland, down to the East side of England, then the Midlands, South of England, the West Country down to Land's End and up again on the West side this time, including Wales and finishing in Liverpool. We spend the boat a full day sailing on Coniston Water on the Lake District. The only inconvenience with the boat was that it was quite heavy, and so were the oars."

"It was only in Dorset when I was attempting a rather steep road beyond Portland that the little 850cc Mini engine decided that it was a bit too much and stalled. When I was going up that hill I started in 4th gear, then I had to engage 3rd, 2nd and finally, 1st gear, as the steep part of the road was too long. The poor old 850 cc engine stalled, and I could not go any further. I asked my wife to leave the car and with great difficulty I reversed it in that very narrow road. I could see a steep fall into the Channel on my reverse mirror and the little brakes were hot and unable to hold it. Had I reversed the other way I would have finished in the English Channel, Caraboot and all. But in the end we made it and continued with our trip. I may add that the engine temp never went above normal that afternoon. The Caraboot behaved splendidly, low on petrol and created a little sensation wherever we went. When we stopped for shopping in a small village and came back to the car we usually found it surrounded by people who wanted to know all about it. A number of people thought we were a bit mad, and so we were. But it was just wonderful." And so is the story, thanks again Rudy!

The Caraboot and a young Mrs. Rencoret, somewhere in the UK in the Summer of '69
Picture courtesy Rudy Rencoret

The Rencorets in the place where they spent much of June and July of that year: in the Caraboot
Picture courtesy Rudy Rencoret

Mini based camper was a joy to drive, says reader. Only trouble was to tackle a Dorset hill 
Picture courtesy Rudy Rencoret

Great holiday memories include cooking in the Caraboot's tiny kitchen
Picture courtesy Rudy Rencoret