Thursday 30 January 2014

Stimson in Switzerland

We know Stimson Mini Bugs were sold in Switzerland and at least two appear to have made it to the Swiss - see here. I never found out more about the concessionaire - 'Carrosserie Brühwiler' in Luzern though. They do seem to have sold some vicars though as now I was sent some more pictures of a Swiss Bug, as seen in the buggy scene back in its heyday. I don't know much about them, do not even know who shot them or where they came from but the watermark suggests one source or another. So, let me know if they are yours, I hope I can just borrow them for now.

The lip around the body suggests it's similar to the other Swiss Mini Bugs
Picture source unknown
'AG' number plate is for Aargau - in the very north of Switzerland. Note stabilizer
Picture source unknown
A Mini based buggy in between many VWs at a Swiss meeting in the 70s or 80s
Picture source unknown

Monday 27 January 2014

Getting ready for Blyton Park

New Unipower owner Pete Flanagan is not the only one working hard to get his GT ready for the Maximum Mini / Mk1 Performance Action Day at Blyton Park in May. Marque devotee Gerry Hulford is doing the same with his car - the one with Le Mans heritage. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, one day I will get around to doing my own site dedicated to Unipower, but in the mean time I thought you might be interested in a total rebuild that I am doing on the race Unipower. I started with the idea of just refreshing the paintwork, which whilst not in bad condition, was definitely showing the signs of a long history in motorsport. So once I started stripping the worst of the paint off the car, it just seemed to make sense to remove some parts and then more parts, until in the end only the steering box and dashboard had not been totally stripped down. The end result is that every nut/bolt & screw has been restored and put back. I've tried to keep the patina of the cars history and so I felt it important to replace any non critical bolts/screws with the originals and only change things like rose-joints for new. These were a real issue though as they are BSP threaded and this is not a very popular thread these days. However I managed to locate, at a price!, the correct original Rose Bearings joints, so am very happy with that. Every part has been stripped back to bare metal and repainted. I even managed to find new original headlamps in Germany (the Convex type by Cibie), which have been impossible to find for a few years now. All the wiring has been checked over and tidied up after the many years of use using the original connectors etc…"

"Anyway, the car is off to the paint shop tomorrow to have the white roundels painted on after which I'll re-install the engine - the correct thick walled, tappet chested 1293cc Cooper 'S' engine with the 4-speed straight cut gearbox and Jack Knight limited slip diff. I'll send you some final pictures once this has been done. For now please find attached a small photographic part of the rebuild. Kind regards, Gerry." I am much looking forwards to seeing the refreshed car on May 4, and I'm sure I am not on my own in that. There will be some other Unipowers coming so who knows they will make a display unseen for ages. See you there, Gerry!

Things started with the idea of just refreshing the paint, but it soon became much more
Picture courtesy Gerry Hulford
Air dam has always been there. Note removal of (Triumph Spitfire) screen surround
Picture courtesy Gerry Hulford
Repainted in its 'la puce jaune' ('yellow flea') livery and most of the trim refitted
Picture courtesy Gerry Hulford
The 1293cc engine with its 4-speed straight cut gearbox and Jack Knight lsd need refitting
Picture courtesy Gerry Hulford
Cooper 'S' discs look tiny under those huge and wide wheelarches, another original feature
Picture courtesy Gerry Hulford

Friday 24 January 2014

ABC Tricar prototype found

It took a long time to find a nice example of the ABC Tricar, but I finally managed to do so - thank you. Meanwhile I received some messages from people who have or had ABCs in the past. And Robin Smith of Buckinghamshire is the last but definitely not the least in line. In fact his Tricar, the rusty hulk you see below, is the prototype! Robin wrote: "Hi Jeroen, sorry these pictures are not that great but taken today so you can see its current state. The Tricar was purchased by my late father Doug Smith in 1974 from a local lady and it was used as a daily runaround by all the family and was great fun. It was stripped approximately 20 years ago and a new subframe and floor pans were welded into place. It's pretty much sat still since. The rear bodywork uses the bonnet from a Morris Minor 1000 and it has a waterproof panel that pops on the screen aperture and roll bar. It also still has its original engine which is an 850. The original logbook says 'Model number 1' and this was confirmed by Mister Powell to my father over the telephone many years ago." I can confirm that, too, as I have some historical pictures of the car clearly wearing the same registration number and Minor bonnet!

Robin continues: "My father was an avid collector of all sorts of vehicles from tractors to commercial vehicles and from old buses to cars, from the Mini through to Bentleys old and new. He wouldn't let any old vehicle get scrapped. He passed away almost 7 years ago and I'm still selling some of his vehicles to this day - that's how much of a collector he was!" Thanks very much for sharing, Robin!

ABC Tricar prototype may be in a pretty sorry state, but at least it's still there!
Picture courtesy Robin Smith
Robin Smith's father bought it in 1974. Like new floor, the roll bar was added later 
Picture courtesy Robin Smith
No doubt about it being the prototype. Rear body made from Morris Minor bonnet
Picture courtesy Robin Smith 
That's it in 1968. It was Trevor Powell's personal transport for quite a while
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Radford man married Wood & Pickett woman

Why not have a look at another celebrity owned Radford Mini DeVille that appears to have completely disappeared from the scene? This one is pretty good, if it was alone for the unusual touches -  gloss black paint with dark green striped over its sides. And how about lantern style indicators? The man responsible for commissioning Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Ltd. was film producer Roy Boulting - one of the Boulting brothers responsible for making screen gems such as 'Rotten to the core' (1965) and 'There's a girl in my soup' (1970). Anyway: Boulting had a taste for coachbuilt cars, too, as his 1964 Cooper 'S' based DeVille must have been quite something. From the picture that I found it seems that Boulting managed to tick all the boxes of Radford's sales programme. Just look at the Webasto roof, rosepetal wheels, Riley headlights, bucket seats, electric windows and chock full dashboard. Plus that cracking paint job and plain weird indicators.

One other thing that struck me when I looked up information about mister Boulting is that he fell in love with a 32-years younger actress named Hayley Mills - a former child star from the Disney stables. Now, where did I hear that name before? Ah… Miss Mills actually was the very first to commission that other London coachbuilder to revamp a Mini: Wood & Pickett! I believe this must have been either in 1964 or 1965. She also did some promotional work for W&P. Perhaps to pay the bill for her Mini? And did her lover's Radford inspire that car? It could well be. Fact is that Miss Mills' Wood & Pickett Mini became the first in a long row of Mini Margraves. What happened to it? Well, that's another question I'd love to see answered...

Film man Boulting with his richly equipped Radford Mini DeVille in 1964
Picture courtesy Small Car magazine
Radford man Boulting with Wood & Pickett woman Hayley Mills in 1968
Picture courtesy

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Building a Bug in 1971

Some of the best messages I receive here are from people who have owned or built Mini based cars in their heydays. The one I got from David Bellis, a retired Brit living in France, ticks both boxes as he built a Stimson Mini Bug in 1971 and used it as a daily driver for a while. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I've loved Minis for 40 years and the more unusual, the better! In 1971, my dad's friend ordered a red Mini Bug kit complete from Barry Stimson. I went with him to collect it from a farm in Emsworth, near to the South coast. Barry was working on the 6-wheeler when we arrived, was it called the Stimson Safari 6 or something, I can't remember (it was indeed!-JB). Upon our return, we decided that we would build one also. My father copied the chassis and incorporated a few strengthening mods, vastly superior to the original. He used thicker wall tubing and my dad could actually weld, unlike the chassis fabricators! I seem to remember the chassis was £125 and we bought the steel to fabricate one for about £10. At the time that amount of money would have put it beyond our budget."

"The red one was finished and registered UDJ 51, I think. We bought a 1965 Mini Van for £50 and then started the build. Everything was completely refurbished. As my Dad was a precision engineer, there was only one way to do everything - the right way! Hence the build took some time, but it must have been the best Mini Bug ever built. I remember wanting to have 6"x 10" Mamba wheels and 165 Rally Special tyres but we just could not afford them and therefore ended up with steelies and Avon Turbospeed crossplies. After completion we had an inspection at home by a local policeman, who approved the quality of the car and allowed us to make up our own chassis number. How times have changed. After over 40 years I can't remember the number but I think it contained part of our surname, probably 'BEL'. The car was then registered and given a current registration number XED 613K. This meant that it didn't need an M.O.T. for three years. In effect a new car! Amazing! Don't ask me how, but I remember the engine number as 8AM FAU H550725. It just came to me, how bizarre is that?"

"We ran the car as our only transport for about 6 months, but pressure from mum finally forced its sale. We last heard of it from an owner in Northern Ireland. As I was only 16 or 17 at the time and had not passed my driving test, I was not allowed to drive it. This small problem did not trouble me and I drove the car around Warrington in Cheshire, where we lived. Incredibly, I was never stopped as the car was hardly inconspicuous. I remember it being quite noisy but almost fast. The engine had been properly rebuilt and the car weighed almost nothing. The hood and side screens worked very well. Vision was good and virtually waterproof. We couldn't afford chrome headlamps and settled on some black ones designed for a farm tractor. The rear lamps were trailer items. The large sticker on the roll bar was our local tyre company Warrington Tyre Distributors. They gave us a discount on the wheels and tyres in return for some free advertising. I've tried to remember as much as possible and hope that I haven't bored you with too much detail. I would love to know where it is now. I may be nearly 60 but I love odd cars now as much as when I was 17! At the moment I am part way through scratch building a Bugatti Type 35 replica, and yes, the engine is in the front where it should be! This car is going to be my best yet (I always say that!). The only sad part is that my dad has Alzheimer's and can't help me, but I try to do each bit as he would have. On completion of this project I am hoping to build a beautiful MiniSprint. Neville Trickett lives quite close and will hopefully be doing the shell modifications for me. Keep up the good work!" Thanks very much David, and let's see if someone here will be able to tell us more about your car's destiny.

Unofficial Stimson Mini Bug chassis was, according to builder superior to the original
Picture courtesy David Bellis

Proud builder and his first car, built on a shoe string. Front lights were tractor sourced
Picture courtesy David Bellis

Local tyre company WTD gave a discount in return for some free advertising on roll bar
Picture courtesy David Bellis

The Mini Bug's dashboard in all its simplicity. What else does a fun car need?
Picture courtesy David Bellis

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Camber/ Maya update

It's been quite a while since I posted something Camber/Maya related. Avid readers may remember the Camber/Maya files that came along here in 2011 - still integral to be found on these pages. One of the cars described was the Camber GT registered RLL 8L (see here), which has quite a nice slice of heritage. Fletcher owner Paul Ogle sent me a lovely picture of the car at speed that I'd never seen before. It was taken during a race at Brand Hatch in 1967 and with it came the description: "The next class gave us a preview of a new car. This was the Camber GT of John Green, previously known for racing a Mini Marcos. John's new car is also based on a Mini, but looks more substantial than the usual Mini-based GTs." The car is owned these days by Bryan Purves, who I hope will bring it along to Blyton Park on May the 4th.

Josh Willis - the chap who recovered the Maya GT that was found in an Ashford field in 2012 (click here), hopes to do so with his car. It was the Find of the Year back than and I asked Josh if there's any progress in the restoration, which unfortunately there isn't. Josh wrote: "Nothing to report I'm afraid. It is currently just tucked away in storage. I will let you know as soon as I make a start on it." However, Josh hopes to put it on our Mini derivatives display at Blyton Park: "I will come over for sure. I might be able to bring the Maya on the trailer, people might be interested to see it." I surely am!

John D Green at speed in his Camber GT - it was brand new at the time
Picture via Paul Ogle
This Maya GT may look pretty bad - I'd love to see it in May at Blyton park
Picture courtesy Josh Willis

Monday 13 January 2014

Janspeed Unipower finds a new home

Unipower related messages keep on coming here, so it shouldn't be long before another comprehensive update is made with some news about cars in the UK, Switzerland and the US. Never the less I want to share with you the good news that regular contributor to these pages (with old pictures and advertisements mainly) Pete Flanagan has been so brave to actually buy the ex-Janspeed Unipower GT that has been for sale for such a long time in Belgium! Well done Pete! I am positive the car is now in very good hands. Pete has already started to take the engine out as he plans to have it ready in its original Janspeed-guise for the Action Day at Blyton Park on May 4 this year. He also found out more about its chequered history, writing: "It's wider bodywork is typical of only a handful of Mk1 Unipower GT's produced to go racing (there's one or two others still in existence to my knowledge and they're left hookers). It's not modified , it's actually got completely different race car mouldings from Specialised Mouldings." Things started to awaken when Pete came across an old ad in Autosport magazine a few years ago (see here). Pete: "It was only then that I made the connection to this car which had been referred to as ex-Janspeed. In fact it had been for sale a while in Belgium but with a very misleading description which hinted very strongly at the car having been entered for Le Mans in 1969, which I soon found out was untrue."

"I then remembered seeing the Janspeed car in an old copy Cars and Car Conversions which a mate duly lent me which when compared to other photos I'd uncovered of it racing in the late 60's all came together to reveal it was indeed the Janspeed car that Jan Odor bought in the late winter of 1966. He bought it to prepare for their works driver Geoff Mabbs to race in 1967, which he did at several circuits including Brands Hatch, Castle Combe etc. They also took it to the very first Spanish F1 Grand Prix held at the brand new Jarama circuit." Pete has been trying to get in touch with Jan Odor, but an answer hasn't come yet. "I have spoken to the car's next owner Brian Harvey, the ad manager for Cars and Car Conversions magazine, who whilst round at Janspeed writing an article for the magazine on Unipower GT's saw the car parked in the corner of the garage. After a chat with Jan a deal was done for C&CC to buy the car for Harvey to run in 1968 with their sponsorship and also Grand Prix Models , Harvey's model making company which is still in existence."

Pete has a lot more to tell about the car and its subsequent history, but is currently busy working on it. The engine's already out of it with the Cooper 'S' block and crank being returned to it. The best thing is that this lovely motor will make it to Blyton Park in its resplendid Janspeed livery in Tartan Red. Pete concludes for now: "I am really looking forward to returning the car to it's Janspeed spec and filling in all the missing history. We will also have the Le Mans Unipower on track with mine at Blyton, plus two other road cars." I am currently talking to another two owners who may want to bring their cars to the Action Day, so who knows we will end up with a Unipower GT display previously unseen before. Gather 'round, gather 'round!

The Janspeed Unipower GT in 1967 - it was a signature Tartan Red at the time
Picture through Pete Flanagan

Spot the differences. This is what it looked like in the last two decades or so…
Picture courtesy Mark Butler

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Body bomb shells

Mk1 Mini Marcoses keep on popping up for sale, and another one appeared on eBay this week, listed in Ipswich. Actually it is an empty shell which seems totally unmolested. All the Mk1 features are there, from the notched arches to the outside fuel filler cap and from the little Perspex side screens to the con caved floor extension. The sting in the tail is that there is no paper work and not even a chassis plate on the car. So be careful out there when a freshly restored Mk1 with a previously lost chassis number is offered for sale in a while. See the ad here on eBay.

Another shell that found its way to eBay in the UK is even rarer. Much rarer as I have never seen another in the flesh. It's for a Ranger Cub 4, for sale in West Bromwich. You don't see a Ranger Cub three-wheeler very often, to put things really mildly, but a four-wheeler pick up is even much, much, more obscure. Four are said to have been fabricated and one of them, registered '624 NOA', can be seen in Ranger's press pictures (anyone know where it is…?). But that is the only one I have seen pics of. Now if you want something really unique… See the body shell here for sale. Perhaps the Best Find of 2014 already?

UPDATE 13 January 2014: No less than 23 bids on the Marcos, eventually going for £2,653. Zero (0) bids on the much rarer Ranger with a starting price of £250. Come on guys.

This Mk1 Mini Marcos is just an empty shell, but it is complete and unmolested

No chassis plate and no engine here, and it looks like there has never been one, too

Outside filler cap is a typical Mk1 feature. As is the all-original dashboard lay out

A Ranger Cub 3-wheeler is rare, but a Cub 4 is even much rarer. Find of the year?

Pointed nose was a 1974 design by Eric Salmons. Are there more survivors?

Ranger Cub 4 combines nose of the 3-wheeler and rear end of the Ranger Pick-up

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Mini Jaba is Best Find of 2013

Well-well. This year's Christmas puzzle was not cracked - although previous winner Paul Wylde came pretty close - so I guess I'll have to make next year's easier again. Fortunately there is a winner of 'Best Find of 2013'. 164 Votes came in this time, and 49% of them went to the Mini Jaba, found in Barcelona last October (click here). Meanwhile a slight little bit more information about the car has come available. In fact the patent file has been unearthed recently, see a fragment below. It's all in Spanish in the first place, but strangely it doesn't mention a Mini as the car's base but a VW Beetle! I hope to find out more about the car and its destiny soon.

A part of the Mini Jaba's patent - it doesn't mention a Mini!
Picture via Xavier Enrich