Tuesday 25 February 2014

Enzo's Cooper 'S' - the plot thickens

It did take a while before the promised pictures of the presumed Mini owned by Enzo Ferrari came in, but they have arrived after all. And I can tell you they appear to be in the favour of the car's history.

From what I understand from the paperwork, the car, an Austin Cooper 'S' with chassis number 552189, was imported to Italy on 12 December 1964. It was issued on a Modena number plate '116703-MO' on 29 January 1965. The price for which it was sold was 1.825.000 Italian Liras and the owner is clearly described as 'Ing. Ferrari comm. Enzo' at an address in Modena. The car kept the Modena number until 14 March 1970 when it was handed over to the next owner who paid 500.000 Liras for it. As far as I can see there is no mention of a paint colour.

Thanks to Virginio Bolla we now have many more detail pictures of the outside and inside of the car, too. Apart from the bad spraying job, the modified (Carello) light units can be seen well, now, as the quarterlights. And what's more: the same goes for the interior. That, too, is clearly modified heavily. The doors benefit from wind-up windows (A Tilling conversion, or something made in Italy?); the door cards are different from anything I have seen before on a Mini. Carpets and seats (Microcells) are red and there's a wood rimmed steering wheel and dashboard (by Hooper) with extra gauges. Among them a lovely Italian rev counter with the redline set at 6,500 rpm. Under the dashboard a radio and speaker is mounted. The rear view mirror is replaced to the dash rail.

So there we go. Meanwhile, a recording from the late John Cooper has surfaced in which he mentions: "Enzo Ferrari owned three different Cooper S’s at different times, which he used to go up in the hills and tear around with when he got bored” Question is which one this could be? I look forward to hearing what you guys think.

There are differences from the car on the old pictures but there is a link to Enzo Ferrari
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla
The interior is a coachbuilt job in red. Note the rev counter with 'giri' rather then 'revs'
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla
Wind-up windows and quarterlights are another clue. Who carried out this job?
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla 
Paint job is not the best. Could there be silver grey paint underneath the red?
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla 
Austin Cooper 'S' power train is a correctly stated as a 1275 in the Italian documents
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla 
Turin number plates came in 1970 when the car was sold to its second owner
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla

Friday 21 February 2014

Broadspeeds coming from everywhere

There's a lot of rumour about another revival of the Broadspeed GT and it's not just coming from the UK. In fact I believe more Broadspeeds than ever are being replicated at the moment. There is Nathan Wilson's car in Australia, hand built in steel from a standard Mini. Nathan has now made a fiberglass mould from the car and plans to make a body from it in carbon.
Over in Germany, a company named Broadspeedclassics says it can make replica roofs as well (click here). This while in Belgium a man with similar plans teamed up with well-known Sebring replica manufacturer Archer's Garage. There is, however, no news from them so far. This while another project in the UK accelerates rapidly. One original car is being restored to its former glory, while a mould was taken from it and used to replicate more roofs. I have seen some very promising pictures of these roofs and the moulding but unfortunately cannot publish these as yet.
Next, a Downton GT is being restored and appears to become baby blue rather then the two-tone silver and blue it was. The coming season may have a surprise or two for the fan of the GT.

For quite a few more Broadspeed replicas click here and here

That's one way to make a moulding! Nathan Wilson plans to build his car in carbon
Picture courtesy Nathan Wilson
Picture used on German website in fact originates from Australian based Downton GT
Picture courtesy broadspeedclassics.tripod.com
The Downton GT was built in the mid-1990s - this one is currently being restored
Pictyure courtesy dep-o.co.uk

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Is this really Enzo Ferrari's Mini?

Hang on, what have we got here?
These pictures were posted via-via on a Facebook page recently.
Could it really be this car?
That would be awesome. I'm not convinced though. Perhaps it's just a bit too red and too shiny.
Who knows more?

UPDATE 21 February 2014: The photographer, Virginio Bolla, calls in: "Hi Jeroen. I have seen this Mini at Automotoretro in Torino and I spoke to the owner. He says that this Mini was a present of Enzo to his father. Originally from Issigoniss or Cooper, it came in red but Ferrari wanted to respray it in metallic silver because he supposedly said that the only red car in the world is a Ferrari. This new owner some year ago resprayed it in Tartan red but the paint job is poorly executed and there are too much bubbles. Some guys here in Italy say it is not the real Mini of Enzo because there are some details that don't coincide. Tomorrow I will send you some more photos. Ciao, Virginio."
These Italian guys may well be right. I've had several messages from people who spot differences. The cleverest of them looked really good at the front valance: "This Mini has the later type valance, where the real car in the famous picture of Alec and Enzo standing by the Mini, the front valance is of the pre-'64 type, smooth round, and no cut out ventilation for the brakes." Well spotted.

UPDATE 25 February 2014: Detail pictures from inside and outside are now published, as well as all the information from the paperwork displayed on the car. Click here

Coachbuilt / converted front looks similar to the Austin Cooper S which Enzo Ferrari drove
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla 
Colour seems too obvious and wipers are directed wrong way. But where were these shots taken? 
Picture courtesy Virginio Bolla

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Book: Three-wheelers A-Z

British writer Chris Rees clearly is a fan of mobile obscurities. He has contributed a few times to these pages too, with some extraordinary findings. However, his greatest passion has to be the three-wheeler. He wrote a book about them in 1995, setting a standard. I believe he must be the only person who actually made a picture of the Mini based AC Donington during its presumed only appearance in 1982. More recent he could have cracked a mystery three-wheeler here, too (click). So if there ever was going to be one man who could do better, it had to be Rees himself. That has now happened. 'Three-wheelers A-Z - the definitive encyclopedia of three-wheeled vehicles from 1940 to date' continues where Rees' first book three-wheelin' book stopped. It describes no less than 1,122 vehicles on 240 pages and it's published under his own new label 'Quiller Print'.

It's a wonderful book with something new you won't have known before on every single page. Once you start browsing you will have difficulty to stop absorbing the trivia about all these vehicles, so many of them unknown. While his earlier book on the subject mainly focussed on British and European three-wheelers, this one includes vehicles from every part of the world. The only disadvantage to that - that I can think of - is that it also leads to many rather boring Asian rickshaws and tuk-tuks. Never mind. In his forward Rees mentions that only production vehicles are included, but you won't be surprised that the production of a large number of them is limited to '1', 'very few' or 'probably 1'. Apart from the AC Donington ('No built: probably 1'), there are 17 more Mini based creatures which made it to this encyclopedia. Rees clearly likes some of these, Stimson's insane Scorcher for example almost gets a full page with four photographs while plenty of others (read: less wacky ones) are limited to one or two lines only and a picture in stamp size. Buy this book before it sells out.

ABC Tricar to Zzipper Triton: Rees' new book contains 240 pages and 1,122 vehicles

Excluded are terrain vehicles, racing cars and one-offs, leaving 18 Mini based road going cars

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Going Minissima

In came an update from Bruce Rolland. He has been working hard on the restoration of his newly acquired car, an American spec Elswick Envoy which he bought at the end of last year (story here). Bruce now sent a few images as the car is coming back to life. He wrote: "It's just out of paint. Look at the colors, they are the same as the Corgi 288 Minissima colors. I have been putting the little guy back together all week. It will be stunning after all is complete." That's a groovy idea indeed, and it surprises me no-one ever thought of this colour scheme before. Well done!

American spec Elswick Envoy has to be rare. It is given a full restoration treatment now
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland
Big rear door of the Elswick Envoy makes access easy for people in a wheelchair
Picture courtesy Bruce Rolland
The car is painted in the colour scheme of the Corgi Minissima model seen here
Picture courtesy ebay

Monday 10 February 2014

Buckle up for the sun

While it's been drizzling here for weeks, Australia is heading towards mid-summer. Look at this picture, shot 47 years ago at Manly Beach, Sydney. I have no idea who these young people are. The car, however, is a Buckle Monaco, and it looks like a dream to use for these coastal roads. The majority of the Monacos was based on the Australian-built Mini Cooper S so definitely good fun. And good looks, too, just like the couple. Can't wait for the sun to go shining here either...

Picture perfect: A Buckle Monaco on Sydney's coastal roads back in 1967
Picture courtesy Geoff Murray / Pinterest

Friday 7 February 2014

Biota for sale

Not just a car - the Biota name, the moulds, the rights to build the car plus an assortment of Biota vehicles and stuff. Check this out!

When I visited John Rayner a couple of years ago to see his collection of Biota cars I was overwhelmed. Here was a man who not only had a fair share of the 31 cars built, including the first production car and first customer car - John had also amassed lots of other stuff like the original moulds and the jigs. The next thing was to take over the Biota name and its production rights from John Houghton, and that's exactly what he did.

That's a lot of things Biota for one man, one John has now decided to part with it. As he wrote to me: "Yes I am interested in selling everything 'the whole lot', but preferable in one lot."
See the ad here for all the details.

Three of John's Biotas in various states of rebuild. It's all up for sale now
Picture courtesy John Rayner
A Mk2 Biota bonnet next to its mould. These, too, are included in the sale
Picture Jeroen Booij
Well-used in the 1970s - various gellcoat layers can be seen on moulding
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Reeves Matrix found in Kent

Speaking about unusual finds - how about a Reeves Matrix! A what? Hang on. I received several messages of a most unusual three-wheeler that is offered for sale at the moment in Canterbury. The seller describes it as follows: "I'm selling my 1957 BSA motorbike and sidecar combined. It has been converted very well (…) It has a short shift gear change and a 1275GT engine - it flies! It needs lots of work but will turn heads everywhere it goes. This is a one-off vehicle tax and MOT exempt, built by an ex-road racer of bikes."

A one-off? Could be, but in fact I'm convinced it's a Reeves Matrix, built by Reeves Engineering Development in Newark in the mid- to late 1980s. I'm not totally sure how serious Reeves was about the Matrix as it was a truly weird contraption with motorbike steering combined to Mini power and one of the rear wheels in an off-set position. It was marketed, though, and officially unveiled at the 1985 Alternative and Kit Car Show of which I have a picture. The prototype shown on that looks to be different from the one in Canterbury. It has a different engine cover, different headlights and different sides. However, it clearly is the same basic design with that very unusual off-set right hand rear wheel.
Anyway: I'd never have believed to come across a survivor, so the eBay advert is the surprise of the week. Let me know if you buy it! Oh, and thanks everyone for letting me know.

Reeves Matrix at the 1985 Alternative and Kit Car show. Where they ever serious?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive
And a Matrix in Kent. Is it the same vehicle that's been modified or a second one?
Picture courtesy ebay.co.uk