Tuesday 26 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: Unipower GT

It's the 26th of January today - the last day of the Racing Car Show in London exactly 50 years ago. So let's have one more look back at one of many Mini based cars debuting here: the Unipower GT. Universal Power Drives Ltd. hired stand number 60 and dressed it with a fully finished car as well as a complete rolling chassis. There are several good pictures of this cool display and one of them shows the car from a low frontal view, revealing there are no air intakes below the front grille as on production cars. Could it be the aluminum bodied prototype that was built by Peel Coachworks in Kingston on Thames? That didn't have the signature intakes of the production cars either. Like the production chassis' the tubular space frame chassis on show was built by Arch Motors, close to Peel's premises, and gave clear sight on the twin masters cylinders, clever gear linkage and suspension and of course the Mini engine; a 998cc with 55bhp according to the program booklet.

In an interview in Which Kit? magazine Unipower-instigator Ernie Unger told some 10 years ago that the Unipower name actually came about due to some pressure of getting things ready for the show. Initially the car was christened Hustler GT, but when that name went to one of Universal Power Drives forklifts, a new name was needed, and rather quickly too. Unger: "We had to get the brochures printed in time for the car's launch at the Racing Car Show and there was an element of panic. As the company already had the Unipower name registered, someone, in desperation, suggested that we call it the Unipower." Perhaps not a bad decision after all. The Racing Car Show programme booklet mentions an 'Open Spyder' version 'with detachable hard top panels available to readily convert the open car to the closed specification', but that was stillborn.

Unger recalls in the same interview that the GT got plenty of attention during the show. Not in the last place from a man he much admired: "Carlo Abarth and his entourage spent hours on our stand, which made the day rather special for me. They crawled all over the car, eager to find out what made it tick." Maybe the GT inspired Abarth for some of his designs? Who will tell?

Debutant: the Unipower GT on stand 60 of Universal Power Drives in January 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The bare chassis gave a good idea of what the car looked like underneath those swift lines 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The tubular space frame, built by Arch Motors, gave a good idea of the GT's layout
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It may not be Monika Dietrich but in 1966 the Unipower GT attracted the ladies too!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And now in colour - note lack of air intakes below grille. Could this be the aluminum bodied prototype,
 built by Peel Coachworks in 1965?
Picture courtesy Ray Green

Despite having a different shade of grey, this may be the same car? Seen here in May 1966
Picture courtesy Peter Sellers / Jeroen Booij archive

And photographed by none other then Peter Sellers, who is said to have owned a Unipower himself
Picture courtesy Peter Sellers / Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 25 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: Peel Viking and Mini Marcos

50 Years back in time, the 7th Racing Car Show was still brimming in Olympia with even more Mini based surprises that were unveiled at the spot. The Peel Viking and the Mini Marcos were another two of them, and several magazine reports compared them. Sports Car Graphic, an American motoring magazine with a soft spot for British oddities, wrote: "Another method of transforming a Mini into a thing of beauty is to throw the body away completely and hang the two end assemblies beneath a replacement body shell. This is the Marcos-technique. Their Mini Marcos being offered in several states of trim, from bare glassfibre up to a fully-finished structure, including glazing and some interior trim. This is quite a good looking car (it was shown as just a shell, and as a complete 'runner'), a somewhat happier result than provided by a similar structure marketed as the Viking Peel, and manufactured in the Isle of Man, off England's West coast, and the scene of well-known hair-rasing activities on two wheels."

Marcos Cars Components Ltd. had great plans with their very cheap (199 GBP) wonder car, and hired a big stand. Number 15 . Now, I've seen plenty of pictures from Marcos later stands at the Racing Car Show (here for example) but strangely not a single picture taken at the 1966 show. Perhaps a reader has? I expect the car on display to have been '919 PYB', which was Marcos' demonstrator at the time, but it would be nice to see this confirmed. Of the Peel Viking there is little more pictorial evidence, and again it is my guess that the car on display was the one registered 'HUE 177D' - that car was later used in auto crossing and does not survive. Looking back at the 1966 show, Peel founder Cyril Cannell said a few years before his death: "This was a great opportunity to meet some of the most prominent designers and builders in the racing a sports car field, at least one of whom subsequently produced a car using virtually the same technology." He clearly meant the Marcos there, which became of course the best known Mini based car in history, while his Peel never achieved a status like that.

Only picture that I know of showing the Peel Viking at the 1966 Racing Car Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Like several other mags, Autocar compared the two, here with beautiful drawings by John Hostler
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This early ad for the Peel Viking dates back to 1965, prior to the show, when the car was still marketed by its original builder - Peel Engineering Ltd. By January '66, Viking Performances Ltd. had taken over 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This was probably the Peel Viking shown in Olympia in that year. It ended up auto crossing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

While this must have been the fully-built car on display with Marcos Cars Components Ltd.
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The 20-page Mini Marcos brochure handed out at stand number 15 in January 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 21 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: MiniSprint

We can hop from one stand to another: yesterday's Landar R6 could (under covers) be seen on the Broadspeed GT picture of Tuesday; today's MiniSprint was spotted by eagle-eyed reader Pete Flanagan yesterday! Indeed, a peak of the car on stand 45 - located next to that of Broadspeed and Landar - could be seen. This stand was run by the GT Equipment Company, although the brochure mentions Gran Turismo Wheels as the entrant. Anyway: they were selling sporty motoring accessories here, again, from wooden steering wheels to 'John Surtees driving gloves'. And the MiniSprint must have come in last minute, only to be unveiled right here - 50 years ago. The picture below is the only one that I know of of the car on display there You can just see the 'RRW1' registration - this is Rob Walker's personal car as seen in the brochure and in several magazine reports, too. Who has more pictures?

The GT Equipment stand must have squeezed the MiniSprint in at the last minute
Picture courtesy Autocar magazine

The brochures may not yet have been printed - this flyer was handed out on stand 45
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

That's Rob Walker with his Sprint in front of his infamous Corsley Garage
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And here goes to show the considerable size reduction of the Sprint
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This ad was printed in the Racing Car Show program booklet, showing one of the first Sprints built
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the same car (edit: not the same - see Pete's comment below) making its entry at the Maximum Mini/Mk1 Performance Track day in 2014
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966: Landar R6

Oops. I made a mistake in writing yesterday that the Camber GT and Cox GTM were launched at the 7th Racing Car Show, exactly 50 years ago. They weren't! In fact both of them were unveiled a year later, and so I'll have to wait for another year to mark their anniversary. No problem. There were still some more launches of Mini based cars at the Olympia show not to be missed. The Landar R6, for example, which was shown on stand number 46.

But hang on, that number was reserved for Broadspeed Engineering Ltd and their GT, wasn't it? Indeed it was. But Ralph Broad's creation wasn't on its own on stand 46. When you look at one of yesterday's pictures, you'll spot a covered up car next to the Broadspeed, which was the first production Landar R6. Painted on its side: 'Team Landar powered by Broadspeed'. Well, well, it seems that Landar's Peter and Clive Radnall were good chums with Ralph Broad, also from Birmingham. In fact they borrowed model Liz Corbett, too! She is seen on this picture in the diminutive Landar R6 with the same sharp suit in which we saw her yesterday. Groovy!

Stand 46 - were two exiting Mini derivatives rubbed shoulders: Broadspeed GT and Landar R6
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Hey, we've seen that face before! Liz Corbett, here in the Broadspeed powered Landar R6
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A price list handed out on the 1966 Racing Car Show by Landar Components Ltd.
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

These are brother Peter and Clive Radnall with the alloy bodied Landar R6 prototype in 1965
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Like Broadspeed, Landar took a load of accessories to stand number 46
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Racing Car Show 1966 - Broadspeed GT

Historically speaking, today is a bit of a milestone for lovers of Mini derivatives. It is on this day 50 years ago that the doors opened to the 7th Racing Car Show in London. And although the previous six editions had seen several Mini based sports cars - the 1966 edition topped them all with the Mini variant scene brimming as never before. They were simply not to be missed. And so, looking back, this was the best year for us lot. So let's have a look back at the cars on that great Olympia show, in alphabetical order starting with the 'B' for the Broadspeed GT today. Broadspeed Engineering Ltd. of Birmingham took a whole load of go-faster goodies to London - cylinder heads, carburetors, camshafts, manifolds, exhaust systems, tachometers and a 'reverse gear gate stop' - the majority of them for the Mini, but also for the Austins and Morrises 1100 and 1800.

But star of stand number 46 was undoubtedly the Broadspeed GT 2+2 in Old English White. The car made it to several magazines, also aided by a model in a super trendy outfit - the same suit they'd used for brochure shots. The Italians liked it and wrote about the GT in Auto Italiana, not forgetting the girl. They asked her name and Liz Corbett posed for them with a smile. I have tried to find Liz but so far to no avail. Let us know if you come across this write up Liz! Remarkably, a Broadspeed press release also states that 'demonstration runs in the GTS competition version can be arranged during the show, by appointment.', so the GTS probably was parked outside. As you will know both cars survive today in the hands of Chris Wooden. Happy anniversary to them! Tomorrow: Camber GT and Cox GTM.

Advertisement for the Broadspeed stand - simple but catchy
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Getting ready for the show - Broadspeed GT looks great. Behind it the Le Mans Sprite
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Ralph Broad knew of another way to attract the man and hired Liz Corbett as a model
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And now smile! Auto Italiana magazine liked her too. Where are you now Liz?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A plaque commemorating the Racing Car Show stand, seen in a Broadspeed GT
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday 13 January 2016

The German Peel does exist!

I'd heard the story of a Peel Viking in northern Germany quite a few times, but had never seen any proof of its existence. Well, I can now confirm it does exist,, despite being a shell only. The owner, Thomas Schubert, recently got in touch for a book and mentioned between the lines that he was a Peel owner, too. My curiosity was rewarded when he sent over this picture. The shell actually is one built by Andrew Carter in 2002, who made very few of them. Thomas plans to turn it into a car one day, but has more projects at hand so it will have to wait a little longer.

Thomas Peel body actually is a repro made in 2002, seen here in his shrine
Picture courtesy Thomas Schubert 

Thursday 7 January 2016

Finally: pictures of the Stimson Trek that was autotested

It's been over a year ago that I wrote about Mike Bennett's efforts in autotesting a Stimson Trek, but Mike came back to me this week after he found some forgotten pictures of it in a old shoe box. The Trek must have been one of the stranger entries in the sport, but Mike didn't do bad at all with the tall Trek. He got it after he managed to roll the company's demonstrator, saying: "I was very concerned that I had damaged their car but Sandy and John were very pleased! They had been trying to roll the car on the beach to prove that the roof bars were strong enough and had not managed to do so."

You can read the full article here, and these pictures nicely complement it now. Mike wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I have just found some old photos of my autotest Trek, you included my note about it in your blog a while ago. The picture of it competing was at the BTRDA National Autotest championship round in Bolton in 1984, we came third behind Russ Swift and John Underwood - who was also a British Champion. The picture at the show was in Olympia, the Yellow autotest special was John Underwoods, the blue Mini was John Wilson's, I later bought the blue Mini to replace the Trek and went on to win the BTRDA Mini championship twice." Thanks very much Mike!

Built from a 1973 Mini 1275 GT, Mike's Stimson Trek was anything but an ordinary auto test car
Picture courtesy Mike Bennett

Initially it was a handful to autotest, says Mike, but he scored a string of 3rds in the season
Picture courtesy Mike Bennett

Mike in (on?) the Trek in action during the National Autotest championship in Bolton in 1984
Picture courtesy Mike Bennett

In between John Underwoods' and John Wilson's auto test Minis and quite a lot taller
Picture courtesy Mike Bennett

Tuesday 5 January 2016

2016 Is going to be a Unipower year

Happy New Year folks! I do not know what you are up to, but I have been overwhelmed with Unipower news in the last month or so. Where do I start?

First of all it's 50 years since the car debuted on stand number 60 at the 1966 London Racing Car Show in Olympia. The programme book mentioned the GT and a Spyder version, but I don't believe the latter ever made it to the public. To celebrate the car's 50th long-time Unipower aficionado and owner of several GT's, Gerry Hulford, is planning an anniversary meeting at around May 2016 - 50 years after the first car was delivered. Gerry has teamed up with Unipower instigator Ernie Unger to do so and is currently looking for a suitable location in the south of England. Interested parties contact Gerry on unipower2015@btinternet.com, restricting the event to current and past owners of GTs along with the principal management of the two companies who built the cars and any ex-competition drivers.

On another note, Gerry had some interesting facts to share about two cars that came by here last year. First there was the yellow one registered 'GEM 911G' and spotted in Japan by an avid reader recently (see here). Gerry says it definitely is not an ex-works race car. In fact he rebuilt the car himself using parts from a car 'that was a total wreck and whose chassis was totally rusted away'! Gerry says the then-owner planned to track the car and he deliberately made the additions unlike any original ‘race’ Unipower 'so that it would never be considered what it is not'. It used a 1340cc engine at the time but the owner sold the car soon after it was completed. The other car he knew more about was the one from Luxemburg (here). Supposedly the ex-Motor Show car of 1967 and road-driven to Luxemburg to its new owner, a Count Volpi no less, by the factory. In March 1968 the car was bought by Tom Zettinger. Gerry says it was totally stripped, body off, 20 years later in 1988 before being put up for sale at that time for £3,200. What happened to it afterwards remains unknown to him.

Back to now, you may have noticed that a 'Unipower barn find' came to the market last week. Well, that description was perhaps a tad optimistic. The Unipower in question offered on Ebay didn't exist of much more then an incomplete and damaged Mk2 body, without any identification. To turn it into a car you'll have to source or build more then just a chassis as just about anything is missing. However, the chap who bought it did contact me and it seems it is in good hands with him. He has some very nice plans with it of which I'll keep you updated here. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, a Unipower GT Facebook page was started by Blyton Park co-organizer Pete Flanagan, who so nicely restored the Janspeed car. He is hoping to be able to find out some new information and cars through this page and I've seen some very nice pictures come along on it. It may help to boost the planned 50th anniversary? Have a look here when you are interested. And keep those snippets coming.

This is the only picture I have of the Unipower GT mule, test driven by Tony Lanfranchi in 1965
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It was 50 years ago today… The Unipower GT debuts at the Racing Car Show in London
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Time for an anniversary party in May, hopefully with a good turnout of cars
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / courtesy Tim Carpenter 

Defintely not an ex-works car - this Unipower was rebuilt from a wreck years ago by Gerry Hulford
Picture courtesy Scuderia Old Timer

'Unipower barn find' may have been an exaggeration, but who knows what this will lead to
Picture courtesy Ebay 

One of the photographs, unknown to me, that appeared on the new Unipower GT Facebook page
Picture courtesy Facebook

Monday 4 January 2016

Happy New Year - and we have a winner, or two

2016 Is here but let's start the year here with a final look back to 2015. You voted the German Landar R7 as the Best Find of 2015 with 52% of the (69) votes). The car is now owned by Heiko Tegeder who is planning a restoration, together with his son. He says: "We'd like to get it on the track again where we think it belongs. We don't know many race classes but maybe a few come up in the future (I know a track day which would suit it very fine! - JB). The car's body is quite poor and I would like to recreate some parts. The first attempt will be to get the car running before it will probably get stripped completely. All the brakes are tight and have to get reworked and I am busy with that currently. The body is complete (except for one central lid) but of course worn after several years of racing. It seems that they never had a bad accident with the car for it's in a real good shape." Congratulations with your first title with the Landar Heiko and I look much forwards to seeing the car in the future.

Meanwhile, we have another winner - that of the Maximum Mini Christmas puzzle. Nigel Drage-Dawes was the first to answer all the questions correctly, but another player was over 5 hours earlier revealing his list and made just 1 mistake. What's more: he mistook the Ogle SX1000's door for that of a Fletcher GT and I have to confess you won't be able to distinguish the one from the other. He also answered the tiebreaker better then expected. I was looking at the Fletcher GT for the 1966 Brands Hatch Boxing Day entry. He added that for this race a Mini Marcos and the Minnow GT were entered, too, which is absolutely correct! So, sorry Nigel, but Neil 'The Marcos Graveyard' Kilbane wins this year's puzzle. Please send over your address details and a book and poster will be on their way to you. Congrats!

The right answers were:

1. Saga; 2. Camarotta; 3. Foers Nomad; 4. Jiffy; 5. Coldwell GT; 6. Aurora BMC; 7. ASD Hobo; 8. Minissima; 9. RTV; 10. Sekura Mini; 11. Boro GT; 12. Mean Sonora; 13. Fisher Spyder; 14. Roles XS-3 Roadstar; 15. Landar R7; 16. Elswick Envoy; 17. Whitby Mini-Warrior; 18. ESAP Minimach GT; 19. Metron; 20. Ogle SX1000; 21. Sabre Sprint; 22. Mini Michelotti ADO70; 23. Birchall McCoy; 24. Butterfield Musketeer; 25. Mini Marcos Mk3.


1962 - Butterfield Musketeer; 1963 - Deep Sanderson 105; 1966 - Fletcher GT, Mini Marcos plus Minnow GT.

The things you can find in German lock-ups… This Landar R7 is our 'Find of 2015'
Picture courtesy Heiko Tegeder

Heiko is planning a restoration and hopes to race from this seat in the (near) future
Picture courtesy Heiko Tegeder

No differences in doors - Ogle SX1000 on the left; Fletcher GT on the right…
Pictures Jeroen Booij archive

Tiebreaker: the quirky Minnow GT was indeed raced at Brands Hatch at Boxing Day '66
UPDATE: this picture of it was not shot on Boxing Day 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive