Wednesday 26 October 2016

BB Special - it runs

There are not too many people building Mini based Specials nowadays, so I was much surprised to find one such person not far from where I live early last year. Carpenter Bauke Buscher had already built two Sylva road cars in the past but is also a Mini enthusiast who has been auto testing Minis for years. Now, as his Mini proved not to be competitive enough for him anymore, he decided to build a car of his own design last September. It had to be Mini based, as his experiences with the Mini's mechanicals were good and as he had a spare 1275 lump lying in the workshop. And so work started by welding a tubular space frame chassis of his own design last year. He placed the reconditioned engine with its subframe just behind the seat, with locked steering arms. The simple body is aluminum, keeping the kerb weight below the 400kgs-mark. Last weekend, the car competed for the first time in the Wimedo autotest and did well. The gorgeous photographs below were taken by Roald Rakers, who informed me about Bauke's project in the first place. Thanks again chaps and Bauke, keep up the great work!

It's diminutive! BB Special was built in a year's time in Bauke Buscher's garage
Picture courtesy Roald Rakers

Car uses reconditioned 1275 A+ engine at the rear and weighs under 400 kgs
Picture courtesy Roald Rakers

That's Bauke himself. He previously built two very fast Sylva Mojos but is a Mini man at heart 
Picture courtesy Roald Rakers

The BB Special is all about simplicity, but it all seems to work exceptionally well  
Picture courtesy Roald Rakers

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lawrenson's Landar - where is it now?

Reader Stephen Lawrenson contacted me about a Landar R7 he had back in the mid-1970s. He wrote: "Morning Jeroen, I have just enjoyed looking through your photos and I am now convinced that the Landar R7 car Frank Aston raced was the car I raced in the mid 1970s (see here). I bought it in '73/'74 from John Hinley still running an 8-port Arden head with injection all done by Broadspeed. My last race was in 1976 at Oulton Park in the European two-litre Sports Car Championship, which I was invited to run in."

"Sadly outclassed by the likes of Jon Lep and Guy Edwards racing in Chevrons as a show down for Le Mans, but one hell of an experience to be on the grid with my 1300! I wish I still had the car today and have not a clue what happened to it. Just after selling the car I was called from Canada and had a meeting with the man who bought the Landar name to photograph my car. He was sorry he couldn't buy the car as I had just sold it. I'm still loving the Mini thing and am working on my Mini Marcos at the moment. Best, Stephen."

Of the four R7s made, I think it's one I have seen photographs of, now a much-modified R7 that was converted to motorcycle power in the 1980s or 1990s in the US. Years ago I photographed a red car in Japan, Carl Braun of Iowa owns an original US car, while the fourth has to be this one. Who knows more about the Kawasaki motorcycle powered R7?

Stephen Lawrenson at speed. He believes his car to be the ex-Frank Aston R7
Picture courtesy Stephen Lawrenson

Stephen raced the R7 during three seasons in the mid-1970s before selling it on
Picture courtesy Stephen Lawrenson

And here again, at the Man TT circuit in 1975.
Just four Landar R7s were built in 1969 and 1970. The other three cars are known
Picture courtesy Stephen Lawrenson

But the whereabouts of this car remain somewhat sketchy. Seen here at Croft
Picture courtesy Stephen Lawrenson

Lawrenson describes racing his 1300 powered Landar as "One hell of an experience!"
Picture courtesy Stephen Lawrenson

The same car? Seen here in much-modified state with Kawasaki motorcycle power in the US
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 21 October 2016

Mini Gordon - it's all about name dropping

It's been a long time since I wrote about the Mini Gordon. That most unusual coachbuilt Mini, commissioned by Eric Gordon of Brussels and built by Wood & Pickett of London. Two years ago I  had a look at the car in Belgium and the then-owner told me it was all nonsense what I'd written earlier. Read it for yourself here.

However, I was quite sure about my article, but couldn't find back the Dutch magazine article, which had been my main source. And so I was relieved when Henk van Brakel sent me a copy of the same piece lately, a much better copy then I previously had. And there they were - the names I'd read about before, and even more of them. They were not made up by me! Eric Gordon certainly was fond of name dropping. This is a translation of a piece of the article, interviewing him about the car. It's unbelievably pretentious:

"I took the decision to build the car while in Spain, thanks to two Spaniards. Ylenia Vilar Sancho is a beautiful woman and dancer with the Maurice Béjart ballet. The other is named Antonio Huerta, a genius inventor who constructed a rotor engined Spanish Formula 1 car in the 1950s. The Japanese were much interested as they were also starting to work on Wankel engines at the time. Huerta is one of the popes of the European motoring underworld. He knows everyone - craftsmen, sub-contractors, designers, inventors, people who dream of surpassing impassable paths and so on."
"During my researches I also came across the Swiss designer Oulaf, who worked for the design house of Vittorio del Basso, and it was him who put the first sketches on paper."
"The whole project wasn't particularly easy, I can say. People with a good will are hard to find. I cooperated with some fifteen small British companies, but only Wood & Pickett of London and a Belgian man, Milan Marick van Omnibel, wanted to join me on this project."
"Apart from that I tried to get Hermes, Dior and Vuitton interested for the project, but all to no avail. Eventually, we based our car on Rolls-Royces as sub-contractors working for RR have carried out parts of the job, in a year's time, with typical British sobriety. It cost me over a million francs. To build a second Mini Gordon, I'd have to ask 650,000 Belgian francs. But then the car can be made to measure. You can choose for a long or short Mini, with or without the hatchback door."

Nuff said.

Oh, one more note then. When I interviewed W&P's Eddie Collins back in 2014 he said: “Eric Gordon, oh yes, that strange man. His idea was to offer a car like ours, but then shorter. We built the prototype for him. It made no sense to us but he was completely committed to the idea of a small and luxurious city car. To me it seemed like money wasted.”

Thanks Henk for the scan!

The Mini Gordon article that reveals it all. How many names can you drop?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive via Henk van Brakel

Eric Gordon with his creation in 1976. It certainly was pretentious and expensive
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car in 2014, when I photographed it in Belgium. It has been sold to the UK since
Photograph: Jeroen Booij

...And seen at a Birmingham show last month, now with its new UK number 'BF 80'
Picture courtesy Henk van Brakel

Thursday 20 October 2016

Mini Beach sells for less crazy money

After the much-debated sale of an Austin Mini Beach Car to a man in Florida some two years ago (full story here), I followed the sale of a similar car in the US with a keen interest. This car was certainly better than the other one, fully original with first paint and 846 miles from new. Remarakbly, it made a considerably lower price, selling at $56,100. From the Barret-Jackson blurb: "This Austin Mini 'Jolly' defines rare. First, it is the ultimate body style. Second, except for routine maintenance, it is totally original. Finally, it has only 846 original miles (not indicated on title). This 805cc/34hp Jolly with 4-speed manual transmission..." Ahem. It's not a Jolly, it doesn't have 805ccs and the ultimate body style? Well, anyway.

What's more: the same car was offered for auction with the same seller in January 2009 when it had 809 miles on its clock, so it did under 5 miles a year. Perhaps the MOT station was at just over 2 miles from where the car was stored? But seven years back it made $53,900 - that's just $2,200 less. What does that learn us? Don't invest in Beach Cars? Is the Mini hype cooling off? Or was the car of two years ago just a most exceptional sale? You tell me.

Very original: this 850 engine ran only 846 miles from when it was new back in 1962
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Beautiful Beach car sold twice in 9 years time, but an investment? It hardly rose in price
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Fully original. I have seen a picture of it with a British registration behind that US plate, though
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

All the Beach Cars were Austin badged. Most were left hand driven
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Unlike the 185,000 dollars car, this one came with the correct and original interior, too
Picture courtesy Barret-Jackson

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Magentas on the market

Looking for a winter project and like the traditional looks of the Magenta? This may be the right time to buy one. Several (project) cars have made it to the market in the last weeks. To quote the sales brochure: "In owning a Magenta you will alleviate the problem of body corrosion and probably to the embarrassment of some the Magenta will still be here when the year of registration suffix letter comes around again. Don't let planned obsolescence lower your standards."

Q-reg, 1100 engine and seen for sale in Telford. Starting price 800 GBP - zero bids.
Picture courtesy

Supposedly stored in a barn in Middlebrough from 1983-on. This Lightspeed Magenta comes with the rare factory hardtop with gullwing doors and 'slot mag' wheels. I love it! But no takers...
Picture courtesy

Or fancy a project? This Magenta Sprint comes with 998 Mini engine but needed lots of work. 
Oh and again: unsold
Picture courtesy

Not Mini based, but this one deserves a mention here, I believe: an incredibly rare Ford-based Magenta Tarragon was seen in Sheffield. It's a unique example built for rallying. It sold for 103.50 GBP
Picture courtesy

Thursday 13 October 2016

Moulds McCoy reappear again

A year and a half I was contacted by a man from Pembrokeshire, who planned to resurrect the McCoy and McIvoy cars. This is what he wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I am writing to you as you have a passion for all things Mini, as do I, and with this in mind I would like to inform you that I have recently purchased the moulds and rights to the McCoy and McIvoy kit cars. As well as the moulds I have a rolling shell which I believe to be an original Birchall shell, with which I plan to produce a car suitable for hillclimbing and sprinting, which I will hopefully be able to sell in small numbers to then give me the money to repair and modify the original moulds to produce a road going versions of the McCoy and McIvoy again. The moulds will need some modification for the car to be able to pass the dreaded IVA so it can be sold in kit and completed form. I am in talks with a company willing to take this on and am waiting for quotes for the work required. As you can appreciate I do not want to go off ‘Half cocked' so with this in mind I would ask you not to publicise this just yet , but when I have the car in a semi ready state, I will happily send you more information and photos for your blog"

So far, so good. But nothing came from it, until regular reader Barry Tilbury dropped me a line last week. A very short one this time, saying 'Oh Lordy. What have I done?' And, yes, he took over the full McCoy project. Well, what can I say other than congratulations Barry!?

The real McCoy: Rights, moulds and even the factory sign were taken over... once again
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

Originally from Norfolk they moved on to Pembrokeshire, Gloucestershire and now to Sussex
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

Barry is the latest keeper of the flame. He is not sure yet what to do with the project though
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

According to former McCoy employee Phil Wells the original prototype was sold to Neville Wynnes who made it race ready with narrower cockpit and wider sills, which can be seen here
Picture courtesy Barry Tilbury

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Cooper 1500 GT - quite a Special!

When Jon Cooper posted a photograph of one of his father's creations, it reminded me of an old article in Car & Car Conversions. And, indeed, it was about the same man: Graham Cooper of Sedgley, West Midlands where he had his workshop in an old Baptist Chapel! Here, Cooper built a number of massive overbore Mini engines with 1400; 1450; 1465; 1500 and 1520 cc. There even was a 1556cc version based on a 970 'S' block, using 170 thou thin-ring sand cast pistons and a unique Laystall Engineering crank. This particular one was raced in a Mini by a man named Bill Cole and according to the CCC article by Clive Richardson not just very competitive but also… reliable! 

From the words: "What's more, the 1556 engine - the only one there is - has been running since the end of 1968 and for one-and-a-half seasons hasn't been touched at all, not even so much of having the head off or the concealed tip N62R spark plugs taken out. Starting from cold is simply a matter of pulling out the choke, starting it and the big bore ticks over immediately at 1000 rpm. Apparantly Bill uses 9000 rpm regularly, though more often than not doesn't manage to look at the rev counter. Did somebody have doubts about reliability?!"

Jon's photograph that struck me, however, was one of a much-altered Mini with 12" steel wheels at front and wide 10" JAP Magnas at the rear. What's more: it's chopped, streamlined, deseamed, lowered and comes with a much-raked windscreen and ultra-sharp fastback rear. The (fake?) number plate suggests this GT used a 1500 lump, too, but there is no further information. So… who knows more?

UPDATE 19 September 2023: Graham tracked down! Click here

Graham Cooper special must have used 1500 engine. Body is much, much, altered too
Picture courtesy Jon Cooper

This Mini used the 1556cc engine and supposedly scored 9 out of 10 wins in the Midlands Sprint Championship
Picture courtesy Jon Cooper

Friday 7 October 2016

Moss, models and Mini-based GTs

Unipower owner Tim Carpenter took his GT to Goodwood in September, and had a chance to snap Stirling Moss with it. Tim wrote: "Please see attached some shots taken at the Goodwood Revival at the
beginning of September. They re-enact the shot of Sir Stirling Moss and 'A Model' taken at the 1967 Racing Car Show." Meanwhile, he took it to Castle Combe last weekend, too, where Pete Flanagan's Unipower was also seen. In fact Pete's red ex-Janspeed racer is the actual - then white - car shown with Moss and Monika Dietrich in '67. Well done boys!

Moss and model back in 1967, when the Unipower GT was launched at the Racing Car Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Fast forward 49.5 years and Moss still likes the Unipower. And a model. Here at Goodwood
Picture Tim Carpenter

Tim's car again at Castle Combe, now joined by Pete's racer - the white car Moss posed with
Picture courtesy Pete Flanagan

Thursday 6 October 2016

Reader finds Stimson Safari Six

Avid Maximum Mini fan Paul Wylde finished the long-term restoration of his Stimson Mini Bug earlier this year (see here), but couldn't live without a Stimson project. Enter a Safari Six he'd been chasing for years! Paul finally managed to persuade the owner in parting with the car and is now working full steam on another restoration job. He wrote: "The guy I bought it from got it when he was 11 years old. His dad said it came from Barry Stimson and collected it from Rochdale. Whether they built it or if it was already done I don't know, but will ask his son. He is in his fifties so it may well have been new at the time." Great work Paul, and do keep me posted on the restoration!

All the Safari Sixes that I now know of are:

NPX 144J
NGF 419K
EAW 340L
PGF 289L
YPX 676L

Do let me know if you know of any others.

UPDATE 19:30: Paul is the man to know more! He says: "NPX 144J was a Mini Bug registration Barry used on the prototype Six until it was registered with JYM 2K. Here are a few more to add to your list: TYP 1L,  GDW 53L and one in the US (AMX ??K). Then there is the blue one with no registration in Belgium and one a guy had down by where I live, which is still in hiding along with a Mini Bug…" Cheers mate!

A Stimson Safari Six is rare. This one presumably comes from its very first owner
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

EAW 340L is one of six different registered Safari Sixes that I have photos of. There must be more
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

It seems that the car stood outside for a long time; Paul is giving it a full nut & bolt restoration
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Safari Six uses a 12" wider rear track than a Mini, giving it a large pick up deck - and six wheels
 a Picture courtesy Paul Wylde

Nice duo! Paul's Stimson Mini Bug was finished earlier this year, his working now on the Safari
Picture courtesy Paul Wylde