Friday 25 November 2016

Heerey from the horse's mouth

None other than Howard Heerey himself recently shared some pictures from the days of old. He wrote: "Works GTM built for the '68 season to compete in the up to 1150cc class, seen here at Ingliston. Loved the paint job, Jaguar indigo metallic fading to aluminium metallic at the bottom of the panels with the big yellow race stripe, which I unfortunately spoilt by putting it through Esso sign at Oulton later in the season. I don't have any photos of the mechanicals, but the radiator was mounted in its normal place on the front of the subframe and then a duct was made out of alloy which directed the air up and back through the hole in the bonnet. The fuel tank was mounted just ahead of the windscreen." Great photographs, thank you very much for sharing them, Howard!

GTM works racer, which was campaigned by Howards Heerey who took over the project from Cox
Picture courtesy Howards Heerey

Oops. Car was damaged at Oulton Park later in 1968 after a 'T-bone' crash
Picture courtesy Howards Heerey

That's not fibreglass! This was after all the prototype, on display in London in 1967
More about it here. But where is it now?
Picture courtesy Howards Heerey

Thursday 24 November 2016

Whatever happened to Cliff Richard's W&P Mini?

Once again, our Jersey reporter Gary Buesnell is on to something. And once again, it's a celebrity owned coachbuilt Mini that appears to have vanished. Gary wrote: "Take a look at this Mini. This picture is from the Jersey Evening Post, this time from August 1979 when they ran a feature page on the Mini's 20th birthday. This Mini was black with narrow 'gold' pin striping around the doors/sides etc. As the description suggests it was originally built for Cliff Richard, probably the black Clubman that was used in his film 'Take me high'. The timescale fits as the film was shot in 1973 and released in 1974, I believe. The film car was mildly modified with Sundym windows, Webasto type sunroof, alloy wheels and I recall there was a Radio Telephone (PYE Westminster) fitted in the car that Cliff used in one of the scenes. The aerial was fitted on the driver's side rear by the boot and can be seen in the film - clip attached."

"By the time the car had made it to Jersey, the wheel arches and striping had been added and it had been deseamed and still had its Webasto type sunroof, rear wiper etc. The car still had the PYE Radio Telephone fitted which would have been a very expensive feature in its day. The aerial was in the same location which adds to the consistency. The car was Jersey registered but it left the Island in the mid eighties. I recall seeing it frequently outside where the owner lived and parked at the airport in the car park frequently, presumably when the owner visited London/financial business."

"I am sure it didn't have Wood and Picket badges anywhere outside or in the car on the steering boss etc but it had W&P arches and nudge bars front and back. I did see a post on the UK mini forum in 2013 where someone reckoned they had come across Cliff Richard's mini, however all that was left was the roof and a few panels…?"

"It is astonishing that for an island, 9 miles x 5 miles with a speed limit of 40mph, there is a wealth of motoring history. It never ceases to amaze me. I am interested in Minis but the same stories go for other cars that have found their way over here. The last Lamborghini Miura and AC Cobra made were owned by a local resident. The Cooper streamlined cars were made and developed by a garage in Jersey for John Cooper and the fibreglass moulds were made in Jersey, someone found one of the originals that was being used as a fish pond at the bottom of their garden! All members of Led Zeppelin, the rock group, lived in Jersey and the lead singer apparently gave his Maserati (Merak I think) to a friend on the Island rather than take it back to the UK. I could go on! Anyway, let me know what you think about the Mini."

Clearly on Jersey 'J' plates here and from the Jersey Evening Post - Cliff Richard's Mini
Picture Gary Buesnell archive

And with the man himself, now with a fake registration plate?
Picture BBC

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Unipowers on the move

Last month some Unipower GTs found new owners once again, so let's give a little update here. The well known Spanish car, chassis number 36713, moved to Sweden recently where it attracted interest from a variety of nations, eventually finding its way to a new owner in Texas after being advertised here. Further northwards in America, the GT wearing chassis number 076842 moved from one owner to another in Quebec, Canada. This one is a competition model, sold new to New York and raced since its earliest days. The last owner had it for 44 years and raced it until recently! Unfortunately the car's sill was damaged recently by someone lifting the car with a fork lift truck. Hopefully a Universal Power Drives product. Finally, the body of the car that originally wore chassis number UWF1006 (a Mk2) has made it to the market again. It's now soda blasted and comes with a Triumph Spitfire windscreen surround that was previously missing. You'll need plenty more bits to turn it into a car again, but I know of a Mk2 chassis that would do nicely. In fact I believe it's the chassis that originally belonged to this very car, too (UPDATE: that's not right. different chassis-JB). One and one is two? Let me know when you are interested.

This Spanish registration has been on the car since new, but it moved to Texas, USA now
Picture courtesy Duncan Charlton

While this one spent its early life in the USA before finding its way to Canada, where it remains
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Ouch! damaged sill of competition model GT caused by fork lift truck picking it up
Picture courtesy Carl Lapointe

Fancy a Unipower GT yourself? This body may be the start of it. You'll need perseverance though...
Picture courtesy Colin Baines

...But this Mk2 chassis would certainly help. A fantastic chance to return the car to its former glory?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Maximum Mini Christmas offer 2016

Make a start on your Christmas shopping with the perfect gift: Maximum Mini 3, of course. Or Maximum Mini 2 if you haven't got that, yet. Or even better: both! Now you can take advantage of a 25% discount. This offer starts on Friday 18th November 2016 and runs until 25th December 2016.

Prices include postage and packing in a purpose made box. See the list below. Drop me a line on jeroen at with your wishes and I'll send you a payment request.

To the UK

£26.25 for Maximum Mini 2
£30.00 for Maximum Mini 3
£52.50 for both

To Europe

€33.95 for Maximum Mini 2
€37.50 for Maximum Mini 3
€63.75 for both

To the US

$46.50 for Maximum Mini 2
$52.50 for Maximum Mini 3
$93.75 for both

To Japan

¥5,500 for Maximum Mini 2
¥6,000 for Maximum Mini 3
¥10,500 for both

Japan Mini Day 2016

Last weekend saw in invasion of Minis on the shore of lake Hamanako in Japan. Over 1,000 of them are reported to have made it to this scenic place in the Shizuoka prefecture. Last year, the event was held at the same spot when Mini derivatives were the main theme, with a central display of some interesting Mini based cars. Earlier last year, they also had a gathering of Marcoses, see here. This year, the focus lay on 1959 Minis, but still there were some interesting variants on display, too. A small selection below.

That's a purposeful-looking Mini Marcos Mk4. The body is believed to be fully made of carbon fibre
Picture courtesy JMSA

And a Mini Jem we've seen before, too (click). It looks rough, but is on the road just like that
Picture courtesy JMSA

I don't think this is a Mengers Four Mini, but somebody may know more about it
Picture courtesy JMSA

Refreshments in style: a nice Mini based ice cream van in use for what it's meant to be used
Picture courtesy JMSA

This was last year: that Jem again, an unusual Moke with hardtop and a Broadspeed GT
Picture courtesy JMSA

And more… Midas Gold, another Moke and a Mini Marcos Mk4 with aerodynamic nose
Picture courtesy JMSA

Neville Trickett's MiniSprint racer was on display, too, last year. Here rubbing shoulders with Broadspeed GT
Picture courtesy JMSA

Friday 11 November 2016

Book review: Hrubon's autobiography

Warning: this is a very obscure book. But as a great admirer of Jean-Claude Hrubon it's also one I couldn't miss and so I was much pleased when a manilla envelope fell on my door mat earlier this week, with my address written on the back in Hrubon's own classic handwriting. 

That itself is indicative to the actual book, as it clearly is an effort by the man himself, 78 years of age now. In his own words: "'Du Scaphandre a la course' is the story and the summary of a passion that has been the device of a life, entirely consecrated on racing cars. This book has been produced completely in my own atelier, In between the vines, olive trees and my donkeys in the Provence. Printing, fabrication, binding, finish, all is done by hand with the idea to sell them." There's no doubt I needed this book as soon as I heard of it.

Actually it's a set of two books - 'Du Scaphandre a la Course' tome 1 and tome 2. Or 'Of scuba diving suit to the Circuit' volume 1 and volume 2. Hrubon started his professional career as a scuba diver, hence the title. Volume 1 is the one to read, as Hrubon describes his life throughout its 104 pages. The early parts were new to me as I had never heard any of his stories from his youth, his time as a military and his days as a professional scuba diver. All certainly entertaining, but it's the later period that makes the book an interesting read for me: Hrubon's days as a Mini mechanic, a garage holder in downtown Paris and of course about the Le Mans adventures with the Mini Marcos in 1966 and the later Hrubon Theleme in 1967. But also about building the Mini based Hrubon Phaeton and the Renault based Dallas plus Hrubon's days as a Ferrari dealer in Saint-Tropez. Most of the anecdotes weren't new to me, as I'd interviewed the man some years ago at his  estate in the Provence. But there's much more detail here and it's good to read it first-hand. About him seeing the Marcos for the first time at the Racing Car Show in January 1966 and about the people involved in building it, for example. You'll read it in one evening, assuming you can read French. Despite the cover depicting the Mini Marcos at Le Mans 1966, the second volume does not solely focus on this event, but is a pictorial journey of another 95 pages through Hubon's scrapbooks, with only captions. 

There is no doubt this book could have been produced better, but that is also its charm. So… worth the 65.00 euros? Definitely for me. You, too, can buy it here.

'Du scaphandre a la Course' comes in two volumes. Tome 1 for the stories; tome 2 for additional images. It's self-published by Jean-Claude Hrubon
Picture Jeroen Booij

The Mini Marcos most heroic moment at Le Mans is described in detail
Picture Jeroen Booij

Hrubon in scuba diving suit in one of his earlier lives. He was 21 at the time
Picture Jeroen Booij

Hrubon in his garden in the Var, southern France, Summer 2013
Picture Jeroen Booij

Entering the gate to his estate in his daily driver: a Mini Moke
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday 9 November 2016

A lone Ranger in America

Let's see if we can find some good news from the USA. Well… how about a Ranger Cub that somehow made it to America? A most unusual journey for this little three-wheeler from The Old Corona - the supposed haunted cinema in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex where it was built - to Happy Valley, Oregon where it lives now. How on earth did it end up there? Despite the silly video they made about it, the chaps in Oregon appear to enjoy it and give it the tlc it deserves. The car was sold through a UK Mini specialist and still wears its plates from the 848 powered 1964 Morris Mini donor.

Ranger Cub appears to be in good company in Happy Valley, Oregon, now
Picture courtesy Jet Motors

Same car in the UK some 10 years ago. It's registered as a 1964 Morris Mini with 848 power
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This has to be the only non-Ford Ranger in America. These guys care for the little Cub!
Video courtesy Jet Motors /

Monday 7 November 2016

Seen for sale: a (the?) Sabre Vario

Up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a tiny little piece of local motoring history has made it to the market. Up for sale is the Sabre Vario demonstrator. This 1985 take on the Sabre Sprint was more versatile, with removable rear roof section, turning it almost into a convertible with that bit taken off. When not, it had the ease of a full hatchback door. Pretty clever, but I don't think it was very successful. Sabre's Sprint sold in some numbers, but their Vario is almost unique. Could the demonstrator even be the sole Vario that ever materialized? That would certainly not surprise me, as 'Q518 WNL' is the only car I have ever seen photographs of.

From what the seller writes: "Here for sale is the original DC Kit Cars Sabre Vario demonstrator requiring some tlc. Based on the classic Mini this car was used as reliable daily transport before being taken off the road two years ago for some modifications to the rear suspension. It mechanically needs a few jobs to complete, ie finishing hanging the exhaust, hand brake adjustment, MOT etc. The whole interior requires renovation and the dashboard wiring needs attention but is usable at the moment. Mechanical spec: 1275cc A+ engine with unleaded head, verto clutch, 2.9 final drive, front Moulton Smootha Ride suspension, Superlight alloy wheels.  Spares available to winning bidder include 1300 power unit & front subframe, alloy and steel wheels and tyres." Interested? You'll find the ad here.

This is not a Sabre Sprint - this is a Sabre Vario. And it is possibly unique in that
Picture courtesy

With the Sprint as a starting point, the car's rear was restyled with removable rear/roof section
Picture courtesy

Big hatchback door gives easier access to the rear, with tank neatly hidden. Interior needs work
Picture courtesy

The same car, now seen without the rear/roof section when it was new, back in 1985
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Sabre instigator Steven Crabtree is seen here demonstrating the hatch of the Sabre Sprint
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 4 November 2016

Former Biota owner seeks out photo albums

Eagle eyed readers had noticed a caption mentioning a former Biota owner I bumped into during the Marcos Euregio Meeting, last August (report here). And I promised to keep in touch with him as he was sure he had some photographical evidence of his former pride and joy. Well… he found it! During 1978 Jan Leppink owned the Biota Mk1 that is fully featured in Maximum Mini 1. It's now owned by brothers Peter and Jos Niessen, who restored it and who enthusiastically run this Biota website.

Over to Jan: "I bought this car in early 1978 of Hans Willem the Pas, who ran the Dutch concessionaire of Ripspeed in Enschede. Throughout that year's season I used it for local auto tests and tinkered with it quite a lot. During the first auto test I did at the former Philips factory grounds in Almelo, the engine mounts came right through the car's subframe and so we had to weld this and added extra bars below the gearbox. I recall the exhaust also being problematic, but after we slightly canted the engine this was solved, too. The coil-over shocks at the rear were simply adjustable through three chassis holes, which could make you change the ride height. And there was also a stabilizer at the rear, this all made it possible to completely change the road behavior, and it good fun to play with."

"The car, however, was still fitted with the old remote gear change, but we had gotten rid of the tail-piece. Instead we'd fabricated the coat-rack gear change with the gear lever poking through the dashboard and that wacky change pattern. Eventually the car made me win the club- as well as the local  championship of the 1978 season. Early 1979 I sold it to finance the next year's project car. But it's good to learn the car is still alive!" It is! Thanks for the recollections, Jan!

Jan Leppink driving the Biota in his first auto test at the former Phillips factory grounds in Almelo
Picture courtesy Jan Leppink

Jan drove it hard and it was during this event that the engine mounts ripped the subframe
Picture courtesy Jan Leppink

Next up was an auto test in Hengelo, where the former council wharf was turned into the action scene
Jan took over the car from the man who ran Ripspeed in The Netherlands
Picture courtesy Jan Leppink

And once again, now photographed during the auto test at the parking grounds of the Hollandse Signaalapparaten factory in Hengelo. All the action took place in 1978
Picture courtesy Jan Leppink

Thursday 3 November 2016

An Alto Boxer in… Australia!

It's not too often that you come across an Alto Duo, let alone that other product of the brothers David and Tommy Gormall's company Alto Glass Reinforced Plastics of Preston, Lancashire. But last week, I was sent a picture of an Alto Boxer in its full splendor. Yes. An Alto Boxer. The 1990s body that turned an unsuspecting Mini in, well, you tell me. 

What's more: the car in question supposedly lives in Australia, which must surely make it unique on that side of the world! The Gormall brothers never sold many and apart from the demonstrator I have just seen one more completed car, which was in a very sorry state, plus another one that only received the convertible conversion without the rest of the body modifications. Just one quote from the brochure: "The Alto Boxer is probably the ultimate body conversion for the Mini saloon." With starting prices of 695 GBP ex VAT, the market clearly thought differently. 

695 GBP ex VAT for the kit; 5,400 for a completed car with new Rover shell. Not many were sold
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But one Alto Boxer did make it to Australia. More details about it would be much appreciated
Picture via Jeff Henley

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Maya GT is still surprisingly original

When I was in The UK lately I had a spare hour or two, and happened to be nearby Ashford, Kent. All of a sudden I remembered the Ashford Maya GT that had been a mystery for years, until Josh Willis found the car and rescued it from the muddy field where it had been parked for so many years (click here for that story). I phoned up Josh and found him happy to catch up. Together with his father he runs a lovely workshop, hidden in the most rural part of Kent, which was excellent to see. They have a good nose for local Minis and snap up classic cars at a regular basis, but it was the Maya I was most interested in. Josh took me to a storage a few miles down the road where he'd parked it. The doors went open, the lights went on, and there it was. Still unchanged from when he repatriated it over three years ago now.

Josh has now found out more about its background, though. The car was first registered as PAP 19F on 24 May 1968, properly as a Maya too, with an 848 engine and red in colour. The first owner was a man named Peter Nicholas Timothy Mason of St. Leonards-on-sea, who kept it for two and a half years until selling it off again. St Leonards-on-sea is under 20 miles from Camber Sands where the car was built, and the next three owners are known and all in Kent, too. So this truly can be considered as a local car.

Josh is still planning a restoration but has so many projects on his hands, that he wisely doesn't mention a deadline for this one. I do love it, though, and hope to see it being restored one day. Apart from the much-butchered-about yellow Camber-Maya-hybrid that comes along every now and then, I think this is the only other known car with its original Maya nose still fitted. It would be really nice to hear from others who know more about its history.  Let me hear from you if you do.

Still the same as found in 2012 in Ashford field: the Maya GT that was lost for a long time
Picture Jeroen Booij

 Windows cracked, brightwork rusty and paint peeled - but highly original and body seems sound
Picture Jeroen Booij

 It was fitted with an 848 engine when new in 1968, which appears to be still in place
Picture Jeroen Booij

 PAP 19F was sold new to a Mr. Mason in St. Leonards-on-Sea. Some 17 miles from Camber Sands
Picture Jeroen Booij

Much of the car's interior is gone, but it's also surprisingly original and truly period
Picture Jeroen Booij

 Red paint - the car's original colour - is clearly seen through the peeling blue paint job
Picture Jeroen Booij