Monday 27 February 2017

Is Mike's MiniJem a works racer?

Mike Brown has a soft spot for Mini Jems and that's how he got hold of the cars moulds, too. But they came with a car of which he'd like to know a bit more. This is what he wrote to me: "Hi Jeroen. My name is Mike Brown, I have had numerous Mini based cars but my main love is the Mini Jem. My father built a Mk2 Jem in 1974, which was the first car I traveled in when I was born the following year. When I was 19, after having a couple of Minis and a Mini Marcos restoration project, I finally managed to get a 1971 Mk2 Jem. I did a rolling restoration on this car and it ended up with a Metro turbo engine. Fast forward to about two years ago when I bought another 1971 Mk2 Jem after looking for one for 10 years. This car is currently waiting for restoration. I then got a call from the owner of the Jem production moulds asking if I could give them a new home (he was moving house). Obviously I jumped at the chance and went to collect them. Now for the part I need help with upon collecting them I ended up with another Mk2, said to be Malcolm Fell's (ex-Jem manufacturer) rally car. I would like to try to trace this cars history so I can re register it correctly. Mike"

Mk3 front wheel arches, but it is a Mk2 that may have been used to plug a mould for the Mk3
Picture Mike Brown

But '947 DBL' may also have been Malcolm Fell's personal rally car. Mike Brown would love to know
Picture Mike Brown

The moulds of the Mini Jem lead to the supposed Fell rally car / Mini Jem works racer
Picture Mike Brown

Friday 24 February 2017

Beyond the books: the Halec Special

Tim Harber is a regular contributor to my books and blog, with material unseen before. And he did it again a while ago. Tim wrote: "I finally may have notified you of a special that you never heard of! This machine was done for racing in the sixties. I came across it 15 years ago or so, with one of our locals when he was racing it. He subsequently converted it to run on the road. 18 Months ago he had an accident and broke his back and now he’s in a wheelchair. He’s been trying to convert it to hand controls and is struggling and has considered converting it to automatic. I will try to go and see it and see what we can suggest and I have put him in touch with a local who also is now wheelchair bound but is a Mini nut. The car (bike?) is called the Halec Special. Sounds like the usual Harold and Alec mash. The owner is now 70 – odd but shows no sign of giving up being silly. I’ll keep you posted on progress. Oh, the 'Dandy Dragonfly' that you put in Maximum Mini 3 nearly caused a heart attack with the owner. I think he said when he first saw the picture "I used to have a bike a bit like that!” and it took a few minutes for him to comprehend it all. Well done you for giving another oddball Brit a bit of joy! Tim"

Funnily, just weeks later I received a bit of film footage from French Mini based three-wheel-fanatic Damien Lescroart, showing a race of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club of 1999 with sidecars and three-wheelers racing at Lydden Hill. Some real off-centre stuff. Damien wrote: "Car number 12 seems Mini based. Anyone knows what it is?" And, you guessed it. It happens to be the very same Halec Special. I have included the video clip below, which shows some good racing. When you look closely at the end of the film, you'll see that the Berkeley three-wheeler - number 13 in the race - was also Mini powered. Thanks chaps!

Halec Special is a three-wheeler in the spirit of the Greenwood 'sidecar' and Curley trike
Picture courtesy Tim Harber

Wednesday 22 February 2017

David Ogle demonstrates the Ogle SX1000

We've seen Ralph Broad demonstrating his Broadspeed GT (here). Now we can also see David Ogle demonstrate his Ogle Mini (which wan't namen SX1000 at the time), as some footage of the man driving one of the cars bearing his own name was unearthed. It must have been filmed in early 1962, months or perhaps even weeks before he sadly passed away in a motor accident. The car he is driving is the demonstrator and brochure car, also the fourth production car that was revived a couple of years ago and seen here before. Enjoy!

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Al's Sarcon Scarab is still alive

The power of the internet! Hardly two weeks after Alastair Cox' search for his old Sarcon Sacarab was made public here (click), the car is found. Current owner is Dave Hayes, who wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I just saw the Maximum Mini blog - I still have the Sarcon Scarab that I bought from Alastair. It's still in more-or-less the same condition that I bought it. Cheers, Dave."

I love it when things work out as you hope they do!

Dave in the alloy bodied Sarcon Scarab that was owned by the Cox family for several decades
Picture courtesy Dave Hayes

Monday 20 February 2017

Mystery Nota racer now named

Nothing beats a bit of old fashioned sleuthing work, and Jon Scott has put his teeth into the mysterious single-seater shown here last week (click). He found out quite a lot more and wrote to me: "The green single seater is called 'The Brickette' and was made by the Hume brothers here in Melbourne. Six or so made. I think the chassis was Nota and the body was by the Hume bros. There where three in the Victoria Mini Club way back, one yellow, one red and one green. I got some old photographs from Bob O'Grady in Melbourne, an old bloke who's deaf, which makes him hard to understand. He is also going blind and has badly fitting falses, nice bloke otherwise. Leave it with me for a bit and I'll get an old man translator to chat with Bob. I'll keep you in the info loop as more comes to light." Thanks Jon!

'The Brickette'is believed to be one of six racers, build by the Hume brothers in Melbourne
Picture Bob O'Grady, via Jon Scott 

Members of the Victoria Mini Club had three of them at one time. There is at least one survivor
Picture Bob O'Grady, via Jon Scott 

This is Bob O'Grady's car at an unknown venue, probably in the late 1960s
Picture Bob O'Grady, via Jon Scott 

Survivor (top) compared to Nota Engineering's Formula Vee chassis. Some similarities
Picture Jon Scott / Nota Engineering

UPDATE 12 December: More Brickette racers unearthed. Click here

Friday 17 February 2017

Midas at MIRA - Confidential...

Thomas of Sweden contacted me last week about my earlier message on crash testing Mini based cars (read it here). Thomas got hold of the full crash test report of the Midas Gold some years ago, classed as confidential. Naturally, I asked him how he got it and if he hasn't had any troubles with it. He wrote: "I have this document from a Midas Gold owner in Sweden, and he has got it from what he calls MED. I don’t know was this means but I think it was Midas Cars themselves. I think the document was confidential at MIRA when they did the crash test. But I asked him in 2015 if it was okay to publish it on my blog, which was fine." The crash test focusses on the movements of the steering column, or so it seems, but have a look for yourself. I have uploaded a few of the pages below. The full report can still be found on Thomas' website here.

Confidential Project No. 435500, carried out for Midas Cars Ltd. on 11 March 1986
Picture courtesy Thomas /

The Midas was towed up to a speed of 49.2 kmh (30.6 mph) and crashed on a 90 Degrees barrier
Picture courtesy Thomas /

Before the crash. The report states that six high speed colour films were taken of the test, too…
Picture courtesy Thomas /

The Midas Gold passed the test with flying colours. All the photos and graphs are on Thomas' websbite
Picture courtesy Thomas /

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Nota Formula Libre racer is shrouded in mystery

Nota enthusiast Jon Scott of Australia contacted me about a Mini based racer. Jon owns two Nota Fangs himself and believes this car to link to Nota's history, too. He wrote: "It's an open wheel hill climb race car built as a prototype in the late 60s by Nota Engineering for what is believed to now be Formula Libra. It's got a Morris Mini 850 in it… thats all I know. I'd love to know more about it."

It's an interesting find. As you may know both Biota as Stimson played with the idea of a Mini based Formula Class at around the same time - see more about that here. But this effort from the other side of the world is new to me. Apart from the Fang, Nota Engineering also made the Nota Mini, but I doubt it links to this racer. Do you know more? Both Jon as myself would love to hear from you.

The supposed 'Formula Mini' by Nota Engineering of Parramatta, Australia
Picture Dave Greaves, via Jon Scott

It's an open wheel single seater with attractively lined fiberglass body. Were there more?
Picture Dave Greaves, via Jon Scott

Full Mini subframe and Morris 850 power in the back. Who knows more about this car?
Picture Dave Greaves, via Jon Scott

UPDATE 15 February: Jon has managed to trace two more pictures of the car, showing a bit more of its chassis and front wheel suspension, see below. He adds: "I have found out from the thread these pics are in it's located in Mornington, Victoria (same state as me). I'll try and see if I can get to see it."

Picture Dave Greaves, via Jon Scott

Picture Dave Greaves, via Jon Scott

UPDATE 20 February: It's got a name! Plus some historic photos unearthed. Click here
UPDATE 12 December: More Brickette racers unearthed. Click here

Monday 13 February 2017

Book review: The Complete Catalogue of the Mini

When Chris Rees announces a new book it's something to look forwards to. When he announces a book called 'The Complete Catalogue of the Mini' it's hard to find some sleep until it arrives! Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but this tome was eagerly awaited at Maximum Mini towers anyway. Chris wrote about low-volume sports cars before and is an authority on three-wheelers (one review here). He also proof-read Maximum Mini 2 and Maximum Mini 3 (so blame him if you find any bad grammar in them) and supplied me with some great photographs for these two books. This book is a grand update on his 'Complete Mini', which was published in 1994. In short: this man knows his stuff.

It comes in 248 pages and 14 chapters of which - my opinion - the last two are the interesting ones: 'Factory one-offs and prototypes' plus 'Coachbuilt Minis'. Chris focusses purely on anything that somehow managed to keep the Mini's original shape. That means no Mini based sports cars and kit cars here, but still quite a few quirky stuff that stands out from the Mini as your mother knows it. 'Factory one-offs and prototypes' covers the BMC or BL-built Beach Cars, the four-doors, twinis and hatchbacks plus the many prototypes that were bound to replace the Mini at one stage. But you will also find the Healey Mini roadster and Autocars Marcos here. Not exactly official prototypes, but ones with stories worth telling, too. The 'Coachbuilt Minis' chapter is more of a surprise with, apart from Hooper, Radford and Wood and Pickett, also more on the obscure Mini-outfitters who had a hand in turning unsuspecting Minis into miniature Rolls-Royces. Most descriptions are brief here, but exceptions are made for the MiniSprint and the Broadspeed and its replica-offspring. This chapter also features Convertibles, Coupes, Glassfibre Rebodies, 'Front & Rear end conversions' featuring some of the stuff by Kelform, Scorpion, Biota and Status plus 'The Outer Limits' with camper conversions, fire engines and invalid carriages. The book's blurb mentions 160 coachbuilt versions, but including all the convertibles and coupes, rebodies and conversions I counted no more then 90 of them, which at least leaves something to be desired.

The Complete Catalogue of the Mini comes at 35.00 GBP / 59.95 USD and is published by 
Herridge & Sons in the UK. ISBN: 9781906133726 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Factory one-offs and prototypes-chapter includes Healey Mini roadster 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Coachbuilt Minis starts with the well-known conversions from Hooper and Radford 
Picture Jeroen Booij

But contains stuff like the Tickford Mini, Marcos Checker Mini and New ERA Mini, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

… and my favourites: Front and rear end conversions, where the Mini shape starts to evolve...
Picture Jeroen Booij

Friday 10 February 2017

Siva Buggy moulds turn up in… New Zealand

A remarkable sale was settled in New Zealand last month. For the princely sum of 167.51 NZ dollar, somebody bought a Siva Buggy project car with a spare chassis plus... a full set of moulds. The ad on read: "Fiberglass Beach Buggy mould and separate buggy. The mould is in ok condition, however the buggy requires a lot of work. They come with two old chassis and a tarp to cover the buggy. As is where is."

The most remarkable thing is, that the original moulds had gone lost after the Euromotor premises in The Netherlands went up in a blazing fire in 1976. The Euromotor company had taken over the Siva Buggy project earlier, including the production rights and all the tooling. And so the question is where these moulds came from. Were they another original set, or were they made later, using an existing Siva Buggy?

The seller, based in Wellford, Auckland, later added: "The mould, chassis and welding jig were imported from the UK in the 1980s. The body offered for auction was the only body manufactured in NZ. It was imported as a Mini Scamp, however in googling your suggestion it would appear it is a Siva Moonbug." That's all we know now. Anyone who has suggestions? There are some very knowledgable Mini-people from NZ here, so come on Kiwis!

No doubt this is a mould for the Siva Buggy. Was it a replicated one or an original?
Picture courtesy trade

The recognizable nose section leaves no doubt about it, too. Only used just once?
Picture courtesy trade

This came with the sale, too. A NZ built Siva Buggy, formerly registered as a Mini Scamp
Picture courtesy trade

It is believed to have been the only buggy of its kind in New Zealand. Who knows more about it? 
Picture courtesy trade

Spare chassis was a part of the deal, too. Not bad for 176 NZ dollars! (113 euros / 96 GBP)
Picture courtesy trade

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Historic Terrapin for sale

A unique Mini based racing car made it to the market: the Terrapin 5/SR that was also featured in Allan Staniforth's original 'High Speed Low Cost' book. Commissioned in 1970 by German architect Chris Cramer to contest the British leaders hill climb championship, the car was built as a two-seater with left hand drive steering 'to ease gear linkage problems'. It was raced by Cramer and Brit Terry Sims. Apart from numerous class records in period it is also believed to have been a factory supported demonstrator for Allard, who were the UK agents for Wade-superchargers.

According to the seller the racer is kept as original as possible, but has undergone an extensive 3-year restoration, with many many new parts including complete replacement of hydraulic braking system and fully rebuilt A-series engine and gearbox to extremely high spec. See the ad on Carandclassic here.

Built for German architect Chris Cramer, this wide Terrapin was classed as a two-seater
Picture courtesy carsandclassic

Braking, braking, braking! The Mk5/SR was campaigned extensively in the 1970s and 1980s
Picture courtesy carsandclassic

Terry Sims behind the wheel, supposedly in 1974. The car did see further modifications
Picture courtesy carsandclassic

The car is mentioned in Allan Staniforth's classic book. Drawings for the Mk5/SR were for sale
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is the Terrapin Mk5/SR how it looks today. Seller states it is kept as original as possible
Picture courtesy carsandclassic

Engine now used is a 1293 with big valve head and 649 cam plus straight cut gearbox
Picture courtesy carsandclassic

Monday 6 February 2017

Crash testing Mini derivatives

The news that Europe's car crash club Euro NCAP is 20 years old, made me wonder how many Mini based cars ever made it to an official block of concrete. The facilities at MIRA in the UK are much older and there must have been at least some of them over there? The Midas Gold is often claimed to be the first composite car to pass MIRA's ECE30 crash barrier test to ensure TUV approval, to sell these cars overseas. But there had been others. The Autocars Marcos estate, for example, had been crash tested here as early as june or july 1970. And then there was the fiberglass bodied Peel Mini that went there perhaps even as early as 1966, when it was conceived (update: according to Bill Bell it was 1968). But there were other facilities, too. The McCoy was tested at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, where a crash test was carried out, too. I'd love to learn a bit more about all of these, or perhaps others? Let me know when you know more.

The first composite car to pass MIRA's ECE30 crash test: the Midas Gold
Courtesy Midas Owners club

But this composite car made it way earlier to the concrete block of MIRA: the Peel Mini
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

June or july 1970: the Autocars estate, built and developed by Marcos Cars is crash tested at MIRA
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is not the McCoy, but its forebear the Clan Crusader at MIRA. The Mini-based McCoy 
was crash tested at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh
Picture courtesy Clan Crusader Owners Club

UPDATE 17 February: A reader has the full and confidential report of the Midas at MIRA unearthed… Click here to see for yourself.

Friday 3 February 2017

Unipower at the Northern Racing Car Show

By now, we know all about the London Racing Car Show and the many Mini based cars that could be seen in Olympia. Click here for a series of articles about the shows. But how about the first Northern Racing car Show, held in Manchester in 1969? Terry Smith, the Metron designer who recently bought both the Unipower body as the Unipower chassis seen here, knows more about it.

He wrote: "Hello Jeroen, I spoke at length with the first owner of GEM 911G and he mentioned that his car was displayed on the Unipower stand at the Northern Racing and Performance Car Show at Belle Vue, Manchester from Monday 21st to Friday 25th April 1969. I managed to source separately a catalogue from the show, and will send a copy of the cover and the Unipower section. 'GEM' was built with a 1275cc engine for the show, and later changed to a Cooper 998cc engine. It was finished in a dark Renault metallic blue. An interesting glimpse of the history of the marque. Kind regards, Terry."

I happened to speak to the same person, Stuart Blundell, a while ago and he told me: "It came from the Racing Car in Manchester, I bought it on the stand. It was registered GEM 911G in Bootle and had a 1275 engine in it. For the young person that I was, it was a little too powerful and so I put a 998 in it. I didn't nurse this car at all and used it every day. I went to London a couple of times and met up with Piers Forrester two or three times. He did meet me at the station in his Ford GT40. That was exiting - although we never got out of second gear! I built it in Liverpool and used it all over the country, also went skiing with it in Scotland. I sold the car three years after I bought it, when I went to Austria for work. When I came back to the UK in the early 1990s I learned that the car had ended up in Horsham. The then-owner said the chassis and the body were a mess." Well, by now we know the chassis was used to create a replica, seen here. Meanwhile, with the spare chassis he now bought, Terry is working to put the car back on the road again.

But for something else, I wonder if any photographs of the car at the show survive? I have some of the Coldwell GT at the same venue, but there should be more. Davrian, Biota and Midland Garage with their GTM were also displaying their cars in Belle Vue...

"When the motoring press are saying things like this about the Unipower GT, why make changes for chafes sake?" 'GEM 911 G' was the car shown at the Unipower cars stand in Manchester
Picture courtesy Terry Smith

Here, the car is seen at the factory in Perivale in 1969 when owned by Stuart Blundell, who'd bought it at the Manchester show that same year
Picture courtesy Stuart Blundell

And pose again, please. Stuart changed the engine to a 998 and kept it for 3 years
Picture courtesy Stuart Blundell

Thursday 2 February 2017

Old Sarcons never die - where is Al's Scarab?

Alastair Cox and his father owned a string of interesting cars, not just Mini based ones, and every time Al drops me a line it makes me smile. His latest email was about the ultra-rare Sarcon Scarab (two built, Al's car known as the prototype a.k.a. the Whippingham Wrogue) they had for many years. It's the one featured in the original Maximum Mini book. Al wrote: "Please find attached a couple of photos of the Scarab from 1979, shortly before it went on the road. At some point I think I'll need to buy this car back. Sadly. I don't think I'm quite over it. You know how it is. The car in Belgium would be a close second…"
Have you seen Al's Scarab, then do drop me a line like he did.

The alloy bodied Sarcon Scarab prototype was also known as the Whippingham Wrogue
Picture courtesy Alastair Cox

These photographs go back to 1979 wen the car was nearing completion of its restoration
Picture courtesy Alastair Cox

While this is what it looked like when new. It was probably campaigned by Alan Staniforth
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And this is what it looked like when Al sold it in 2007. He'd love to know where it is now...
Picture courtesy Alastair Cox

Wednesday 1 February 2017

1967 Le Mans car, spotted in South-Africa

A nice new photograph of the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos (not mine - more about this one here) was unearthed in South-Africa recently. It was taken during the Pietermaritzburgh 3-hour race of december 1967, when the car was driven by Peter Kat and Dirk Marnis, while owned by Jannes van Wyk, who'd taken it over from Jem Marsh a month earlier. Together with Brian Raubenheimer, Marsh had driven it on the Kyalami 9-hour race in november when they came 15th. You can clearly see that the car still had the modified windscreen that was made overnight before Le Mans by mechanic Mike Treutlein.

The 1967 Le Mans car at the Pietermaritzburgh 3-hour race. Funny windscreen still there
Picture courtesy Roy Hesketh Heritage