Friday 30 June 2017

Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (6)

Another nice little clou of the Le Mans Mini Marcos' racing heritage has been unearthed by Seventies Car Restoration this week: the wing mirror mystery! While sanding down the left hand front wing the holes for a mirror came to the surface. However, it seemed that it had two different mirrors at some point. I took a dive into the archive to find out more about it, and you guessed it: it made sense. Have a look for yourself with some nice pictorial proof. 

Sanding down the left hand wing unearthed four filled-in holes. What were they for?
Picture Peter Skitt

Wing mirrors, obviously. But did it have two mirrors then? It did, carry on to below to find out
Picture Peter Skitt

Le Mans test day on April 3, 1966. The car does not wear a mirror on its left hand wing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And again, now clearer. This is taken on the same day: Le Mans test on April 3, 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Three weeks later: Monza 1000 kms race on April 25, 1966. There is now a bullet mirror on the wing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

June 18, 1966: on the weigh bridge before the start of the Le Mans 24 hours race. Mirror is still there
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But then - in the pit street just prior to the race: the mirror is gone and the holes are taped off
Picture Philip Hazen / Jeroen Booij archive

And the whole 24 hours race is driven without the bullet mirror on the car's wing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

4 months later: Paris 1000 kms race on October 16, 1966: no mirror, holes are filled and painted over
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

1967: the car has been repainted in 'Bleu Ciel' with an orange stripe and still there is no mirror
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But… in 1975, prior to being stolen, it does wear a new wing mirror with particularly large pole. This one is placed differently, slightly higher up the wing and further to the front. It fits in perfectly
Picture Michel Tasset / Jeroen Booij archive

Like this? Mores in this series here:

Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (2) - Holes for lights and details
Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (3) - Petrol tank, roll bar, pedals
Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (5) - Racing numbers and bonnet straps

Thursday 29 June 2017

Mini Surfer Moke found?

It seems that a rare George Barris built 'Mini Surfer' Moke survives in the US (click here to find out what they are about). Last week, the owner of what appears to be one of them contacted the Moke forum, witing: "Hello, I am new to this forum and I was hoping to get some more information on a vehicle. I have what appears to be a Mini Mike with candy stripe paint and surf board. I was told that it was made for the Beach Boys or their record company by Barris Kustom. There is a Barris sticker on the windshield. Can anyone give me more information on the Mini Surfer Mokes? Are there any other Mini's out there like mine? I will try to provide pictures once I clean it up."

He did post one very dark and sketchy picture, which does at least show the Barris Kustom window sticker and a tiny little bit of the car. Could it be one of supposed five built for the Beach Boys themselves, or one of 20 cars to be given away in a raffle? The stripes on it seem darker then expected, but who knows..? More to follow soon, hopefully! By the way... I happen to be going to a Brian Wilson gig on Monday, so if I do get to bump into the great man by any chance, I might just ask him more about them..!

A terrible photograph, but it does seem to show us what is a rare survivor of the Mini Surfers!
Picture courtesy

That's the sticker in question. It seems that George Barris had glass made to measure 
Picture courtesy

And another recently resurfaced picture of the Mini Surfer Moke. I guess this was one of the 20 giveaway cars that were raffled in a special Beach Boys radio competition
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Trading card showing the Mini Surfer, with some more information about them
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 23 June 2017

Jeremy's Jem at the Nurburgring

I was sent another picture of Jeremy Delmar-Morgan racing his Mk1 MiniJem at the Nürburgring 500km in September 1966. This must have been an exiting race with several more Mini based cars participating (more about it here). Delmar-Morgan finished second in class (up to one litre) that day, going home as the best of the Mini derivatives. I wonder if there is anyone who knows more about the car. What engine did he use, what colour was it and... does it survive?

Taking over a duo of ordinary saloons. And is that a blue flag for the Minis?
Picture Veit Arenz

In the famous Karussell bend, a picture that made it to MiniJem advertisements (here)
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Newly unearthed picture: Delmar-Morgan finishing 18th overall and 2nd in class on the race
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 20 June 2017

A little tribute to David Ogle

The idea was to post this little snippet on 25 May, with the reason being that it was exactly 55 years since David Ogle passed away on that very day. But then I forgot. So, here it is, quite a lot later then it was meant. I have added a small piece from The Autocar magazine, too, plus a rather sensational newspaper clipping about Ogle's death, showing an actual photograph of the burning car in which he found death. It's the only photograph of the accident I have ever seen, and in fact the only one of that specific car, too. As you may know the SX1000 in question was in fact the prototype Ogle Lightweight GT, a road/racing version of the SX1000. Moving images of David Ogle driving his Mini based beauty here.

David Ogle in what has to be a prototype chassis for what became the Ogle SX1000
Picture via Autopuzzles

Obituary from The Autocar. The same issue contained a full driving test of the SX1000
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Sensational newspaper clipping on Ogle's death, showing the actual burning car in which he was trapped
Picture Jeroen Booij archive, via Paul Fleetwood

Friday 16 June 2017

How Mike nearly became Unipower's works driver

With Le Mans about to start, I thought it was a good idea to offer you another 'Minis at Le Mans' story. Now, as I didn't want to bore you with yet another Mini Marcos tale (many more to follow, mind you), I wanted something else. And that's when I bumped into Mike Mitchell. Mike is a 73 year old Brit living in France, who very nearly became a works driver for Unipower. This is his story how he told it to me. Enjoy!

"I met Piers Weld Forester in 1968 when we were both doing a race at Malory Park. I was racing a Formula Vee for a company I worked for at the time, called European Cars. On the next patch to us was this guy wearing a huge sombrero accompanied by a girl with very large chest. He was racing a Unipower. Amazingly, it was his first race and he had all sorts of problems, many to do with breaking wheel studs as he was still running the standard black MOWOG items. We sent him off 'round the paddock to scrounge some and he came back with four which we fitted, one to each corner. My two mechanics helped him fit them and that was the start of a short but beautiful relationship. I was living in Kensington at the time, he was living in Chelsea and we bumped into each other frequently. He was a nephew of the Marquis of Ormonde and the family had a considerable fortune, to which he had access. But all he wanted to do was race."

"The family knew he was a bit of a lad and they thought running a company would keep him out of trouble. They fell for Universal Power Drives and it was bought. What they didn't know was that they were building this motor car, too. And as soon as Piers took over he started building three works racing cars. I was then offered a works seat to do Le Mans, Spa, the Nurburgring and the Targa Florio. The timing was perfect, as I wanted to get out of Formula Vee because the races were all so short. Now, in those days there were some famous names coming out of Formula Vee, Nikki Lauda and Helmut Marko for example but I badly wanted to go endurance racing so this was quite an opportunity."

"And so I got over to Park Royal, where the first of three cars was being built, had a look and made sure I could sit in it. If I remember correctly it was using a 1293 Broadspeed engine with the world's shortest exhaust pipe, which gave a shattering sound. It was always a bit of a problem to get in, with the gear lever in the right hand sill that got into your trouser leg. The car was an orangey yellow and the bodywork was very thin, with criss-cross carbon fibre matting everywhere. I was there long enough to have a good look around but unfortunately I cannot remember too much of it as my memories are all about the car itself. As far as I remember it was the only car there, though. The building had a corrugated iron roof and the sound of the car revving inside it was simply shattering. Piers drove a roadgoing white GT40 and at about that time he was run into from behind in the Cromwell road by a clown in a Mini who wanted to race him from the Gloucester Road traffic lights. Trouble was Piers stopped at the Beauchamp Place lights - and the chap in the Mini didn't, took out all the rear body section and the very expensive exhaust system! Good memories, still wish I had said yes to Piers!"

"However, my then-wife, who up to that point had quite enjoyed my low level motor racing, suddenly decided that this was all getting too serious and started kicking off big time to the extent that I had to choose between her and what I hoped would be a full time career racing rather than part time. Stupidly, I chose her! The next season the Unipower Team all went to Europe, but in the event they had a terrible season dogged by bad luck and hampered by the fact that the car was a bit heavy despite the very early use of carbon fibre reinforced bodywork. There were unreliability issues and I think one of the cars got written off by a mechanic before the Targa Florio started. I felt really sorry for them, also because I felt if I'd been there they might perhaps have done a bit better. Piers Forester really was a great chap, who sadly lost his life on a 750 Suzuki at Brands in, I think, 1977. I didn't hear that he died until a week or so afterwards."

"Unfortunately I don't have any pics, I was very busy at the time both working and racing so my contacts with Piers were occasional, either when we met in Peter Jones, at a circuit or when we were planning for or talking about the next season. As I related my then wife scotched my plans so I never drove for them, nor did I see them race as all four events were in Europe and would have required taking some holiday to go to. We kept in touch for a few years but drifted out of touch when I moved from Kensington to Redhill and started a family. By then he too had got married, to the very beautiful Georgina Youens, a model who was tragically killed shortly after in the Paris DC10 crash in 1974. Piers was a really great guy, unique, the sort you only meet once in a lifetime but a bit of an adrenalin junkie, I miss him to this day."

Is this the exhaust that Mike saw in the Unipower factory? He wrote: The exhaust, as I remember, came straight out in the centre, down from the manifold then back under the bodywork and a little turn up
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The Unipower works racer at the factory in London in early 1969. Mike Mitchell was offered a works seat and saw and heard it there "with the world's shortest exhaust pipe, which gave a shattering sound"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A while later the works racer is seen at Le Mans test day on 30 march 1969. Piers Weld Forester is seen here standing beside the car in light overalls
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Next race: Targa Florio on 4 May 1969. I think that's works driver Andrew Hedges in bare chest
It's the same car as was used for Le Mans testing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Targa Florio again. Unfortunately the car was crashed by a mechanic in practice and never started the actual race. The first of a series of disappointments for Forester and Co.
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And then there was the Le Mans 24 hours race on 15 june 1969. Trouble again, as the Unipower GT did not qualify for the race. Full story here
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Seen here prior to the Le Mans 24 hrs. Note massive spot light for adequate lighting during the night stage. It must have been a different car than the one used on Le Mans test day and the Targa Florio, when it was crashed. Or did they rebuild it?
Picture Beroul / Jeroen Booij archive

Next stop: Italy. For the Gran Premio Mugello on 20 July 1969. Piers Forester now co-piloted the car with Swiss Dominique Martin. They came 46th overall. Note filled hole for the spot light
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This shot is definitely taken at the Nurburgring and probably during the 500 kms race of 7 september 1969. But it looks to be a different car again. Who knows more?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A rare photograph of Piers Weld-Forester, taken in 1976, a year before he was tragically killed
Picture Graham Etheridge

Daily Mirror headlines on 31st of October 1977; the day after Piers Weld-Forester was tragically killed at the age of 31 in a crash at Brands Hatch. His wife Georgina Youens (middle bottom) died three years earlier at 22 in a terrible plane crash
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (5)

I have told you that Peter and Paul of Seventies Car Restoration are now working on my car's body (click here) and give me a call regularly with their latest news. I was curious how the state of the doors was and was not disappointed. I also wondered if anything of the old number 50, painted in black onto the white racing roundels could still be traced, and Paul did his very best to search for that. Peter wrote to me: "Paul has traced it, lining it up with the door edge for recreation as it was. On the passenger door you can clearly see the remains of a 'five' and a 'zero'." Well… clearly may be a bit of an exagaration, but with some good will, you can indeed see that some of the lines of the '5' and the '0' are still there. Finding them back completely would be impossible as the roundel wore a different number several times after Le Mans, too. I have attached some historical photographs below in chronological order to show you the racing numbers it used in its early days.

Le Mans test on 3 april 1966. The Mini Marcos already wears its famous number 50
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monza 1000 kms on 25 april 1966. It's Number 51 in this race, where it came 26th overall
Picture Eric della Faille / Jeroen Booij archive

Le Mans 24 hours on 18 and 19 june 1966. Number 50 for it's most famous race
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / through Enguerrand Lecesne

Here in the 1000 kms of Paris at the Montlhery track on 16 October 1966 - number 17
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / through Enguerrand Lecesne

The 1000 kms of Paris a year later in 1967, now with number 34. Shortly before being repainted and sold
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is the same right hand door as seen above, with the '5' of '50' lined out, click for bigger
Picture Peter Skitt

And this is where the '0' of '50' is placed. Look good and note that some of it is still there…
Picture Peter Skitt

And the same door again, now with all the paint taken off. Apart from one crack it's in a fine shape
Note filled holes for side lights to illuminate the racing number during the night
Picture Peter Skitt

And a nice bonus image. The original bonnet strap on the left. The holes to have it fitted were revealed by rubbing off all the paint layers and are clearly visible on the car now (right)
Pictures Jeroen Booij archive / Peter Skitt

Earlier articles in this series:
Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (2) - Holes for lights and details
Analyzing the Le Mans Mini Marcos (3) - Petrol tank, roll bar, pedals

Thursday 8 June 2017

Heerey GTM at Harewood

More Heerey GTM today! Richard Hawcroft wrote: "Hi Jeroen. It was the Harewood hillclimb last weekend and the engine in my Mini wasn’t quite finished, so I went in my GTM. It is an excellent car as it handles so well (dare I say better than a Mini…). Just lacking a little power as its only a 1071cc, with a bigger engine in it would have been a real flyer. I finished 5th, which was pretty good as all the cars in front of me had bigger engines, sticky tyres and limited slip diffs. I also drove mine there and home again, so that’s a moral victory! All the best, Rich." I say, well done Rich!

Our man Richard in action with his GTM at Harewood last weekend. Better than a Mini..? Of course!
Picture courtesy Hardy Photography

Wednesday 7 June 2017

How Hannu Mikkola came to drive a Heerey GTM

GTM-man Howard Heerey now lives in Australia, but shares some of his motoring snippets every now and then. And here's one I liked in particular. This is what he wrote: "Going in this lovely GTM to Helsinki in 1970 was an attempt to set up an agent in Finland. The guy I was trying do the deal with got Hannu Mikkola to come and have a drive. Hannu drove it, drank vodka and had lots of saunas, but failed to put a deal together. C'est la vie." Mikkola did well in that year, though, as he famously won the World Cup Rally...

Lovely Heerey GTM made it to Helsinki, Finland, in 1970. Colour is very 1970s too
Picture courtesy Howard Heerey

What happened to 'BRE 242J' afterwards? DVLA database doesn't recognize it. 
Note it's left hand driven
Picture courtesy Howard Heerey

Gunnar Palm and Hannu Mikkola (right) after having secured the World Cup Rally title, also in 1970
Picture Pinterest

Friday 2 June 2017

Le Mans Mini Marcos project: a new partner

After partnering up with Mini World Center in southern France for the mechanical side of the Le Mans Mini Marcos project (story here), I am now happy to announce another partner: Seventies Car Restoration in West Yorkshire, UK. This company, run by Peter and Paul, will be working on the car's body and return it into its full splendor, just like it was in June 1966. Apart from a passion for Le Mans, Peter has a Mk1 Mini Marcos himself, which he beautifully restored from scratch. I started a conversation about soda blasting with him and what followed was a lengthy discussion about all the pros and cons. Eventually we decided not to have it soda blasted, but have all the paint rubbed down by hand. By this time much of it has been removed and I receive a phone call from Peter regularly now, when he has found another piece of evidence of its racing provenance. Holes for the bonnet straps and the roof stiffener have come up, exactly like they should. Peter is exited every time. To speak in his own words: "This car is constantly talking to us!"

Some complications have turned up already, too. I knew the car's rear wheel arches were modified, but I hoped they had just been filled in. Unfortunately it now turns out that they have been altered quite a bit more. The original arches were in fact partly cut away, with new ones pop riveted over that and all of it filled in. They are probably beyond repair. And since the original arches aren't available, we need to find another solution. We think we found one, but it's not going to be too easy. More about that soon.

And so, work is in full swing. While Philippe Quiriere of Mini World Center, has started on the engine build, Peter and Paul have now exactly colour matched the original French Blue and Yellow that will be applied when the body is fully restored. There is a lot to do before that though, so expect plenty of updates. I am going over to Yorkshire soon to see the body in its bare gellcoat and discuss all the repairs that need to be carried out with Peter and Paul in detail. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 8 March 2018: Unfortunately the partnership didn't last long. More here.

Paul (behind the car) and Peter with the Le Mans Mini Marcos just after I brought it over to their place in West-Yorkshire. They run Seventies Car Restoration as a team
Picture Jeroen Booij

By now, they have taken much of the paint off. If you look really good you can see that below the front arches there is more French Blue paint. Correct, as they were modified before the Le Mans 24 hours. At Le Mans Test Day in April '66 the arches were not yet so wide
Picture Peter Skitt / Seventies Car Restoration

Le Mans Test Day (3 April 1966) on the left and just before the start of the Le Mans 24 hours race (18 June 1966) on the right. Note the modifications carried out on the front wheel arches, together with some more changes
Pictures Jeroen Booij archive

Rear wheel arches are proving to be quite a bit more of a complication, though. They were heavily modified, partly cut away and with new ones pop riveted over them
Picture Peter Skitt / Seventies Car Restoration

This is what the original rear arches were like and that's how they will be once again!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive