Wednesday 31 October 2018

Dennis Prophet died at 87

Sadly, I am far behind on obituaries sometimes. And Rachel Nelson prompted me about one I should not have missed yesterday. I wrote about a Canadian Reptune Gullwing (here) when she contacted me to tell that Reptune's instigator Dennis Prophet had passed away almost a year ago. This happened on 29 November 2017 when Dennis died at the age of 87 in his native Keswick, Canada.

British-born Prophet worked for BMC's Competitions Department before coming to Canada in 1963 and setting up the Canadian branch of BMC's tuning division there. He became responsible for the import of the Austin-Healey 3000 also and its racing activities but soon started his own business in Scarborough, Ontario: Reputation Tuning Services, or Reptune. He became a BMC and Alfa-Romeo dealer and set up import lines for the Broadspeed cars and the Ogle SX1000. He was a regular visitor of the Sebring race track with all these cars in the weekend and sold them on Mondays.

But in 1967 Prophet also launched his first Mini based car to his own design: the Reptune GT, which looked not unlike an Ogle SX1000. On the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, Reptune had a spectacular stand with seven GT bodies hanging at various heights simulating a motoring manufacturer’s production line. Eventually 34 GTs were sold before Prophet came up with a simpler and cheaper new model: the Reptune Gullwing, of which he sold another 32. Prophet kept the Gullwing prototype, the moulds plus one production car until last year when they were sold (click here).

When I first contacted Dennis about his cars in 2010 or 2011 he was ever so enthusiastic about Maximum Mini and telephoned me regularly when he'd found new historic images, which were then scanned and sent over by a friend. With the passing of Dennis Prophet, the original Canadian chapter of Mini tuning and Mini based cars is now sadly closed.

Dennis Prophet with one of his Reptune Gullwing cars in 1968. He was such a great enthusiast
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Dennis Prophet a couple of years ago with one of the Reptune Gullwing cars he'd kept
Picture Norm Mort / Jeroen Booij archive

Six of the seven Reptune GT's that were used for the 1967 exhibition 'Man the Producer' in Montreal
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

One of the 34 Reptune GTs being almost finished in a rare 1967 colour photograph
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Reptune of Scarborough, Ontario offered a wide range of tuning accessories also
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The first tuning shop set up by Dennis Prophet shortly after emigrating to Canada in 1963
He was a dealer for Broadspeed and imported the Ogle SX1000 to Canada
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Reptune's team cars on display at the Toronto Motor Show of 1964. Note the awards!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Forest find: Reptune Gullwing

These moody pictures were sent years ago to me by British ex-pat George Allen, who lives near Toronto in Canada. They show a rare Reptune Gullwing - the Canadian Mini based sports car designed and marketed by Reptune (or 'Reputation Tuning Services'), set up by Dennis Prophet in Scarborough, Canada. The pictures were taken in the woods near Flesherton, some 70 miles northwest of Toronto. I wonder what happened to it? Is it still out there?

UPDATE 16 December 2022: It's still there! Now offered for sale for 100 dollars, together with many more Mini parts, click here

Reptune Gullwing without its gullwing doors was found in Flesherton forest
Picture George Allen / Jeroen Booij archive

The 'on tow' lettering suggests it didn't reach the forest under its own steam
Picture George Allen / Jeroen Booij archive

Perspex rear screen has dropped out, floors seem rusty. But it's one of only 12 built!
Picture George Allen / Jeroen Booij archive

Mini rear bumper and rear lights. The Reptune Gullwing was supposed to be an easy to build kit car
Picture George Allen / Jeroen Booij archive

Mini engine block is still there - cylinder head is gone. Anyone who can see what engine it is?
Picture George Allen / Jeroen Booij archive

Faded and forgotten. But not here, at Maximum Mini! Is this car still out there?
Picture George Allen / Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 29 October 2018

1967 works Mini Marcos: an update

Thank you all for the comments coming in on last week's article about the Mini Marcos, believed to be the 1967 ex-works racer and Le Mans car (click here when you have missed it). Well, it seems it is not that, although it is an ex-works car. This is how the nut was cracked.

The other car, you ask? Yes, there was a second works racer built to the same specifications. Works mechanic Mike Treutlein told me back in 2011 that they built two near-identical cars, one metallic green and one primrose yellow. The first was used by a men's team and became the 1967 Le Mans car. But the second was never used at Le Mans. It was raced by a ladies team: FLIRT - for First Ladies International Racing Team. Drivers were with Jackie Bond-Smith, Joey Cook and Jacqui Smith. It was raced at the Nurburgring in Germany, Mugello in Italy, Phoenix Park in Ireland and probably at several more venues.

It is recognizable by its squarish front wheel arches, just have a look at the several pictures in the previous article and below here. Both cars were raced at the 1967 Nurburgring 500 kms race, as at Mugello. Reader Edward Fitzgerald adds that they were also both seen at a race at Phoenix Park in Ireland in September 1967. Fitzgerald: "Jem Marsh drove this car at Phoenix Park September 67; Tim Lalonde drove the green car."

I now also know that the car was sold in 1968 to Macau and sold once again to Japan in 1971. In fact the Japanese owner contacted me also, writing: "I seemed to buy this Marcos in Macao in 1971. He sent a photograph of it also, but added: "Because it is a publication, please do not publicize it." I won't. But it's good to know more about it now. And it does indeed seem that both cars built by Marcos Cars had their windscreens changed. The green Le Mans car first, the primrose yellow FLIRT car soon after it.

This is the picture that made the ball go rolling. This is the ex-works car at the Macau Grand Prix in 1969, but is the FLIRT car and not the Le Mans car
Picture Carros Classicos de Macau

Only colour picture of the car that I know of. Here at the Nurburgring 500kms in 1967.
The windscreen is not yet modified here
Picture Werner Ullrich

But look carefully and you will see it is here. This picture was taken at Phoenix Park, Ireland, in September 1967. The other works racer was supposedly raced in the same race by Jem Marsh
Picture via Edward Fitzgerald 

The girls from FLIRT: Jackie Bond-Smith, Joey Cook and Jacqui Smith in 1967
Picture still from British Pathe movie

Once more at the Phoenix Park race in 1967. The other works racer, the green 
1967 Le Mans car, was there also, says reader
Picture Irish Photo Archive

Friday 26 October 2018

Could this really be the 1967 Le Mans Mini Marcos? UPDATE: It's not

An interesting picture was posted online this afternoon by a classic car enthusiast from Macau. It shows a Mini Marcos that was supposedly raced there during the Macau Grand Prix of 1969. According to the poster the car was an ex-works Le Mans car in 1967. Remarkably, the windscreen fits into that, as a tall windscreen can clearly be seen on the photograph, just like the 1967 Le Mans car had. The same goes for the light on the door. Could it really be that?

The full story of the 1967 Mini Marcos works Le Mans entry can be found here. After Le Mans the car was raced in Africa. But what happened after that? It is believed it remained there, only to be found in a derelict state and fully restored several years ago now. The car's works mechanic Mike Treutlein, whom I tracked down in 2010 (here), didn't know of its survival, though.

Also: the works racer had a sister car, which was light yellow in colour. The question is if that possibly could have had a modified windscreen also? If not, this new picture would throw an all-new light on the Le Mans car's survival. Naturally I have contacted the person who posted the image and he has promised me to come back to me. To be continued.

UPDATE 29 October 2018: Not the Le Mans car, but the other '67 ex-works racer (click here)

UPDATE 8 March 2020: Confirmed to be "The ex-Le Mans car driven by two French ladies" at the Macau Grand Prix in 1969 by driver Keith Payne, see his comment below.

UPDATE 26 June 2020: This is confusing to me, too, but I now firmly believe this to be the 1967 Le Mans car after all now that new pictures have emerged. Full story here

UPDATE 1 July 2020: To further confuse you - I now draw again the conclusion it's not the 1967 Le Mans car but the FLIRT car after all. Full report (not for the faint hearted) here.

This picture shows a Mini Marcos during the Macau Grand Prix of 1969. It is believed to be the works car that ran at Le Mans in 1967. Could it really be that? The modified windscreen fits the bill
Picture Carros Classicos de Macau

Let's go back in time. This is the works car on the weigh bridge at Le Mans on 10 June 1967. Note the windscreen here, which had just been modified overnight
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is during the 1967 Le Mans race, still on the 10th of June 1967. The car made only a disappointing 13 laps before it had to withdraw from the race
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Mugello, 23 July 1967. This car is raced at the road circuit in Italy. Is it the same car repainted, or did Marcos change its sister car's windscreen also? 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

4 November 1967. The colour suggests this has to be the ex-Le Mans car. It is entered in the 9-hour race at Kyalami, where it comes 15th overall. Jem Marsh standing next to it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

December 1967. The same car is raced in the Pietermaritzburgh 3 hours by Peter Kat and Dirk Manis
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And again... That's believed to be Peter Kat in action, somewhere in Africa, supposedly in 1968
Picture credit unknown / Jeroen Booij archive

This car is offered for sale in the UK in late 1967, with the picture taken during the ADAC 500kms race in Germany on 3 September 1967. Is it the Le Mans car repainted, or is it its sister car with a modified windscreen also? - that's the question
UPDATE 26 June 2020. This certainly is the FLIRT car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 25 October 2018

March Austin Turbo uses 240bhp Mini engine

Another great message from Peter Camping. He made me aware of a car I'd never heard of before, writing: "Hi Jeroen. This is, in my opinion, a great Special. It's a 1972 March 722 Formula 2 that's been modified into a hill climber with A-series power. The seller, which offers it for sale at the moment, writes: "This March 722 started out as a Formula 2 race car with the monocoque number AM 72-12 which we believe means that this single seater was a very early 722. It was then converted to a hill climb car. The two drivers / builders were engineers for British Leyland at the time and used their expertise and contacts to fit an A-series engine with some special motorsport parts and modifications, one of the mods they did to the engine was to turbocharge it, this was before the days of the MG Metro Turbo, and one can't help wonder if this helped the development of the 1275 turbo engine used in the Metro Turbo? In fact there are letters between British Leyland's 'Special Tuning' department and the drivers detailing recommended modifications and parts to be used. It is also apparent that British Leyland picked up some of the bills by way of sponsorship of the car judging by the invoices to the 'Sales and Promotions' department of BL. Season reports from the drivers to BL show that the car performed well at Shelsey Walsh on various occasions. AM72 -12 has been laid up for many years and came to us with a healthy coating of dust, but it does appear to be complete apart from a fuel tank and a couple of rubber pipes missing."

These two drivers / builders were Rob Oldaker and Andy Smith and indeed they did well with their A-series powered Special. As a matter of fact they had more than 20 class wins in the National Hillclimb championship and had several top three championship positions notched between 1975 and 1980. The duo even managed to be the first in the 'Supercharged Shelsley Special' class to break the 30 second climb at Shelsley Walsh, with Andy Smith recording 29.27 secs in August 1980 (a record not broken until 24 years later!).

Peter adds that the car was sold in an auction just a few ago also, when it sold for £6,384. More technical information from when it was sold then: "Mini short stroke engine of 1140cc to comply with the 1600cc unsupercharged class rules. This engine featured a Garret T04 turbocharger, without waste-gate, set at 1.7 bar with coolant stabilized inlet temperature control. Running on a methanol mix and an 8.3/1 compression ratio the engine was highly modified and was coupled to a straight cut, close ratio gearbox, a Salisbury LSD with Jack Knight low ratio final drive gear, and a competition clutch. Weighing in at less than 365 kgs (!) and giving close to 240 bhp, it was extremely quick and also handled and stopped superbly." See the car for sale here.

When a Formula 2 car goes hill climbing. March 722 Special uses Mini power

Garret T04 turbocharger is mated to 1140 short stroke Mini engine with close ratio gearbox,  Salisbury LSD and Jack Knight low ratio final drive gear

The car weighed only 365kgs and came with 240bhp. No wonder it set some records!

In action in its heyday. Oldaker and Smith had more than 20 class wins in the National Hillclimb championship with it between 1975 and 1980

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Quasar Unipower is Triplex Spectrafloat Special

A Quasar Unipower was spotted last week by David Ward. He wrote: "I'm off to the French Alps on a four-day classic rally in my 1990 coupe Quattro. I saw this popemobile on a trailer heading to a new home in Germany. It was made by Unipower who made the Unipower GT. Think the pope would have enjoyed it more if it was turbocharged."

He is right. That is indeed a Quasar Unipower. But this one is slightly more special than just that. This particular car, registered 'VLC 694G' was used by glass manufacturer Triplex to promote their very strong Spectrafloat glasses to the motor industry and could be seen on the stand they had at the Earls Court motor show in 1968. It had a different front with less (!) glass and relocated head lights and badging. The car did get its road registration later in December 1968 and was seen at the Mini Festival at Brands Hatch in August 1969, where reader Fred Kalkhuis spotted it. I'd love to hear from the new owner.

UPDATE 2 November 2018: Here we go!

Spotted on its way to a new home in Germany: a Quasar Unipower. But not as we know it...
Picture David Ward

Apart from being a remarkable car, this one has an interesting history on its own
Picture David Ward

It's a modified example that was used by Triplex to promote their new glass in the motoring industry
And it was therefore also known as the Triplex Spectrafloat Special
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The Spectrafloat Special on display at Earls Court in London with a suitably dressed lady. 
Note 'GLA 55' fake number plate, for 'GLASS'...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The same car, now registered VLC 694G, pictured at the Mini Festival in 1969 at Brands Hatch
Picture courtesy Fred Kalkhuis

Fred Kalkhuis and his mother spotted it there and had some pictures taken, which Fred kindly shared
Picture courtesy Fred Kalkhuis

Colour picture taken on the same day at Brands Hatch. I don't know what the Redbridge sign is for
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 19 October 2018

Inside Magic Alex' Mini

After Paul McCartney's Mini made top money at an auction last month (see here), more Wood & Pickett Minis have made it to the market. And one of them linked to The Beatles, too. It was 'Magic' Alex Mardas' car, supposedly coachbuilt by Wood & Pickett, too (more about that here). Unfortunately the ad appears to have gone now, although I did save the pictures, enclosed here. Meanwhile, I also found out that Magic Alex passed away early last year at 74 years old. This is from Uncut Magazine:

"The Beatles‘ technology 'wizard' Yanni ‘John’ Alexis Mardas – better known as Magic Alex – has died at the age of 74. Athens-born Mardas was appointed head of the group’s Apple Electronics division in 1968, appeared in the Magical Mystery Tour film, and accompanied the band to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram at Rishikesh in India. Originally taken on after John Lennon‘s appreciation of the light machines he’d constructed for The Rolling Stones in 1967, Mardas was later asked to construct a 72-track studio for The Beatles in the basement of the Apple HQ on Savile Row. It was designed but never completed after the group’s new manager Allen Klein shut down much of the Apple Corps venture."

"Mardas claimed to have invented items such as an electronic camera, and ‘the composing typewriter’, a voice recognition device. After Apple Corps, he founded a number of companies that specialised in bulletproof vests, armoured cars and night vision equipment, selling some of these to figures such as King Hussein of Jordan."

I found this funny little video about Magic Alex on the web, but wonder what happened to the Mini..?

UPDATE 12:30: John Reymondos wrote: "The Magic Alex Mini was in Greece and was sold last year I think, by a Greek dealer to a Greek businessman." Thank you John.

UPDATE 26 October: Dennis van Eck wrote: "Dear Jeroen. The blue buttons on the seat are to inflate bellows in the rest on three different places. The front buttons are for seat heating. I have tried to fit a similar Recaro seat in my own Mini, but it can only be fitted when you cut out the storage boxes next to the back seat. It has to be a real W&P. Thanks for the post!"

Magic Alex' Mini was supposedly a Wood & Pickett with extra gadgetry

Speakers and courtesy lights in the doors, or so it seems 

Plus plenty of buttons in the seats. For what?

Dashboard leaves no doubt this car started life as an Innocenti Mini

Is that a logo of Apple Corps, the Beatles' record company?

And what on earth is that for - a communications system?

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Mike Jupp's Nimrod - still going strong

A great piece about Mike Jupp and his Nimrod appeared last week on the website of insurer Adrian Flux. Jupp, who designed the car, tells how the car came about in 1969, although it took until 1972 to see the first car finished - the one he still owns and uses regularly. I have cut out some nice quotes from Mike from the interview:

"It was a time when everything seemed possible, a great time with the excitement and dreams of what life could be. There must have been something in the air at that time, or whether it’s about being young and idealistic, and your imagination can stretch. There are one or two things I’ve done in my life I’m so pleased about. I came up with an idea for a TV series and eventually watched it, and I came up with an idea for a car and, thanks to Ray, I eventually drove it. More than four decades later, it’s in my garage so I can still show it to people.

Mike recalls a journey to Transylvania in the Nimrod (picture here): “I had a case full of brand new cassettes – Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Yes, Deep Purple etc – and we got to this village and were immediately surrounded by a couple of hundred people all looking at the Nimrod. There was a bloke with a ghetto blaster. He only had one old naff cassette, the Red Army Choir or something. Anyway, I said ‘you may as well have this lot then mate’. He nearly died. One minute he’s got one ancient Soviet sing-along nonsense tape, then instantly, he’s got Western cool-dude hip stuff.”

Read the full interview here.

Mike Jupp and his Nimrod: "I’ve had it 46 years and I’ve still not quite finished it"

Jupp: "When it was finished, it felt surreal to be actually driving something that started out as a scribble on a bit of paper" That drawing can be seen here

Mike plans to give his beloved Nimrod another revamp, in the style of one of his television series

Chunky rear mudflaps were designed to give the car the impression of having real wide rear tyres!

Not many people can claim to own their Mini derivative for 46 years! Mike drives his still regularly

Monday 15 October 2018

Beach Car spotted in Quebec

We are currently enjoying a real Indian Summer in this part of the world. And in Canada summer seems not to be over either. This Beach Car was spotted in Westmount, Quebec recently and the pictures were sent over to me by Miguel Plano. He wrote: "Shame about the seats, but I guess they are a necessity if you want to use it regularly..." Funnily, I have some more pictures of the same car of several years ago. It is also on Quebec plates on there and did have wicker seats, although not the originals or so it seems. Perhaps these have gone a long time already..?

An update from Miguel: "The wicker seats still exist, I got confirmation from someone who knows the car, they are safely stored away."

In the streets of Quebec: a Mini Beach car. This is the only one in Fiesta yellow
Picture through Miguel Plano

Original wicker seats have gone but this Beach Car still still makes every other car look dull
Picture through Miguel Plano