Thursday 31 January 2019

Is mystery Biota the works racer after all?

After being approached by a Japanese journalist, Biota owner and -enthusiast Peter Niessen believes that the mystery Biota racer in Japan seen here before (click here) may well be John Houghton's works racer after all. The car is owned by a Mini Specialist in Japan and is featured comprehensively in the current issue of Tipo Dramatic Car magazine, which made Peter conclude about its heritage.

He wrote: "After close examination of the pictures we can conclude that this Japanese car is the original 1972 hillclimb racer by John Houghton / Chris Seaman. A number of modifications have been carried out, but this can be verified. One striking feature of this particular racer is that the entire front subframe has been left out; all the mechanicals are mounted directly onto the tubular frame."

Some more background on the racer can be found here and here.
Peter also managed to translate the article by Hideyuki Nakajima into English, and I have copied some of the content below:
"Minnie British Cars in Ageo city, Saitama Prefecture, is a Mini specialist who's representative
Seki Ikumi (52 years old) started 25 years ago and is working now with his son Mr. Akuta (32 years
old) and two other staff members. It is a popular shop with maintenance and restoration requests
from the whole country, as well as from locals. The Biota in this article came to the shop about 10 years ago. It seems it was inherited from the long-term shop stock of the same business. Also, it seemed to interesting. This Biota Mk2 car was made in 1972 but the shape of the body is quite different. There is no rear roll bar style roof, and instead a fairing cowl was mounted behind the driver only. For this reason the front only has a racing screen attached at the driver's side. In the road car version there is a notch inside the cockpit for easier getting in and out. This is not it in the current car, it has a smooth shape. However, besides the body there is also a big difference at the chassis. The tubular frame itself seems not a big difference with the road car in the photo, but in the competition car the Mini power train is bolted directly to the frame without the front sub frame. Ignoring the durability of the frame, this is considered to be a construction to improve direct maneuverability, clearly for competition purposes. Moreover (because there is no sub frame), the upper part of the rubber cones of the front suspension seems to be held only by the tubular frame. In addition, the front lower arms are ball joint mounted and of the camber adjustable type.
The rear suspension is typical Biota Mk2, with a pair of trailing-arm supported beams to which the left and right suspension is connected, constructed with coil-over shocks and a stabilizer. Although the installed engine is equipped with 45mm Weber carburetors, it seems not very highly tuned. This is supported by the fact that the drive shafts have remained rubber-coupled, so perhaps the engine has been replaced at some point in time. Unlike the road car, the exhaust end is located at the right-hand part of the body at the front."

"There is no chassis number on this individual car, but Seki states "I think this is because it is one of
the cars that probably participated in Hill Climb races by the Biota Works team." Presumably, Biota
built two Mk2 lightweight versions for the Prescott BARC Hill Climb Championship in 1972, with
John Houghton himself and Chris Seaman as drivers and Chris Seaman winning the title. Since there
is a description that it was changed to the Mk2 specification afterwards, it is a high possible that it
is this individual car. Seki said, "It cannot used as a road car indeed, but I hope to be able to show it
at the time of the Mini 60th anniversary event. With only unique and valuable vehicles, I really
want you to realize."

Then (top) and now (bottom). Reader Peter says this has to be one and the same car
Picture Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine /

There is no denial that there are several similarities between the two cars but 
somebody would have to examine the car really well to be really sure
Picture Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine / Jeroen Booij archive

Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine photographed the car and describes it in its current (February) issue
Picture courtesy Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine

The article concludes that it may very well be Houghton's hill climb car, too
Picture courtesy Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine

Lack of a front subframe is the major giveaway to it being the works racer, say Niessen and Nakajima
Picture courtesy Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine/ Junichi Okumura

Interior has been modded over the years but details still visible are believed to be intact
Picture courtesy Tipo Dramatic Cars magazine / Junichi Okumura

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Mystery Mini derivative (56)

Remember this one, or this one? And how about this one and this one? Well, it's time for another mystery Mini based car from South-Africa. So what have we got here? Not much is known, other than that it was photographed in Betlehem, South-Africa in 2013. It supposedly used a 1275cc engine and seems to have a considerably shortened wheelbase. But that's about all. Who knows more..?

Mystery Mini based car from South-Africa supposedly uses 1275 power
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 28 January 2019

TiCi on BBC footage

The BBC continues to post little movie clips from their archives. And this time it's the TiCi that made an appearance on a program called 'Record Breakers'. The BBC added: "You might look a bit silly driving it, but imagine the parking savings!"
Reader and former TiCi owner Paul Wylde adds: "Looks like for the show this one may have had a electric motor as can't see or hear the engine." That's a good one. I only know that 'GAY 73L' was used for promotional purposes and driven around London by Stirling Moss, while it was owned until not too long ago by my good friend Ian Mitcheson. It certainly was Mini powered when Ian had it.

The TiCi on 'Record Breakers' in the BBC studios in 1973
Video BBC Archives

Thursday 24 January 2019

Nieuwenhuis - the Dutch racing Special

Regular supplier of images Roald Rakers came up with a grand full colour shot of the Nieuwenhuis Special, taken prior to the Trophy of the Dunes races at Zandvoort in 1968. As a Dutchman this particular car haunted me for ages (click here) and eventually I found out it was built by Henk Nieuwenhuis of Geldrop in The Netherlands, who moved to the isle of Crete later on. I interviewed him back in 2013, when he told me he built the car in 1967 in the attic of his parental house. He said: “You could either watch other people race, or build something yourself on a shoestring. I decided to do the latter and started making some drawings. It was all pretty simple, I just wanted to race. Since I had some Mini engines lying around, one of them a Cooper, I simply had to use that. I was a graphical designer by trade and so wanted it to look nice, too. At first it was a roadster, later I closed the body with gullwing doors."

Unfortunately the car does not survive since Nieuwenhuis re-used most parts to built up other cars and ultimately binned the car's chassis frame, or so he told me. But perhaps somebody has more photographs of it? I have never seen any of it in roadster form, as Nieuwenhuis didn't have these either. He did send me a few, though, of it with its gullwing doors, some of which I have added below. Roald ads: "On one of the pictures you can also see the Fiat 600D of N.P. van Leersum and the Renault Dauphine Gordini of Paul Huis-in-'t-Veld. But to who belongs the yellow Mini? Rob Petersen?" I have no idea about that, but feel free to add more information, dear reader.

Nieuwenhuis Special was gullwinged Dutch racer, which came out in the Formula Libre class
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Henk Nieuwenhuis seen here next to it at Zandvoort in 1968. Unfortunately the car does not survive
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This photograph was new to me, thanks to Roald Rakers! GTA and DAF behind
Picture Henk van Zalinge archive via Carel Baller

Different colour here, or so it seems, probably after this crash (click here)
Roald also wonders whom the yellow Mini could have belonged to
Picture Henk van Zalinge archive via Carel Baller

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Hustler Holiday versus Aston Martin Lagonda

Yesterday's Hustler film footage prompted reader to send me a link to an article published almost two years ago on the world wide web. It was also about a Hustler (not a wooden though) and I must admit it's a rather nice piece, too (click here) about a Buckinghamshire based Aston Martin restorer (website) with a soft spot for William Town's quirkier designs. A quote: "Paul is never likely to own a Lagonda, the Hustler is his way of keeping in touch with his formative automotive years and having a huge amount of fun in the process. He’s now got the Mini-based kit car bug and is embarking on the build of a Stimson Trek, a mad 3-seater creation with a central driving position." That makes me even more curious! I have lifted some of the article's images to here.

Paul Temple's Hustler is the Hustler Holiday 4 and it's a clean example, too

Next to another William Towns design: the unparalleled Aston Martin Lagonda


Any styling resemblances? Nah... But it is a great idea to put the two together

The Hustler's owner is an Aston Martin restorer who owns a Stimson Trek, too!

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Hustler in Wood being constructed, driven by William Towns

This lovely 3-minute video has been uploaded on Youtube recently, showing the build of a wooden Hustler - also known as the Hustler in Wood. We see the thing being constructed, using panel saw and pegs. And then we see the designer himself - William Towns - at the wheel, showing it on High Street and picking up the children from school. Enjoy!

Hustler in Wood being constructed and driven by William Towns
Video Youtube / Diccon Towns

Oh, and could this actual car survive? Oh, yes. I found it in a barn in West-Sussex several years ago...
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Le Mans Mini Marcos: preparing for paint (2)

So... I spent much of December in dust (click here). But after that it was time for some actual painting. Joost and I drove over to Ghent in Belgium one afternoon where we had primer mixed in colour by a real paint guru. The only original paint left was (and still is) to be found behind the car’s door locks, which is excellently conserved and thus perfect for colour matching.

Christmas came and was spent back home and after Boxing Day I drove over to the spray booth again (eventually clocking up over 2,500 kms in a week’s time). All the holes and open spaces on the smoothed shell were now covered with adhesive tape in order to protect them against spray mist and Joost took the spray gun. It was like magic to see the car’s rather messy patchwork outfit change into one smooth suit of blue. Pretty much how it will look like when the actual paint is applied. It wasn’t for long though. Joost taught me to fill in all the tiny little pinholes with filler and sand these down first before applying spray filler. So that’s what we did the next day. Three layers of spray filler were applied to the shell next and that’s the condition it is in right now. The advice is to wait for some six months to have the layers harden out and then we’ll have to lock ourselves in for another week or so, and sand most away once again. I look forwards to it already!

Fully prepared for primer and all masked up. The Le mans Mini Marcos reaches its next stage
Picture Jeroen Booij

To prepare it we had locked ourselves up with filler and sand paper for a week first
Picture Jeroen Booij

We had the colour for primer matched from the original blue, which is still hidden behind the car's door locks (note: actual colour is quite different from the hue on the picture)
Picture Jeroen Booij

And there we go! A fresh coat of primer being applied over the patchwork
Picture Jeroen Booij

It was like magic to see the car turn into one colour once again. Joost is at the spray gun
Picture Jeroen Booij

And blue once more! Not for long though, as this is just a coat of primer
Picture Jeroen Booij

Rear wheel arches received the same treatment after having been made to fit the body
Picture Jeroen Booij

Next step: filling all the tiny little pinholes with filler. Hundreds of them!
Picture Jeroen Booij

And sanding them out once more... Joost is degreasing the roof here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Rear wheel arches needed some serious filling as well...
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Bye-bye blue, this is the first coat of spray filler applied over the blue primer
Picture Jeroen Booij

And another one in a different hue to make things easier when we sand the whole body once more
Picture Jeroen Booij

And a third and final coat of spray filler, again in another hue to differentiate them
Picture Jeroen Booij

A happy spray painter! Joost applied some ultra-thinned blue paint 'to get it into its pores' 
Picture Jeroen Booij

And ready to go back home again. Six long months of drying is the recipe now...
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday 14 January 2019

Blue Peter Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave - a survivor?

This lovely little video was uploaded by the BBC archive earlier this week. It's a clip from 'Blue Peter' and shows a 1975 Wood & Pickett Mini in all its glory. I wondered if the car survived and Ole O Pedersen got back to that question with some pictures of a W&P Mini that was seen for sale several years ago, probably in 2010. It certainly looks to be the same car to me. Anyone knows of its current whereabouts?

Video BBC archive

Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave then and now (well, almost). Where is it now?
Picture BBC archive / Ole O Pedersen

Interior certainly looks similar, just take a look at the bottom right dash switches
Picture BBC archive / Ole O Pedersen

Car is worse for fear, or was when offered for sale some years ago
Picture BBC archive / Ole O Pedersen

Friday 11 January 2019

Le Mans Mini Marcos: preparing for paint (1)

Have you ever painted a car? I hadn't and only had a rough idea on how to prepare a body for painting. But by now I know much of the ins and outs, thanks to fellow Dutchman and fellow (and multiple) Mini Marcos owner Joost van Diën, who is an excellent painter also. Joost happened to be in between jobs and managed to hire a professional spray booth to help me, and so we locked ourselves in for a week and spent most of the Christmas holidays in dust, working to get the body straight. Oh, I enjoyed every minute!

We also scratched our heads on how to fit the rear wheel arches properly. The ones I had refabricated needed trimming and finishing, but didn’t seem to fit perfectly to the body’s shapes. Historical photographs learned us that the edge where they touch the car’s body was originally thicker, also. We found a clever way to overcome all this. After having cut the arches to the right size, we taped in the wings where the arches touch the body, put a small stroke of filler on the arches, fitted them quickly and had the filler dry out. After an hour or so we removed the arches plus the tape and sanded all of the filler away, except for the edge. They now fit on to the body perfectly and have exactly the right thickness. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn when they were fitted the same way originally, too!

After days of sanding we were really happy with the result and both went home to celebrate Christmas. After Christmas we drove over once again to mask off all the holes and actually start applying the primer we had made by a real paint guru in Belgium, using the only original paint left now, to be found behind the car’s door locks, which is excellently conserved and thus perfect for colour matching. But that's for next week (with some videos, too).

Ready for action. Me in overals, Joost below. We used Gapol filler in two different colours, black first...
Picture Jeroen Booij (self-timing function...)

...and the slightly softer green later. Roof needed most filler, but we kept a slight dent that had always been there and could be seen on old photographs
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Joost wasn't 100% happy with a repair carried out on the front and got out his fibreglass matting to do it again
Picture Jeroen Booij 

The same went for the back end, which needed just a little more fine tuning on one spot before we'd get out the filler once more
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Holes for spot lights needed repair also, carried out beautifully now. These were really difficult places to sand, especially after the epoxy resin had hardened out!
Picture Jeroen Booij 

There was still original paint left on some places, amongst others in the louvres on the c-post. I did my utter best to get all out without damaging the original shapes
Picture Jeroen Booij 

We found a clever way to fit the rear wheel arches perfectly. They had to be cut just a little first (lined out)
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Measuring up the holes to pop rivet them on later. They all need to be similar in diamater
Picture Jeroen Booij 

While removing some more paint leftovers on the door sill, a few bubble holes fell in the gellcoat. Although these have always been there, they were repaired as well
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Joost's dad Cor enlighted us with some elbow grease, too. Thanks Cor!
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Finished after a week of hard work and almost ready to receive its coat of primer
Picture Jeroen Booij 

I had a fabulous time with Joost preparing the car for painting and learned an awful lot
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Mystery Mini derivative (55)

Let's continue 2019 with more mystery Mini derivatives. I do not know anything about this odd three-wheeler other than that it is Mini powered, rather long and very low. It is registered 'NFO 966' and is supposedly based on a 1962 Mk1 Mini. Let's hope anyone else does recognize it.

A Mini based three-wheeler. But it's a mystery
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Odnik sketch found

You guys know I am a sucker for new discoveries. And there are several cars which I'd love to find one day. One of them is 'Odnik': an Irish-built Mini based roadster, raced (and built I'd say) by Jack O'Donoghue in 1961. What's so special about it? Well, I really believe this car was based on a 1958 Mini prototype of which not a single copy is known to survive. You can read more about it here and here.

Now. So far, all traces to the car itself have led to dead ends. But at the end of the year I was contacted by Trevor Ripley, who'd just bought an old Austin Seven 850 dealer pack and found something interesting in it... Trevor wrote:

"Hi Jeroen. I bought an old Austin Seven 850 dealer pack off an ex Longbridge employee. Included with it were these original photos of what you call the DGS firecrest / Special (more about these later-JB). I have just been going through the dealer pack and discovered on a blank page a pencil sketch of a similar car. From my memory I have seen a picture of another soft top Mini derivative a while ago, also registered in Ireland. A similar car to the Donald Healey car (chassis 102). Could this car be connected with Doug Glover? The pencil drawing looks very similar with an ordinary Mini front and rear styling similar to 102. Best regards, Trevor."

Well, well, if that isn't Odnik! Note the cut doors, elongated bonnet, soft top and of course that much-modified rear end. Fact is now that it was not based on an early Van. All this got Trevor exited, and me too! Trevor came back on it: "It would not surprise me at all if Odnik was originally a prototype. BMC would certainly have initially sent a Mini to Lincoln & Nolan as a sample to set up the assembly line. One of the prototypes which were not longer required at Longbridge would make sense." Trevor also got back to the man he bought the dealer pack off: "I have just telephoned the guy I got it all from, Les Gammon, to check if there was anything else he could remember but he has already told me all he knows." So there we go. It only strengthens my thought about Odnik being a 1958 Mini. The question remains: could it survive..?

The Odnik sketch found in a an old dealer pack formerly owned by a Longbridge employee
Picture Maximum Mini archive via Trevor Ripley

The dealer pack in question, signed by... Jack O'Donoghue....
Picture Maximum Mini archive via Trevor Ripley

The only picture I can find of Jack O'Donoghue (center) is taken in September 1960
Who knows more about this man, who was PR Officer at Lincoln & Nolan in Dublin?
Picture Irish Photo Archive