Monday 29 April 2019

Peter Sellers' Minis star in 'Mini 60 Years'

With the Mini having its 60th anniversary this year, there will be lots of things Mini to see and do as there will undoubtedly be new books out also. First in line that I know of is Giles Chapman's 'Mini 60 Years'. Giles was kind enough to send me a copy, so let's have a little look at it here.

Firstly this is a book on the Mini rather than on its unofficial offspring, so expect the car's full history from the very start-on, with the obligatory chapters on it's birth including the Suez Crisis and microcars, but also on Issigonis, Cooper and rallying. Also the New MINI gets full descriptions in no less than three chapters. Unfortunately the chapter named 'A World of Different Minis' only just squeezes in the variants and derivatives, mentioning only the well known ones.

But the coachbuilt cars come off better here, especially the ones commissioned for Peter Sellers, who is generally claimed to be the inventor of the coachbuilt Mini genre. This is a particularly nice read and Chapman writes that Sellers had three Minis coachbuilt for him, the first of them by Hooper, the second two by Radford, of which the last one came with a hatchback and was for his then-bride Britt Ekland. He must be right there. Funnily, I just received a picture of one of the Sellers' cars with its current owner and think it must the car featured in the book.
Anyway: buy this book if you want to know more about the Mini in general.

Mini 60 Years by Giles Chapman focuses on the Mini's history in general
Picture Jeroen Booij 

But a few derivatives managed to squeeze into the 176-page book also
Picture Jeroen Booij 

I found the chapter on the Minis owned by Peter Sellers most interesting
Picture Jeroen Booij 

Sellers' Mini as seen in Chapman's new book with its current owner in the Far East. 
Note lavish Mercedes and Rolls-Royce models parked behind it
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 26 April 2019

Austrian derivatives are looking for new owners

I know of a few Mini derivatives in Austria, but overall they are pretty scarce there. Michael Kaufmann contacted me from that country and wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I am still looking/dreaming for a Mini Marcos or a unique Mini kit car but with our Austrian regulations it's not easy to import them."

"By the way, there is a GTM here for sale. This one is since over 15 years in Austria and comes in spare parts for a full rebuild. I know the person who bought it in the UK and the current seller is now the third person who hasn't done any work on the car."
"There is also a Mini Marcos in Austria that is for sale, but it's too expensive for me, see pictures. I didn't see any UK registration papers and know only the reseller, who I think you know him, too, as he has an orange Jimini. Best regards, Michael"

Thanks Michael! These were two cars I didn't know about! If anyone is interested in them, let me know and I'll see if I can get you in touch with the sellers.

Austrian GTM Coupe is a 1986 car and is said to come with a 1275 engine
Picture via Michael Kauffmann

Work on it was started, with the fibreglass body removed, but that seems to be it
Picture via Michael Kauffmann

In Austria too: a Mk4 Mini Marcos bare shell. Surely a nice project to somebody
Picture via Michael Kauffmann

Austrian rules make it hard to import cars such as these to the country, says Michael
Picture via Michael Kauffmann

Thursday 25 April 2019

The Ogle that made it to a book - but where is it now?

When Scott Barrett contacts me it is always for something good, and this time his message was no exception. He asked me if I knew more about an Ogle SX1000 formerly owned by Sandy Skinner. This is what he wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I wonder if you recognise this car - it’s an SX1000 that was owned by my late friend Sandy Skinner. This was when he was selling it in 1973. I think the registration was 7413 MX. Somewhere we have some of the original photographs taken for this advert but I seem to remember the registration was not visible in any of them. Have you heard of this car before? Any idea what happened to it after Sandy sold it? Best, Scott"

I had never heard of that particular car and couldn't find any more pictures of it either. A day later Scott sent me another message, attaching a copy of the original photograph used for the ad also: "I have now scanned the other stuff and there is this photograph, which is much clearer too. Hopefully somebody knows what happened to the car."

And it didn't stop there. Another day, another message. Scott: "Further to what I previously sent - I’m sure you have read Sandy’s interesting piece in The Motorist's Bedside Book, which was inspired by his ownership of the Ogle Mini?" Again I had to admit I hadn't. And so the book arrived in the post a week later. Now that's what I call cooperation! The chapter written in the book by Skinner is interesting indeed. It is called 'A little doesn't go a long way' in which he tries to answer the question 'Why can't you sell a top-quality small car?'. It is full of praise on the little Ogle, comparing the qualities of David Ogle to those of Ettore Bugatti: "The man who stood out from the mob of exponents of bad taste and erratic manufacture was David Ogle. Like Bugatti, he applied design sense and determination to a wide range of interests; unlike Bugatti, he succeeded in building a team which survives him to carry on his work."

So thank you very much Scott for all this. Now let's see if anyone will be able to shed some light on '7413 MX' - Sandy Skinner's old Ogle SX1000.

The 1973 advertisement of the Ogle SX1000 as owned by Sandy Skinner
Picture Scott Barrett

And a copy of the original photograph used for the ad. What happened to '7413 MX'?
Bonnet scoop seems to be unique on this car and should make it recognizable
Picture Scott Barrett

In The Motorist's Bedside Book Sandy Skinner praises the Ogle SX1000 that he had
Picture Jeroen Booij

Skinner writes about the difficulties that car makers underwent to produce small cars of high quality
Picture Jeroen Booij

Saturday 20 April 2019

Where is the one-off Micron GT?

Are you on an Easter egg hunt this weekend? How about starting a search for the one-off Micron GT Special? One reader asked me about the car recently and I thought it would be well worth asking if anyone happens to know more about the car's whereabouts. 

The Micron GT was built in 1967/'68 by brothers Brian and Rex Bray of Leicester Forest. The brothers made a frame from steel tubing and closed it with a plywood floor and fibreglass body with gullwing doors. It used the engine of a wrecked Mini Pick-up at the rear and mated to double wishbone suspension, which was fully adjustable and made to a design of the two brothers themselves. Despite being a standard 850 engine, the Micron supposedly had no difficulty in reaching a 90mph speed when the engine was revved to 6,000rpm. Brian Bray was quoted in Hot Car magazine: “I’m going to do a proper mould eventually and get a few bodies off. The next version will be slightly modified for improvement.” To finance the Micron Mk2 the original car was sold in 1969, never to be seen again. It’s unsure if the planned Mk2 version ever saw the light of day.

Now. I hope you will enjoy Easter. But when you happen to know more about the Micron, do let me know. I'd love to start another search.

UPDATE 6 MARCH 2020: Found it!

The Micron GT was built in 1967/'68 by Brian and Rex Bray of Leicester Forest
It disappeared after they sold it in 1969
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 19 April 2019

Mike's Unipower memories (2)

Former Unipower GT owner Mike Lousada has some more tales to share. Click here to read what he told me earlier, below there's more. Over to Mike:

"Before the Unipower I had an Ogle Mini. I bought that in Essex and only paid 400 pounds for it and that was in 1968 I think. Johnny Kendall had one of the very first Ogle Minis. He was a racing driver who moved to South Africa and he was a friend of mine. Mine was metallic blue and I should have kept it, just like the Unipower! What happened is that I got confused. I was heading to a divorce and thought I'd better get rid of the Unipower at the time. A man from my village was interested in it and bought it from me. But he kept it only for a short time and sold it to a man who fully restored it. This must have been Simon Lee you told me about."

"The Ogle was a very nice car, too. I remember seeing the remains of the crashed car of David Ogle in Letchworth (picture here- JB). After that they had lots of bits left for the Ogle Minis and I bought several of them. Sadly I have no photos of my old Ogle as these are the only photos that I have, left after my divorce in 1978, my ex-wife having destroyed them."

"If you do find anything more, please let me know. Meanwhile, I do wish you well and am most grateful for all your research and time spent finding out about these cars. Such a surprise to see the photos of 'SUR 109D' and to know it is in good hands!"

Mike's Unipower GT alongside a visiting Ogle Mini at his office. All photos of the metallic blue 
Ogle SX1000, which he owned himself have gone unfortunately
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Mike: "The day I bought the car, my ex-wife standing by it. 1972 - I think"
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Mike: "Outside my old house near Cambridge. That's me"
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

"And the same venue but with my stepson Nigel"
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Mike's Unipower is chassis number 4 - an early car that was raced by David Pringle previously
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 18 April 2019

ASP 1300 survives in Kansas, USA

The British-built ASP 1300 has been a bit of a mystery for a long time. All the information that I had - and used for Maximum Mini 3 - was based on a (very comprehensive) advertisement of the car, dating back to 1967 when it was just a year old. But much more has now come to the surface, including the car itself!

Jason Harris, who is based in Kansas in the US owns it. He wrote: "My dad bought it in California in the 1990's, when it was gold. We painted it back to its proper BRG. He raced it a couple times, but it was overheating like crazy and wasn't happy with the handling so he parked it and went back to his Bugeye race car. My dad and I are currently rebuilding the engine and gearbox to get it back on the track hopefully this year. We're also going to also go though the suspension and cooling system to try to resolve those problems too. Let me know if you have any questions or want any pics of it."

To be continued.

The unique ASP 1300 was built in Britain, but survives in the US, seen here in the 1990s
Picture Jason Harris

The Harrises raced the ASP 1300 a couple of times but it had major overheating problems
Picture Jason Harris

ASP 1300 'S' logo on the car's nose. It is unknown to me what ASP stands for
Picture Jason Harris

I understand it was raced in 1966 by a man named Peter Tower. But there is also this decal. Stephen Langton was killed in a historic race in 1985 when he was driving a Connaught at Brands Hatch
Picture Jason Harris

Chassis construction is well visible here. The car uses a single tube frame 
Picture Jason Harris

No engine at the moment but Jason Harris and his dad are working on a full restoration 
Picture Jason Harris

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Mystery Mini Derivative (58)

David Woodhouse is a designer for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit but in his heart he prefers Minis and their relatives. He sent over a  picture of a car that seems to be, or have been, Mini powered. He wrote: "Neat little racer. Looks like Mini powertrain. Can this be identified?" I drew a total blank and couldn't find anything in the files that came even close to this design. Anyone else who recognizes it?

UPDATE 13:00: Kees Plugboer writes: "The Formula leather steering wheel is from the 1970s, so it must be an Mini powered derivative from the 1970s."

UPDATE 18:00: Louis Lempereur writes: "I doubt a Mini engine could drive such big wheels. My Méan had 13" wheels with 165 tyres and the 850cc engine could run only on 3rd gear! I hope to do better with the 1275cc engine and 155/70 tyres now fitted. Also, shorter gear ratios are now available if needed."

Twin SUs and exhaust set-up point towards Mini power. Who recognizes the car?
Picture via David Woodhouse

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Australia's plans for Scamp and Mini Marcos production

Tony Cripps is the author of a book named 'Leyland Cars in Australia - a Chronicle' and he came up with some snippets unseen before, unfolding a interesting conversation. Tony started: "In 1987, the company looked at producing a Moke Mk2 and a substantial feasibility report was prepared. It was called 'Concept Paper for an Economic Multi-Purpose Vehicle', 6 pages and signed by Norm Prescott, who was a director of the company by that time. (...) Could have been a goer, but the concept vehicle pictured in the report doesn't have that 'appealing character' that the original Moke has."

However, there is no doubt that the pictures used in the report were actually no Mk2 Mokes but Mk2 Scamps! Tony added: "The report makes no mention of the Scamp, but the photos are obviously of an actual car and now having seen some photos on the internet, yes, this is a Scamp. The heading on the page just says 'Moke Mk2 General Concept'. It was thought that it could be made alongside Land Rover."

Scamp man Andrew MacLean came in next: "Yes, the Scamp frame and all the photos are lifted from the Scamp Mk2 brochure. I took over production in early 1987, as Robert Mandry had already stopped production in 1986. He'd also sold the Mini based RTV project to Lawrence Hawgood in 1986."

Tony Cripps added: "I should mention that the report is not produced on a company letterhead nor has any circulation or a report number. I would say it was a draft. The pictures are on the last page with a caption. Moke MKII General Concept and no reference to the Scamp which amazing really. Norm Prescott was a long-time employee of Austin/BMC/Leyland/JRA and very professional. This report came from his papers which were found after his decease so it might not even have made it to the Board.

Andrew MacLean: "I took over Scamp production in March 1987, the date of Norms proposal are May 1987, it would have been great to have sold them a franchise though! Wonder if they might be still interested if the report has only just come to light after 32 years?"

Almost at the same time, I was sent a picture of an old advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald of May 1971, with somebody offering moulds for the Mini Marcos there. Now, we know a few Marcoses were imported to Australia, but I'd never heard of actual moulds over there. Who knows more?

Pictures of a Scamp Mk2 as used by Leyland of Australia and cheekily named 'Moke Mk2 General Concept'
Picture Tony Cripps

Another picture from the same report shows a chassis - and again it's that of a Mk2 Scamp
Picture Tony Cripps

Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 1966. Mini Marcoses are to be imported to Austrlia
Picture via Michael Marczan

This ad comes from Sports Cars World of October 1967 and mentions the Australian Marcos agents in Knox Lane, Double Bay, News South Wales
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Almost three years later this mystery ad turned up in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29 May 1971
Picture via Michael Marczan

Thursday 4 April 2019

Mike's Unipower memories

Over to Mike Lousada, the former Unipower GT owner I got in touch with last year: "I bought it from a man named David Pringle, who'd raced it previously. This was in 1972 or 1973 and I remember I paid 500 pounds for it. It was white and I remember the radiator was removed from the front and two smaller ones had been refitted to the rear intake ducts on the engine cover. This modification was carried out by Harvey Postlethwaite, who at the time was working for Hesketh Formula 1 team. I found out that the payment for carrying out the modification was that when he went to collect the car it was plastered in Hesketh teddy Bear stickers. Harvey said you have to race the car with all these stickers on, instead of paying us!"

"It came with an 998 Cooper engine when I got it, probably the one that was fitted to it when new. However, I did change the engine on several occasions, which was so easy to do. I could do it in an afternoon. I was very fond of that car, I loved it. I did sprint it several times at Silverstone and Snetterton but never raced it. I had two engines in boxes ready for it, these were 970 'S's built up by Ripspeed, and I still have one of them. I blew up an engine once, though, which must have looked very dramatic as oil was spilled over a hot exhaust. There was even a report in Autosport magazine mentioning it!"

And that's not even all. More recollections from Mike are soon to follow.

Mike bought the Unipower GT in 1972 or 1973 when he paid 500 pounds for it 
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

These b&w pictures were taken at a sprint event at Snetterton circuit in Norfolk
The car used two side radiators as fitted by Hesketh's Harvey Postlethwaite
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Mike is seen here behind the wheel: "I was very fond of that car, I loved it"
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Here at Kimbolton airfield, Bedfordshire at another sprint. White was original colour
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Snetterton again. The car came with a 998 Cooper engine originally but had several others
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Once the bottom pulley came off, spilling oil over a hot exhaust. "Very dramatic!" recalls Mike
Picture Mike Lousada / Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Another ex-Unipower GT owner tracked down

It's been almost a year since I was tipped off about an ex-Unipower GT owner by Cox GTM owner Stuart Poole. He wrote to me: "Hi Jeroen, I have a little snippet for you, concerning a Unipower. Over the weekend I went to a classic car meet in my local village. I had just got my Cox mot’d and thought I’d take it along and park it up on display for all the locals to ask the usual question, what is it?"

"During the day a gentleman came over towards the car with a big smile on his face. He asked me if I was the owner, and then preceded to tell me of his antics as a race driver in the 60’s/70’s and how he remembered the Cox and others on the race tracks. He told me that he used to own an Ogle, but sold it on to a chap from Japan who was interested in Minis, Specials and oddball British cars. He then started telling me about a Unipower that he had purchased in 1971 for £500. He told me how much fun it was and how much he missed not owning it anymore. He told me that he sold the car in 1978, for what he thought was a huge sum £11,000. That’s a lot of money in anyone’s book for 1978. The car was an early 1966 car, UK registered as SUR 109D. White, with slightly enlarged wheel arches."

"He asked me if I would ask you if you knew of the car? Or if you had any information as to what became of it since 1978? I’m sure he’ll have some more stories to tell about it."

Now, I did happen to know know a bit more about the car in question. It is indeed an early car (chassis number 4) that was restored in the 1980s by Janspeed man Simon Lee and sold to Japan once more. As a matter of fact it was spotted there by a reader last Spring (click here). In the meantime I am in touch with the former owner and have spoken to him several times on the phone, and, yes, he has some good tales to tell. I have now also just received a lovely set of historic photographs from him. Soon to be continued.

Info and pictures unravel more of the history of Unipower 'SUR 109D'
Picture Jeroen Booij

The car after having been restored in the UK, not long before it went to Japan
Picture Jeroen Booij

...And as seen in Spring 2018 in Japan by a reader of this weblog. Still looking good
Picture Danny van Giel

Monday 1 April 2019

Another Mini Marcos for sale - now in the USA

Last week saw a beautifully restored Mini Jem being offered for sale (click here). But perhaps it wasn't located on your side of the world? Or perhaps you prefer a Mini Marcos over a Mini Jem? Well, here's one for you then, as an equally stunning Mini Marcos is now offered through these pages. It's a 1974 Mk4 Mini Marcos that has benefited from a full and comprehensive rebuilt in the last couple of years. It is now all ready to go for a new owner and is located in... Oregon, USA.

The car comes with a massive file of information and plenty of bills, including one of 2014 from US Mini specialist Seven Enterprises quoting 7,410.09 dollars for the car's fully rebuilt 1275 high performance engine and gearbox. With this set-up it has been driven for under 4,000 miles since. Meanwhile, the body had been fully tackled also including reinforcements made to the stress points, full roll cage and a paint job in Porsche blue while much of the car's suspension and interior was renewed also. It is now for sale with Jeremy Thorpe of JET Motors, who has a good nose for anything unusual (how about this or this?). For the full ad click here.

Mk4 Mini Marcos has been fully restored over the last couple of years
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

It certainly looks very attractive in dark blue - a Porsche colour - with silver stripe
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

If you want a Mini Marcos that is ready to go in the USA, this is your chance
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

Strong runner - driven from Portland, Oregon to Seattle and British Columbia on multiple occasions.
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

Big file full with paperwork and invoices comes with the car
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

In it, you can also find a great number of pictures taken during the car's restoration
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

And there is no doubt this was a thorough job. Here cracks in the roof were repaired 
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

The cage was welded to steel rear shock towers and bolted to the front subframe. The front seen here
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors

...And the rear shock towers are seen here. It has to make this Mini Marcos very stiff
Picture Jeremy Thorpe / JET Motors