Tuesday 29 December 2020

An ABC Tricar for Christmas (2)

I hope you liked yesterday's little Christmas story. Here's how it ended.

After an ABC Tricar had been purchased by the Weatherhead family in August 1976 and used as a daily driver for several years, it was parked up decades ago and almost forgotten about. Until son Dean restored it in a record time preceding Christmas. Dean drove it over to his parental house on Christmas day 2020, where his mom Kathleen and dad Vic were totally surprised and his brother Karl filmed it all. Vic is seen speechless and Dean told me "Later on he broke down crying. He said it just didn't sink in. It was all worth it in the end!" 

Dean wants to thank his friends Joe Bellis and Anthony Downes again as well as his brother Karl: "Joe did all the welding on it, Antony body work and paint while Karl did the wiring and the spanner work together with me. They put so many late nights into it that I feel they deserve more of a saying than me." Well done to you all guys, I hope the Tricar will be enjoyed for many years to come!

Christmas Day 2020: Dean drives over the restored ABC Tricar to his unsuspecting mom and dad
Video Karl Weatherhead

Vic Weatherhead with the restored Tricar on Christmas Day. "It just didn't sink in"
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Monday 28 December 2020

An ABC Tricar for Christmas (1)

It's almost two years ago since I was contacted by Dean Weatherhead, who wrote at the time: "Hi I’m sorry to bother you but I have found your email address on Google when I searched ABC Tricar Mini. My mum and dad have two of them and my mum has recently fell ill and I would like to restore them before she gets any worse. I was wondering if you know where I could get a replica of the body as her one was hit in the rear many years ago (before I was born), if not I was hoping to find some one that can fibreglass mould the rear end of my dads one and will stitch it back into the original body work. Many thanks, Dean."

Unfortunately I couldn't help Dean to a new body, but he persevered in restoring one of the two Tricars and over the time a dear contact developed. I received updates on the restoration on a regular basis and tried to help when I could. Unfortunately I could not write about the restoration job as Dean had made a rather special plan. He wanted to restore the car in secrecy and have it ready for Christmas 2019 to give to his mum and dad, adding: "If you can keep these to yourself, just because my mum is a bit of a wiz on the internet and I don’t want her finding these pictures!" That is of course what I did. But Christmas 2019 passed and Dean was busy with other things. His dad fell ill, too, which didn't help. But then Christmas 2020 came nearer and Dean sped up things at an incredible pace. In the last 3 or 4 weeks I received updates every day and was amazed by the amount of work he managed to carry out in such a short period of time. 

Dean did everything, from a complete engine and gearbox overhaul to all the suspension and brake bits, the full body repair and the the electrics. In late november he wrote: "The car ended up worse then we thought", showing me pictures of the badly rusted body and chassis which he'd just taken apart. Could he really get it ready for Christmas? His mates Joe Bellis and Anthony Downes and his brother Karl came to the rescue and offered help. But there were also troubles in finding piston rings, bearings and gaskets for the 850 engine in time. But that all didn't stop our man Dean. Two weeks before Christmas he wrote: "Coming along now. I try not to look at the pile of parts I have to refurb and just get one at a time. Doesn’t seem so much work then." Then, a week before Christmas he came back: "Sorry, I have not updated you a few days, but these have been a bit of a blur." But by that time the body had been repainted and the engine was ready to get in. And he didn't stop work until Christmas eve. The next morning he drove over the freshly restored car to his mum's and dad's house. I've asked him to make a video of that, which I'm very glad he did. But that is for tomorrow.

UPDATE 29 December 2020: See it here now - click

That's how the ABC Tricar was stored away for decades
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Dean's parents own it since 1976 and have very fond memories of it
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Step 1: engine and suspension out. All okay so far 
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Body taken apart and the sanding could begin
Picture Dean Weatherhead

But chassis turned out to be "worse then we thought"...
Picture Dean Weatherhead

And the same went for the floors, rot and bodge repairs everywhere
Picture Dean Weatherhead

And so Dean started cutting out all the rust and rot. Mind you: this was just weeks ago
Picture Dean Weatherhead

New floor parts ordered, a few mates were found to offer help welding
Picture Dean Weatherhead

And in they went! Looks easy, isn't necessarily that...
Picture Dean Weatherhead

But look at that! Chassis and floors are now rot-free once again
Picture Dean Weatherhead

A fresh coat of undersealing was applied next
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Body parts ready from preparing and test-fitted onto chassis
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Primed and in the spray booth here. Christmas is nearing
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Meanwhile, the 850 engine and its gearbox were both taken fully apart...
Picture Dean Weatherhead

...And all the bits were renovated by Dean, too. Fresh coat of correct green
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Piston rings, crank bearings and head gasket came in just in time...
Picture Dean Weatherhead

And the ABC Tricar is in its paint again! Another milestone
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Burning the midnight oil, putting all the parts back in place...
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Dean made a special dashboard commemorating his uncle and the family dog
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Original ABC badge could be saved and was refurbished, too
Picture Dean Weatherhead

And just about ready. Would you believe this was on Christmas eve..?
Tomorrow I'll post a video of how Dean drove it over to his dad on Christmas day
Picture Dean Weatherhead

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Best wishes from Maximum Mini

2020 Has been a most unusual, chaotic and strange year almost everywhere. Here, too. I wish all of my readers and other Maximum Mini enthusiasts a happy Christmas and the best wishes for 2021. Thank you for your support and please don't forget to vote for the 'Best Find of 2020' here.

The one-off CJC Bison by Colin James Cooper of Leicestershire who spent 8,000 man hours creating it
Original picture Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., imaging Jeroen Booij

Thursday 17 December 2020

Wittebrood Mini Special does not survive

A lovely message came in from classic car dealer and fellow Dutchman Jelle Blom, who helped me to some great stories in the past. He wrote:

"I bought a Citroen DS yesterday at a garage of a man named Siem Wittebrood and saw these pictures on the wall there. This Mini was built by Siem's brother in the late 1960s and it used VW Beetle headlights. I think the resemblance to the New Mini is rather striking! He drove it for a year when it got stolen in Zandvoort. They found it back a year later in the south of Holland, when it was totally vandalized. That spelled the end of the Mini."

That's a real pity as I can appreciate a customized Minis of the era like this one. It seems that the creator put some serious work in chopping the roof down and raking the screens, with some further body trimmings making it totally unique. The registration indicates the Mini was an early one, dating back to early 1960.
BP-11-13 was an early 1960 car. VW headlights, raked screens, chopped roof and much more 
Picture courtesy Siem Wittebrood / Jelle Blom

Just look at the side screens to see this car was seriously chopped. And then the chopped-off back end! 
Oh, and is that a side pipe, too? 
Picture courtesy Siem Wittebrood / Jelle Blom

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Status Minipowers do survive

It doesn't happen all too often that a message on here produces replies many years after being published, but it certainly goes for the little piece I wrote about Mike Wilsdon and his eclectic collection of cars, back in 2011. Among these not one but two Status Minipowers (or Status Symbols as they were named initially). See the original piece here. I later wrote: "Mike Wilsdon must be one of Britain's best kept secrets, as he manages to create a near Sir David Livingstone-like status of myth here."

That was in late 2011 and many more messages and leads would follow. I still never spoke to the man, though. But more recently Barnaby Holmes got in touch. He is a family friend of Wilsdon and recently visited his barn where many of his cars are stored now or were until recently. Barnaby was also kind enough to take some photographs of the two Statuses that Mike still owns. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, we spoke some time ago and I'm a family friend of Mike. I've recently been to the barn where he has some of his collection. The vehicles are being moved and ultimately, put up for sale. I thought you might like a couple photos of his Brian Luff Status Symbols! Apologies for the poor quality. Regards, Barnaby."

That is, of course, much appreciated. It's good to see the cars are still about and I wonder what will happen to them in the near future. Earlier sleuthing work proved that the green one was previously owned by Arthur Bills, who got in touch about it in 2014 (click here), while the red one was at around the same time by Stuart Hards, who also contacted me back in 2012 about it (click here). To be continued.

Still owned by the illusive Mike Wilsdon and tucked away in a barn: a Status Minipower
Picture Barnaby Holmes

And another... This car was owned by Stuart Hards in the early 1980s and used an 1100 engine 
Picture Barnaby Holmes

Friday 11 December 2020

What is the Best Find of 2020?

The end of 2020 is getting near, which means it's time to make up what's the best find of the past year here - a real Maximum Mini tradition. 2020 has proved to be an absolute record year for finds, with 29 Mini variants described here and a few more that I have not yet written about. It is remarkable what came out of sheds, lock-ups, gardens and garages and it wasn't particularly easy to choose just 5. You will find the cars that have made it to the contest below. To vote simply reply to me by email or drop a message below. The one with the most votes wins - it's simple as that. Now, over to the candidates.

Finally found in March this year in rural Worcestershire: the Micron GT. Full story here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Another long-lost car found in April 2020: the ex-Dagobert Swensson Cox GTM. More here
Picture Magnus Larsson

Pellandini found back by former owner David Mottram Down Under in June this year. More here
Picture David Motram

A totally unexpected find: the Lotus Fisher GT survived, or so I learned in October. More here
Picture Dan Stokes

2020 was a good year for myself, too. Apart from the Micron GT, I found a forgotten Mini Jem and the long-lost Biota Mk1 'Dutch demonstrator' in November. More here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday 10 December 2020

Ogle SX1000 owner looking for history

An Ogle SX1000 seen here on a picture accompanying a Unipower GT turns out to be in the hands of Maximum Mini reader Stephen Bulling. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I am an avid reader of Maximum Mini and only recently saw the items in April 2019 relating to Mike Lousada’s Unipower (click here). It was a great surprise to see a photograph of my Ogle next to Mike’s Unipower. I have little history on my car, inevitably acquired from Chris Gow, and would really like to find out whether Mike recollects to date of the photo and possibly the identity of the owner of the Ogle. I wondered whether you could forward this email to him. I apologize for troubling you on this and attach a couple of current photos of the Ogle following a complete rebuild over recent years. Kind regards, Stephen Bulling"

I flashed over Mike's contacts and learned the Ogle was not the only Mini derivative owned by Stephen, as he replied: "Hi Jeroen I wish everyone responded to my emails as quickly! Thank you for getting involved in my research. I have recently acquired the ‘Broadsprint’ from Olivier Filliettaz (more here) but cannot collect it, due to the Covid travel restrictions. We are also building up a MiniSprint with conversion work carried out by Neville Trickett. He is a very interesting man having been involved in designing/ manufacturing cars for 60 years and still going strong. Kind regards, Stephen"

It is very good to be in touch.

Ogle SX1000 has been fully rebuilt over recent years by avid Maximum Mini reader Stephen Bulling
Picture Stephen Bulling

Stephen has little history on his car and would like to find out more. Who knows?
Picture Stephen Bulling

The same car back in the early 1970s, as snapped by Unipower owner Mike Lousada
Picture Mike Lousada

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Whatever happened to Lady Di's Mini?

The late Diana, Princess of Wales, is very much in vogue once again, or so my wife and daughters tell me. It made me wonder whatever happened to the convertible Mini she was supposedly given by Prince Charles for her 21st birthday in 1982? You'll be able to find anything on her old Austin Metro, which is on museum display now, but the Mini is completely shrouded in mystery.

The convertible actually was a Daly Runabout built by Daly Cars of Edgware, greater London. Press releases were sent out in force in May 1982 to get the reports printed in time (the birthday took place on July 1). With these releases two black & white pictures were sent along, one of them showing the car with 'Broadfields' plate (the dealer?), while the other one showed only just the actual registration number, which may well have been 'TRF 34X'. That's at least what Daly Car's demonstrator and brochure car also wore. That car, however, was white and wore Weller wheels, while the Princess' car came with Mambas and may well have been a slightly darker hue? Silver grey perhaps? 

Remarkably, no other image of Diana and the car are known and I wonder if she actually got it? One white Daly Runabout, which seemed exactly like the one seen in the brochure, was sold in 2016 and said to have been owned previously by cricketeer Duncan Fearnley. But while it also came on Mamba wheels, it wore registration 'MUY 68X'. DVLA doesn't recognize the number 'TRF 34X' anymore. Could it all have been one and the same car after all? Or were they two different cars in the end with the number plates swapped around..? But where is the car then, that was supposedly given to Lady Di..? 

UPDATE 1: One reader with better eyes than me pointed out the difference in side stripes and their width. Closer inspection reveals that the striping on the Lady Di car is equally wide but in other and more contrasting colours, difficult to see on the b&w pictures. On the white car it's light blue and darker blue, on the Diana car it seems almost white (top) and black (bottom). See added detail picture below.

UPDATE 2: More to indicate that TRF 34X is another car as Lady Diana's car very possibly wore another registration number after all. DVLA records show that the following numbers may well have been issued to sister cars, all registered as Austin Morrises and with 998 cc engines:

TRF 35X - Registered October 1981, black, on sorn since 2012

TRF 36X - Registered May 1982, green, untaxed since 1991

TRF 37X - Registered May 1982, white, untaxed since 1990

TRF 38X - Registered May 1982, beige, untaxed since 1988

TRF 39X - Registered March 1982, red, on sorn since 2013

TRF 40X - Registered October 1981, red, untaxed since 1991

One of the two pictures sent out globally with the press release almost showed the registration number
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'Broadfields' plate at the front. Was that the dealer? And what colour is this car?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Demonstrator and brochure car 'TRF 34X' looks alike. But is it the same?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Seen here again - certainly not with Lady Di behind the wheel. Note Weller wheels 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This car was sold in 2016 by Brightwells. Apart from the wheels and the registration number, 
it seems totally similar to 'TRF 34X'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A detail of the side stripe on Princess Diana's car with some added contrast
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 4 December 2020

Unique Radford Estate coachbuilt for Jack Heinz

I was contacted from Germany by Lupold von Wedel last month about a very special and unique coachbuilt Mini. It's a rare Estate that was built by Harold Radford back in 1964 and it's a stunning car in every sense. It comes in piano black paint and with wickerwork like Peter Sellers' Minis, unique 'clamshell' rear doors and a sumptuous interior that is stuffed with walnut veneer, ivory leather and ditto carpeting. The car was built for Henry John Heinz II, better know as Jack Heinz, of the Heinz sauces consortium, who kept it at his 18th century estate in Berkshire, UK for many years. The original registration 57 GGY must have been a reference to Heinz' famous slogan '57 varieties'. 

Von Wedel's daughter only became the third owner in 1989 but drove it for some 3,000 kilometres only since. Quite a lot of work has been carried out though by the Von Wedels. The car was repainted and rewired while the engine was changed to a 1275 and disc brakes were fitted at the front. The interior was part-reupholstered also. Von Wedel: "The original carpets were something like sheepskin and awfully worn and dirty. Heinz was a heavy smoker. The electric window system had to be changed. I was told that the original one was Aston Martin origin, I still have them and they are astonishingly heavy."

Lupold was also looking for some brightwork that's missing and was happy to hear the wicker was still available also, since the rear door need trimming to finish it off. He has thought about selling it to the BMW Museum in Munich but isn't totally sure if he'd want to part with the car yet. Unfortunately he hasn't found historic photographs of the car, but is keen to hear if everyone else may know it. 

Stunning interior in ivory leather and walnut. Wood can be even found on console, cubby box, heater
Picture Lupold von Wedel

Unique Mini Estate was coachbuilt by Radford's for Jack Heinz of Heinz '57 Varieties' fame 
Picture Lupold von Wedel

Peter Sellers' coachbuilt Minis must have been an inspiration for this Radford De Ville Estate
Picture Lupold von Wedel

Look at the detailing here, unlike any other Radford? Electric motors for windows were changed
Picture Lupold von Wedel

Clamshell rear doors have to be unique on a Radford too? Bottom door needs wicker to finish off
Picture Lupold von Wedel

Open them and find that everything is upholstered and carpeted in the luggage area, too. 
Picture Lupold von Wedel

For safety reasons, the Von Wedels had the car's original engine changed for a 1275 though
Picture Lupold von Wedel

Walkaround video shows the beauty of this unique car even better
Video Lupold von Wedel

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Unique 3-wheeler will be resurrected: Thomas Special

Over the years, Richard Hawcroft has been a superb informant here on Maximum Mini, and I can't thank him enough for always being such an enthusiastic supplier of wacky stuff. Richard was in fact, the owner and restorer of the CJC Bison who preferred to stay anonymous and was therefore named 'Buffalo Bill' here. But his irregular messages always put a smile on my face.

Most recent one was about a mysterious three-wheeler last September. He wrote: "J. Just been speaking to a guy who made a one-off 50 years ago out of a Mini Van, last used in 1976. All tubular chassis and he used it as his everyday car He is bringing some details and photos in, Rich." He had me there, and I could hardly wait. With the next message also came a telephone number of the builder, Rob Thomas, who's now started the restoration of his own Thomas Special. Rob is 72 at the moment and working to get the car back on the road after all these years. He told me:

"I wrote off my mum's Mini Van in Wales. It was a 1961 car and I thought I'd make something from it. I made a tubular chassis out of 1" steam pipe from a heating system and put twin back wheels close together. The body is aluminium and I modified the master cylinder to keep the body down. Spare wheel and petrol tank are at the back. The headlights come from an army shop in Southport and they were meant for an American army vehicle. The seats were made by my mother and the windscreen is just a piece of Triplex glass. They converted the Van's registration to three wheels and I would have got it on the road at Christmas in 1970 or '71 when I was 22 or 23. I used it for two and a half, three years and changed the 850 engine to an 1100 in 1972. I must have done 5- or 6,000 miles in it and remember driving it over the M62. I had it last on the road in 1976 and then stored it. I had a building business and it was always just there. Four years ago I thought it needed an MOT to keep the number. I decided to pick it up and take off the front subframe, but I want to put t back on the road now. In hindsight people must have thought I was peculiar!"

Thank you very much Richard for another top tip, and Rob and Eileen Thomas for talking to me and digging out the photographs!

Rob wrote off his mum's 1961 Mini Van and decided to make this from what was left of it
Picture Rob Thomas

Tubular chassis came out of 1" steam pipe from a heating system, twin back wheels close together
Picture Rob Thomas

Made to measure. Rob and a mate back in 1970 when the three-wheeler Special was constructed
Picture Rob Thomas

Headlights were sourced from an army supply shop in Southport, registration was transformed
Picture Rob Thomas

That's Rob Thomas last month. He plans to have the three-wheeler back on the road soon
Picture Eileen Thomas

Rob was 22 when he built it. He is 72 now and always kept the three-wheeler Special
Picture Rob Thomas

He'd already replaced the Van's original 850 engine with an 1100 back in 1972
Picture Rob Thomas

Rob and a mate at work in the garage. The three-wheeler was last on the road in 1976
Picture Eileen Thomas

The body is made in aluminium. Rob: "In terms of how I made it, it's fine."
Picture Rob Thomas