Monday 30 March 2020

Autobarn Fabrications' Gecko

I came across this picture of a Gecko in front of the Autobarn premises where it was built. The sign behind reads 'AUTOBARN - Tamworth 68214. Agricultural & Motor Engineers. Specialist Vehicle & Chassis Builders. Volkswagen Conversions Specialists. Security & Safety Equipment Fabricators.'

I also wonder about the vehicles on the left. The one at the back looks to be the shell of a Ford powered Hensen M30 to me, but how about the other? It's registered 432 HWD and certainly seems to be Mini based, too. A prototype for the Gecko? Or something else?

Autobarn Fabrications of Tamworth built the Gecko between 1976 and 1990
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

They were known as a Volkwagen specialist, but the Gecko surely was Mini based
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 26 March 2020

The Minilan of Barbados does survive

The power of the internet! Yesterday's question was: could the Minilan of Barbados survive? Well, today's answer is: yes! Although without it's Mini 1275 cc powertrain and other mechanicals, the car's body is indeed still owned by Michael Gill's son Alexander who still keeps it on the island of Barbados, and plans a restoration, too. Thanks to everyone for letting me know!

An early 1970s picture of Michael Gill in the Minilan at a BRC tarmac hill climb in Barbados
Picture Motor Sport Caribbean History

And here Gill is seen at the 1972 Easter Race Meet at Bushy Park Race Track in Barbados
Picture Motor Sport Caribbean History

This is the car as it sits today in Alexander Gill's garage, or at least it's body
Picture Alexander Gill

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Does the Minilan of Barbados survive?

I have heard several rumours about the survival of the Minilan, a racing Special built and raced and hill climbed on the island of Barbados in the early 1970s by Michael Gill. But I have never seen any evidence. When somebody asked me about the car recently I found back an old email message from Paul Ogle. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen. Have you ever come acros the 'Minilan'? I have attached the pictures of pictures that were on the wall in a museum. This is in Barbados and its called the Mallalieu collection. I'm fairly sure the pictures are from the Barbados annual motor rally back in the 1960s. The caption under the picture if you zoom in describes it as 'the famous Minilan'. Have you already found this car?"

Well, I haven't! I know Gill raced the car at the Bushy Park and Chancelylane swamp track and used parts of the body of a Lotus Elan, hence the name. It used a 1293cc Mini engine and is said to have been very competitive. The Barbados Rally Club wrote: “His finest hour to date came at Bushy Park; driving the Minilan, he set the pace at the opening race meet on Independence Day 1971: the only driver to win all three races in his Group, he was the circuit’s first Champion Driver and its first outright lap record-holder.” I was told the Gill family still owns it. True?

UPDATE 26 March 2020: It does indeed survive! More here.

A picture of the Minilan in action, as seen inthe Mallalieu Motor Collection on Barbados
Picture Mallalieu Motor Collection, via Paul Ogle

The car was entered in a number of events at Barbados by Michael Gill. Is it still there?
Picture Mallalieu Motor Collection, via Paul Ogle

It would definitely suit the Mallalieu Motor Collection on the island?
Picture Paul Ogle

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Ranger Cub found in front garden

This picture was flashed over to me some time ago and I don't know anything else about it than this looks to be a Ranger Cub in a pretty messy front garden. Know more about it? Any other information would be appreciated.

Ranger Cubs that I know of:

72 JON
9707 MH
PRX 329B
DOB 135C
NEG 241F (4-wheeler)
AOL 123M
HKP 281N
LPK 631P
XLD 128S
WML 980T
Q114 RFM

I don't think this one is any of those?

That's a Ranger Cub looking pretty sorry for itself. Who knows more?
Picture via Paul Stanger

Friday 20 March 2020

Pete owned the Paola GT

Pete Rigby contacted me about the Paola GT that was unearthed back in 2018 (click here). He wrote: "Lovely to see the car again after all these years as I have a lot of happy memories in that car.
When I had it back in the 1970's it was similar to the the final picture you have but with black stripes up the front and Paola written in script on the nose. The car was pretty faultless I have to say with a very strong 1600 cross flow Ford engine. I don’t know what cam was in it but it ticked over like someone slowly beating a drum! Never ever had an issue with that engine other than the dry sump but that was only a connector that came adrift at Brands Hatch."

"The only issue I had was the gear linkage on 4th gear, which I never got right and I had to hold it in gear on the long straights. I changed ratios so that on circuits 4th was quite long but probably only 120mph flat out. Thruxton was near to my home so I spent quite a bit of time there with the car but it's best outing was Brands Hatch where it came into its own on the Indy circuit."

"I never really had enough money in those days to develop it but we had success with the car. I bought the car from Basil Pitt who I think is still hill climbing today and is really well known on the hills."

"I am surprised it ever ran with a Mini engine, I would have thought the car was way too wide for that but my memory of the car is probably quite hazy. I would love to see the car again as it was my first entry into driving on circuits and as I have said there are a lot of very fond memories and funny stories. As I say I will try and send you those photos I will dig them out and I will ask my friend who use to come with me if they have any."

Pete in the Paola Spyder back in the 1970s when it was Ford 1600 Cross flow powered
Picture Pete Rigby

"I'm surprised it ever ran with a Mini engine, I would have thought the car was too wide for that"
Picture Pete Rigby

Wednesday 18 March 2020

American Ogles - more info unearthed

Two recent discoveries of Ogle SX1000s in the USA were seen here last month and I have some news about both of them now. Let's start with the gold one found in the woods of Connecticut back in 2005 by Brendan Norton (click here for full story). Brendan asked himself wether it could still be there? Well, as it turns out now it isn't since the car was rescued from its rural resting place by Rob Roy of Connecticut some time ago. He wrote:

"I'm the current owner of the car and it's two miles from where it sat when it was seen. The car had sat on the ground since it's shipment from Wisconsin to the owners new home in Connecticut back in 1979. I did some work for the owner, restoring other equipment for him, he felt I would do the little car a fair shake on another life. I have stripped the car down to steel and fibreglass, and replaced all the rotted steel. New floor pans, hand formed rockers, tunnel fabrication and 'Ogle' fabricated pieces. I have been a fabricator and auto body specialist, collision and paint ever since my first job, that was a while ago..." Well done to you Rob, and I look forward to hear or see more about your restoration of the Ogle.

Meanwhile, I have found out something interesting about the other recent find also: the red car that's been in one family ownership since new (full story here). I am not quite so sure if it went there straight from the factory in the UK though, as I am now almost sure this is the same car as the one seen on the cover of Swedish motoring magazine 'Teknikens värld' in 1963, mentioning the mysterious AB Hasselheim & Engelberg as its importer (full story here). I compared an under bonnet shot of the car in its current condition to a similar shot from the said magazine and they are just about identical. Decide for yourself.

This Ogle SX1000 is currently undergoing restoration in Connecticut, USA...
Picture Rob Roy

...After having spent almost 40 years in the woodlands just two miles away from workshop
Picture Brendan Norton

Then there is this Ogle, which supposedly spent all of it's life in the USA, too
Picture Anthony Thompson

And this is the picture of its engine bay that was sent over to me recently...
Picture Anthony Thompson

...Now compare it with this Swedish shot of 1963 - I am just about convinced it is the same car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 16 March 2020

Le Mans Mini Marcos: painted!

It had been more than a year since I'd brought over the Le Mans Mini Marcos to the very south-western corner of The Netherlands, when I spent a week together with my friend Joost van Diën to have the car's body prepared for paint (click here and here). That had been quite a special week and I was looking much forward to the next step: final blocking and eventually painting. This was estimated by Joost to take another week and we planned to do it in the summer of 2019. But that didn't happen. There were some reasons for that, too, since Joost changed jobs, moved house, started an incredibly challenging renovation on his new 19th century house and had several challenging restorations of cars to work on in the meantime also - among them a cool Gilbern Invader and his own Mk1 Mini Marcos, which is going to be a real stunner by the way.

Now, I can only have a real respect for Joost who is one of those rare people who makes every possible job to be carried out on a car seem really uncomplicated, even when they aren't. The man can tackle everything, from welding to fibre glassing and from engine building to painting. And he does it with great flair and seemingly ease. So when Joost had a week off from work, I was eager to jump to the opportunity, tow up the Marcos behind my car, steer it to the south-west and make it over to his place. And so, just before the corona crisis hit Europe we locked ourselves in in the paint shop to spent another week of isolation with sand paper and paint. And it became quite a week again! We had some hick-ups but the end result is rather stunning, we believe. Joost, you are a real star!

This is what the car looked like after three days of blocking, eventually with very fine sand paper
Various layers of primer visible here due to different colours used
Picture Jeroen Booij

Spray booth thoroughly cleaned, car fully covered and first layer of epoxy primer applied 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Next, the wheel arches proved to be a challenge to be fitted right, but the end result is very very good
Picture Joost van Diën

Moment of truth: the paint is applied here by Joost. Picture taken from a distance as I'd locked myself out of the cabin at this point...
Picture Jeroen Booij

...And ready the next morning to do some posing with the car now in its final coat. Wow!
Picture Cor van Diën

We couldn't apply the yellow band yet since the bonnet and doors needed some final touches but did the headlight recesses and the line on the right hand front arch
Picture Jeroen Booij

Reference from historical pictures to cover the parts to be painted properly 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Five days of hard work - Joost and myself are tired but very happy with the end result
Picture Jeroen Booij

A sunny day, so perfect to drive back home carefully. It was quiet on the roads, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

A lovely bonus was provided by Mathijs van Mullem, a friend of Joost who lives nearby and happened to be working on preparing his Mk3 Mini Marcos for paint at the same time. Mathijs was kind enough to offer us a fantastic meal in the pub run by his parents. All the best to you, too, mate!
Picture Joost van Diën

Thursday 12 March 2020

Johannesburg Jeep found

South-African based reader Leon Daniels has an great nose for finding Mini based oddities (earlier find here) and the latest one he came up with is a Jeep-like creature, which was built around Mini running gear in South-Africa. He wrote: "Cheap as chips, seems to be a one-off in Johannesburg. Can’t decide if I should rescue it or not!" And so I advised Leon to rescue it and he listened to me! And it's not the only South-African Special he picked up. More on another find soon!

A possibly unique Mini Jeep kind of vehicle was unearthed in Johannesburg, SA
Picture Leon Daniels

Not much is known about it but reader Leon Daniels was the man to save it
Picture Leon Daniels

This engine may be in the car's cabin now, it certainly was under the bonnet once!
Picture Leon Daniels

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Best man's brother's Unipower GT

Stuart Blundell, who owned a Unipower GT in the late 1960s (more here), came across a picture of another one recently. He wrote: "I think it was the red one that was in a derelict showroom in Japan" It certainly is - more about that here - but it is really good to see it in what has to be its original configuration. Stuart continued: "Ian Bintcliffe was the first owner and as it turned out my best man's brother, what a coincident!"

NPN 16F before being painted Blaze Red with its first owner
Picture courtesy Stuart Blundell

Friday 6 March 2020

Micron GT finally found

Finally, the Micron GT has been unearthed from its hiding place after many years. A bit more on its history here. At some stage, the car's body has been mildly modified with different windows in its gull wing doors and wide rear wheel arches but it is the same car, with the yellow paint still underneath the current red. According to the DVLA the registration 'ANR 608B' was applied in 1986, which seems odd. It also says the car uses an 1100 engine. That could well be the case as one report mentions the original 850 Mini Pick Up engine being swapped over for an 1100. The adjustable wheel suspension to the Bray brothers' own design is still there.

I received several messages from people who are very much interested in the car. One of them wrote: "I went to view it in the late 1980’s! The car was owned by a college lecturer in Coalville, Leicestershire and had a BMC Maxi engine part fitted then. It was in a very poor condition, the Maxi engine was in a shed! From memory, they were trying to use the cable gear linkage. It was advertised in an old Autotrader magazine in the small adverts and I went with my late father and friend, I was around 18 at the time. I always regretted walking away from it!"

The current owner is thinking of selling the car, but I'm awaiting some final input. More soon.

UPDATE 20 March 2020: Ad now to be found here.

Found in Worcestershire last week: the Micron GT built by Brian and Rex Bray
Picture Jeroen Booij

Seen here with the two brothers back in 1968 when it was just finished
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car has been mildly modified but I don't think it is the rumoured Mk2 version
Picture Jeroen Booij

Originally it was built using a plywood tub and with the running gear of a Mini Pick Up
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The engine is said to be an 1100 now, which may fit in with an earlier report. Perhaps sourced from a BMC Maxi as one reader remembers? 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Back in 1968 it used an 850 from a Mini Pick Up though, but that was soon swapped
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Interior is a mess but looks to be complete, too, including centre console with switches
Note petrol tank and exhaust on the driver's side. All four Dunlop wheels are there, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

And here as it was back in 1968
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This steering wheel was found inside. The original one? And home made?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Clipping from an old issue of Classic Motor Monthly by Michael Ware, who was keen to find it, too
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 5 March 2020

Nimbus Coupe prototype found on a farm

Fortunately I am not the only person discovering long-lost classics on remote places in the UK (last week's news). Chris Pollitt and Jonny Smith of Car & Classic recently unearthed what they believe to be 'the rustiest Jaguar in the world' in a farm yard in Somerset planning to restore it (very enjoyable video here). But the Jag - a Mk9 - wasn't the only thing to be found there.

Richard Hawcroft dropped me a line: "I found a Nimbus! Well, I haven't, but I found it whilst watching Youtube! It's about 9 minutes in: Q304 NYA. One you know about?"
And right he was, and you bet I knew that car. Car & Classic's Chris and Jonny had no idea though, uncovering it from bushes of brambles: "This is a real race car that's been living in the weeds for about 25 or 30 years. Is it a kit car? Well, it hasn't rusted away, so I guess so!"

As a matter of fact it is the Nimbus Coupe prototype that was used for the car's launch back in 1984. The same car was then sold to Garry Shillabeer of Devon who modified it into a racer. What happened next was unknown to me, until now! Thanks Rich and the boys from Car & Classic. I'm sure Nimbus designer Ian Shearer, who sadly passed away in Novemberwould have loved it. Let's see who is going to save it now.

UPDATE 6 March 2020: Simon Denman contacted me: "The nimbus you blogged about did indeed belong to Gary, my dad who was very good friends bought if from Gary in the 1990’s. Sadly my dad died in 2009 and Gary passed away a few years after. I believe Chris is going to attempt to recover it in a few week’s time with a view to making a video and then I’ll be looking to find it a new owner.
From memory dad also bought a similar kit car but convertible from Gary at the same time. I’m not sure if that is still about." The latter may possibly have been the Boxer Sprint?

UPDATE 25 May 2021: it has been freed from the brambles and is offered for sale now. Click here

Found on a Somerset farm by the Car & Classic team: the Nimbus Coupe prototype
Picture Car & Classic

Q304 NYA is said to have been 'living in the weeds for about 25 to 30 years'
Picture Car & Classic

But here it is back in 1984 on its official press launch in East-Sussex
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car was then sold to Garry Shillabeer who turned it into a racer
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Shillabeer campaigned the Nimbus in races, here at Cadwell Park in the mid-1980s
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Back from the UK - what a trip!

Having returned from the UK, I can look back on a week with some fantastic meetings but also with some real downsides, too. Things started pretty gloomy when the fuel pump of my beloved Saab decided the time had come to stop pumping fuel on the night before leaving for Calais. Thanks to my garage we could fit a new one just in time, but then I still wasn't prepared for the terrible traffic jam around Antwerp, which caused me to miss my ferry. And my first appointment. More trouble lay ahead, but let's focus on the good things first: the people I met. Thanks guys, you've been great! I took hundreds of photographs, so let's scroll through a small selection here.

That's Andrew MacLean of the Scamp Motor Company welding another chassis. He's done hundreds!
Picture Jeroen Booij

While this machine has made all the body panels for all the Scamps that were ever sold
Picture Jeroen Booij

Andrew then brought me over to a field where he knew one very special RTV had been parked up
It's certainly worth a story on its own
Picture Jeroen Booij

This man is mister Santos and he is the curator of the UK's largest classic car collection.
The warehouse behind him stores only one half of it, but was too big to photograph in full!
Picture Jeroen Booij

I was given a grand tour and was left amazed. While focussing on the top end of the market, this collection also houses some Mini derivatives. Hustler Sixes for example 
Picture Jeroen Booij

And how about this Wood & Pickett Mini? - a car that was previously featured in Maximum Mini
Picture Jeroen Booij

Master of the coachbuilt Minis is Steve Burkinshaw, here in his Hertfordshire based workshop. 
We had a truly lovely day and made some great plans for the future
Picture Jeroen Booij

The number of coachbuilt Minis that Steve restored over the last decades is quite unbelievable. 
And then the stories that he tells about them! 
Picture Jeroen Booij

A typical car you'd find in his front garden, one with great provenance. More special stuff behind
Picture Jeroen Booij

Over to the Midlands. Stimson-fan Paul Wylde managed to buy this Stimson Scorcher two weeks ago. Did he want to take it out for me to do a photoshoot? Oh, yes
Picture Jeroen Booij

And his mate George Marsh came over, too, bringing a beautifully built Domino Pimlico 
Picture Jeroen Booij

Next stop: Worcestershire, where I bumped into some genuine barn finds. 
Some real obscurities there! Recognize some?
Picture Jeroen Booij

The one I actually came for was outside. It's the long-lost Micron GT! More to follow
Picture Jeroen Booij

Havoc struck when, on a particularly dark and deserted Lincolnshire road, out of nowhere a couple of deer stood right in front of me while I traveled at 50mph, damaging my beloved Saab
Picture Jeroen Booij

One deer was hit at the right side and one at the left. I never found them as it was so pitch dark. 
These pictures were taken the next morning
Picture Jeroen Booij

Don't say I just hit a tree. My mate who is into the game trade told me this was the hair of fallow deer
Picture Jeroen Booij

ABS boss Tony Bucknall made up for it though, spending much of a day to show me around his place and talk about his passion for Mini derivatives. He has quite a few!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Oh, and did he want to push out the mighty CJC Bison for a full photo shoot, before I went to catch my ferry back? Of course he wanted that!
Picture Jeroen Booij