Thursday 30 April 2020

Chambers Special - where is it now?

The Maximum Mini files continue to grow, with now over 41,000 images, sales literature, build specifications, drawings and historical correspondence. Still I get surprised every so often with new stuff. Scott Barrett made me aware of a contemporary picture of the Chambers Special that he'd come across online on, adding: "Did you ever hear any more about what happened to this one? I still regret not buying it when it was first advertised at £400 several years ago!"

I did write about the car last year for Classic & Sports Car magazine, when things looked good with a restoration being planned, including mention of a newly made hatchback door which had gone lost in transit. But I lost track of the car since and wonder what's happening to it now?

UPDATE 11:30: Simon sold the car to a good friend who also had plans, but has now given up too, as it is too much work to restore properly. Simon: "I believe it’s for sale".

Historical picture of Chambers Special was a new one to me. It proves the car hadn't changed much
Note headrests on all four seats - opposite at the back
Picture via Scott Barrett

Last year's news: a restoration was planned but it never happened. Where is the car now?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 29 April 2020

MoBi-One is saved

It's almost been 10 years when the mysteriously disappeared MoBi-One was mentioned on these pages for the first time. Meanwhile, the car was found in a barn last year (click here) after which a number of interested parties reported themselves. However, it did take almost another year before it finally found its new owner in Alastair Moffatt,  who wrote:

"Hi Jeroen. I have just purchased MoBi-One for my autotest Mini car collection. Having won 8 BTRDA Gold Star championships and 6 RAC/MSA championships and owning two of the most successful cars in history already, the car could not be in better hands. Now with MoBi-One I have the most iconic car, too. I will start on it very soon with plans to get it out for a demo or two next year."

Shortly later the car's original builder and designer Morris Bishop contacted me also: "Hi Jeroen, I have just received this email and photo from Alastair Moffatt and am delighted that MoBi-One is now in a collection. Naturally I will be in contact with Alistair with a view to visit him when the Covid 19 pandemic is over. At the moment we are in lock down in in our Spanish home with no immediate possibility of returning for our summer break in the UK. It would appear the steering configuration gaff has been fixed, and I am pleased to hear that the new owner will be restoring  MoBi-One to its original colour, though probably not the last fuel set up, which was Propane powered, This was to publicize the LPG calibration equipment that I designed and manufactured, mainly fore industrial equipment such as forklift trucks many years ago. Regards, Morris"
Happy days will be here again.

MoBi-One is now in the hands of a trials champion and will be restored to its former glory
Picture Alastair Moffatt, via Morris Bishop

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Canadian Mini based Ginetta is a total mystery

Mini based sports cars come in many shapes and sizes, but I'd never come across one wearing the body of a Ginetta. Until last week, that is, when Denis Caron dropped me a line from Ottawa in Canada. He wrote: " Hi Jeroen, I recently bought a kit car that has a Ginetta G4 body. It is built on two Mini front cradles. The Mini motor and transaxle was once installed in the rear. The former owner told me that it would have been built in the Toronto / Ontario area (no date given). My intention was to recycle the body on a tubular frame similar to the one built by Ginetta. I was wondering if you had any knowledge of this company, and if this car has any historical significance. Thanks"

Unfortunately I draw a complete blank on this one. All I can think of is that somebody put this together by himself using a Ginetta body. Or is it not a Ginetta body? It seems to me there are some small differences to that of a G4, but I do not have the knowledge of these cars to be sure. Perhaps somebody replicated one? Who does know? Any more information would be most welcome.

UPDATE 7 February 2023: More info and a new picture emerge. Click here.

That's a Ginetta G4, or is it? Reader Denis Caron bought it recently but doesn't know
Picture Denis Caron

It was supposedly built in the Toronto / Ontario region but no further info is known
Picture Denis Caron

Remarkably, below that sleek sports body hides the front suspension of a Mini
Picture Denis Caron

And it's the same at the back! Mini mechanicals with locked steering here
Picture Denis Caron

The car wears a Mini badge but nothing of its background is known to me or its owner
Picture Denis Caron

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Swiss Super-Mini built by Swiss super-millionaire?

Some time ago I asked for more information about a shortened and coachbuilt Mini, probably from Switzerland and probably of 1971 vintage (click here). I received a reply from reader Jotage who wrote: "I think that it's the Mini modified by Schwarzenbach, that appeared in the book 'Les Véhicules Hors Série' by Jacques Borgé and Nicolas Viasnoff."

And so when I found a copy of said book on Ebay in France, I ordered it. There it was. And Jotage was right, too. Although the information on the Mini is somewhat limited, the book is a fascinating read. The caption (in French) translates: 'The Swiss coachbuilder Ernst Schwarzenbach of Thalwil created the Supermini. The car was shortened from 3.05 to 2.43 metres. As a revenge the price has doubled.'

When I dropped the name of Ernst Schwarzenbach in Google search I only found information about a Swiss multi millionaire named Urs Ernst Schwarzenbach who is said to own over £300m of property in the UK and Australia, a palace in Morocco, the Grand Hotel in Zürich and his own polo team with 600 horses while he married a former Miss Australia. It seems he may well fit the bill! Nothing about a coachbuilding company, although being born in 1948 in Thalwil it could be him, really. Who knows?

UPDATE 9 January 2023: The car survives. Click here.

Super-Mini was supposedly built by Ernst Schwarzenbach of Thalwil, Switzerland
Picture from 'Les Véhicules Hors Série'

Monday 20 April 2020

Swedish Cox GTM now found, too

A few Mini derivatives that were thought to have gone lost have been unearthed in Sweden in the last few years. The Holmbarth / Automec Special in the first place (a number of articles here), and I think this Ogle SX1000 can now be pinned down to the US also (click).

But the Swedes also had a yellow Cox GTM raced by Dagobert Swensson in the 1960s (more here) - I had a feeling that car had to survive, too, and kept on chasing pictorial evidence of its survival, which finally came in some time ago from the car's current owner Magnus Larsson. I understand the car is in a very original condition with Magnus taking it out every now and then.

Swedish Cox GTM is an early car and was raced since it was new in Sweden
Picture courtesy Magnus Larsson

Basic interior fits this racer very well. It was driven by Dagobert Swensson in the 1960s
Picture courtesy Magnus Larsson

One or two things may have been modernized here but overall the car is said to be very original
Picture courtesy Magnus Larsson

The car's signature yellow / black paint scheme remains untouched. But filler hole is now filled
Picture courtesy Magnus Larsson

1293cc power. Side air intakes have always been on the car. GB decal may have been, too?
Picture courtesy Magnus Larsson

Challenging the big boys in 1967 - Ferrari and Elwa-Buick at the Bengtsfors Ring
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 16 April 2020

Spanish Sprint - what's its background?

An interesting message about an interesting MiniSprint came in from Spain last week:

"Hello Jeroen. My name is Jose and I am a Spanish Mini collector located in Barcelona. I have a very nice collection with some very good cars. I am writing to you to learn if I can find out more about my 1967 Austin Cooper 'S' MiniSprint. This car has been in a garage for 30 years and I recently purchased it but found not much about its history. I don't want to bore you with many words but if you can help me identify who was the preparer of my car, thank you very much. If you need any more information, I'll give it to you."

By this time I have been in touch with Jose as I still wanted to know a bit more about the car's background. A Heritage Certificate learns us that it was based on a genuine 1275 Cooper 'S' export model built on 30 March 1967 and despatched to Spain on 23 May 1967, left hand drive of course. It wasn't registered in Madrid until November 1968. The Cooper's original colours were Old English White with a black roof and a red and gold brocade interior. Then there's a gap in the car's history until 10 years later when Juan Puiggali bought the Sprint in 1978 at a Peugeot sale in Alicante or Valencia. Puiggali remembers the seller at the time telling him it had been used for hill climbing, but that's about it. The car was painted grey / metallic gold at the time and Puiggali bought it and repainted it again, this time in Almond Green. Fast forward to 2019 and Puiggali sells the Sprint to our man Jose. He strips down the retrimmed interior only to find the original brocade interior beneath it...

Not bad, but still it leaves plenty of questions. I would mostly love to know if this car was originally modified as a MiniSprint back in 1967 prior to finding its first owner in Spain? Timewise this is well possible. I also know that there were at least two dealers for the (Walker) MiniSprint in Spain: Garage Serrano in central Madrid and Garage Sub-Way in Rosellón, both dealers of the Broadspeed GT also. In 1967 there was also a white Walker GT MiniSprint on display at the Barcelona Motor Show, but this car was equipped with the square headlights, so I don't think it will be the same car. Last but not least there is said to have been a MiniSprint on display at the 1968 Bilbao Trade Show, but I have never seen any evidence. So that's it for now. Any more information would be highly appreciated by Jose and myself.

MiniSprint is based on an original 1275 Austin Cooper 'S' sold to Spain when new in 1967
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car is said to have been hill climbed in Spain between 1968 and 1978 but info is sketchy
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Current licence plates date back to November 1968. Paint colour changed at least twice
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It is an original Austin Cooper 'S' according to the Heritage Certificate also
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Seats were retrimmed in black vinyl but look what came out behind that!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Retrimmed interior... We'd love to know the early history of this Spanish Sprint. Who knows more?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 15 April 2020

What happened to the electric Mini Marcos?

With more and more classic cars getting electrified these days, let's have a look at a Mini Marcos that had been modified in this way back in 1968. It was built by professors James Lacy and John Byrne who both worked for the department of electrical engineering at the University College of Dublin.

A quote from an article that I found: "The car was initially conceived as a research vehicle for Byrne's research into low-loss drive systems and Lacy's into control systems, but became a substantial project in itself, attracting support and interest from a number of companies. Extensive research was carried out into ways to minimize loss mechanisms, and the car incorporated regenerative braking."

According to the piece Lacy used it for his daily commute for some years to the campus at Merrion Street in Dublin, covering 20 miles a day at a top speed of just over 30 mph, using it as a rolling test bed to evaluate several motor control systems. The professors were jointly awarded the Mullins Medal by the IEI in 1970 for a paper on this subject. Now, about the car: was 'HZO 888" an Irish built Mini Marcos in the first place? I also wonder what happened to it afterwards..?

Professors James Lacey (left) and John Byrne with their electric Mini Marcos
Picture University College Dublin

Lacey used the car as a daily driver for a number of years. Its top speed was 30mph
Picture University College Dublin

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Sir Stirling Moss dies at 90

Last weekend British motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss has died at the age of 90. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time, even though he did never won the World Championship - "which made him special", as he said himself. He retired from active racing at the top level in 1962 after a crash at Goodwood, which kept him in a coma for weeks and partially paralyzed for months. After that he continued to show up behind the wheel at racing and rallying events throughout the world up until some 10 years ago.

After his active motor sports career he was involved in a number of Mini based cars, too, no doubt being a dream promotor for their manufacturers. He got involved with Ogle Design and was seen promoting the Ogle SX250 and SX1000 in London and even showed up behind Ogle's drawing board to design his own (Ford-based) dream car. Next, he did the testing for Rob Walker's MiniSprint, who was keen enough to place a photograph of the car being driven in anger by Moss on the cover of its brochure. He was also seen with the Unipower GT and driving the TiCi around busy London traffic in 1972 with dolly birds in and around the car. And once again the pictures were eagerly used for marketing purposes.

Moss in 1972 in central London. He helped to promote the TiCi City car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Sir Stirling was also involved in Ogles. Seen here with two SX1000s and an SX250
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

In March 1963 he was even mentioned as an associate director to the company
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Seen here in a unique photograph behind the drawing board at Ogle Design
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Slightly later he was seen with the MiniSprint racer, here with Geoff Thomas and Neville Trickett
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

He even made it to the cover of the Walker GT MiniSprint brochure 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Always happy to give a hand in promotion - here with the Unipower GT and the lovely Monika Dietrich at the 1967 London Racing Car Show
Jeroen Booij archive

And many years later at another show - with Dave Ratner in one of his Mini powered Berkeleys
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 10 April 2020

Happy Easter 2020

Easter might look a little different this year with the restrictions for visiting family and friends having gone global by now. Despite all this I wish all readers and fans of Maximum Mini a happy time. And as always, I look forwards to hearing from you. Keep up the spirit!

If you enjoy what I do here on Maximum Mini and would like to help me continue, then I would very much appreciate a donation towards keeping this blog going. Click here.

Springtime in Japan with a wide arched Unipower GT
Picture Leon, Shufu to Seikatsu Sha Co. Ltd.

Thursday 9 April 2020

Mead Special finds a new owner (1)

It's been a long time since news was heard from the Mead Special, built and raced in South-Africa in 1970 and under restoration by doctor Greg Mills for such a long time (full story here). It's here now, as long time Maximum Mini enthusiast Leon Daniels reported:

"Hi Jeroen, like most we’re also in lockdown. In our case in Abu Dhabi. I saw a report that the UAE is the safest place in the world to be right now and my wife and I are both working from home and we’re even busier than normal it seems."

But as you know I now bought the Mead Special. To be honest I have only seen it twice. First in the mid 1980’s when it was in the back yard of my friend and Mini whizz Farouk Meyer. Farouk was friends with Dr Mead and learnt lot from him. Both loved racing, and Farouk was a gifted race engine builder. I met Dr Mead’s wife after he passed, when I tried to buy a 1071 engine from her. I hesitated, and it sold sadly. I then bought a Mini 1000 S, which was a South African special edition. It was however fitted with the most amazing engine. Docile in traffic, not cammy at all, but that car absolutely flew. I drove it throughout my engineering studies and for the next five years to work, where it would do 100mph+ (that’s a far as the speedo went) on the last open clear stretch of road to the refinery where I worked. I still have that engine. The plan is to have Farouk rebuild it for me and fit it to the Mead Special, reuniting motor and chassis for the first time in 35+ years."

"The second time I saw the Mead Special body was at a company called Emgee who was restoring it for Dr Mills. Another doctor! And a brilliant author, researcher and race car driver. When I saw it at Emgee I begged that if it was ever sold, I’d love to have it. Years of pestering, and a recent fortuitous bit of news from my regular engine builder, Stuart Greig, suggested that the car needed to be moved due to relocation of the business. I enquired again, and luckily a week or so later Stuart collected it for me. I still haven’t seen it! I believe one of the shells is the body, and the other the mould. The idea is to restore it for the track, and maybe use it for track days. But certainly it will occupy pride of place in my collection."

"Incidentally, there was one other car that lead me to meet Farouk. I chased down a 1071 Cooper as on the road, and the owner gave me Farouk’s number. Farouk told me about the Mini that was for sale by a friend of his. This was the Mead engined Cooper 'S'. It belonged to a wealthy medical doctor - Dr Salduka. Yep, a third doctor in the story! I recently managed to buy the genuine matching numbers 1071 'S' from him. The car had some crazy 1970’s mods. Deseamed, sunroof, flared arches. Stuff you wouldn’t do to a car now. I will restore it exactly like that. It's the first 'S' that I ever saw, and the one that got me hooked on Minis."

What a great story, thank you Leon for sharing! There's more to follow with an update from the engine builder Farouk Meyer. Stay tuned.

Mead Special was built in 1970 by doctor Ron Mead in South-Africa
Picture via Leon Daniels

The restoration was never completed. Shell fitted is believed to be the mould
Picture via Leon Daniels

Chassis has been fully restored by Dr Greg Mills over a long period of time
Picture via Leon Daniels

Mead developed the Tecalamit fuel injection system in the UK before emigrating to South-Africa
Picture via Leon Daniels

Here the bodyshell is seen in yellow. Leon Daniels plans to complete the restoration now when he is out of lockdown in Abu Dhabi. He's already sourced the car's original engine
Picture via Leon Daniels

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Mystery Mini derivative (64)

These pictures were posted on the Ten Tenths forum years ago. The message that came with them read: "The pics below are of a single seat racing car that was bought by my dad's business partner in somewhere around 1972. I had always believed the car to be a Terrapin, but after seeing pics of a Terrapin I think I am wrong. I took the pics (not good quality due to the Polaroids degrading over time). Somewhere in my weary head I recall that the car was built (and designed?) by Richard Wilde. It clearly has Mini subframes front and rear. Can you help identify the animal?"

I have never been able to do so, as I have never been able to get in touch with the man who posted them. Who knows more?

UPDATE 10:30: Robert Begley suggests the chassis seen in this previous posting may actually be the same. What do you think?

Mystery Mini based single seater is not a Terrapin. But what is it then?
Picture Ten Tenths

It must have been inspired by the Terrapin though? Mini engine in Mini subframe at the back
Picture Ten Tenths

This was supposedly taken at around 1972. Was Richard Wilde involved with it?
Picture Ten Tenths

Friday 3 April 2020

Jeremy Delmar-Morgan passed away at 77

It's with great sadness that I found out about the death of Jeremy Delmar-Morgan. Only now, as he passed away on 12 June 2018 at the age of 77 already. That's almost two years ago, but I thought the man definitely deserved an obituary here despite the time lapse. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet him in person.

Delmar-Morgan was born in a gentry family in London and got in touch with Hillman Imp tuner Paul Emery in his early 20s. It was under Emery's flag that he entered his first race in 1964: the Nürburgring 500 Kilometres in September that year and behind the wheel of an Imp. From that moment on a real taste for racing was developed and Delmar-Morgan showed up at a wide variety of tracks with Emery tuned Imps, a Lotus 23, a Brabham BT8 and even several Divas for the works team.

It was in Emery's London workshop, though, that Delmar-Morgan first learned about the DART of Dizzy Addicott. Emery had given a hand in the car's build and Delmar-Morgan liked the idea of a much streamlined Mini for racing. The car was eventually launched on the Racing Car Show of January 1964 at the Emery stand. When Delmar-Morgan found out that Addicott had enough of the DART project in a premature state, he took it over it for 750 pounds and turned the car into the Mini Jem. Meanwhile, Jem Marsh did a similar thing in launching the Mini Marcos...

Delmar-Morgan set up Jem Developments Ltd. and started a racing campaign with his Mini Jem, the first race once again being the Nürburgring 500 Kilometres of September 1966. He came home at a very respectful 18th overall and 2nd in class. Delmar-Morgan built and sold over 20 cars from his workshop in West London. In November 1966 he moved to Penn Garage in High Wycombe where Robin Statham rented him premises. Delmar-Morgan saw it as a temporarily solution as he had plans to move to a new factory close to Silverstone but these plans were never realised. He delivered another 12 body shells from Penn Garage, but then had enough of it. Delmar-Morgan then sold the Mini Jem project to Statham (obituary here) halfway in 1967.

He continued to race up until 1969, mostly in a privately entered Porsche 906. After that he focused on a career in investments. He married twice and had four children.

Jeremy Delmar-Morgan was the man behind the Mini Jem
Picture Braveheart Investment Group

He was friends with Paul Emery who had a hand in the development of the DART...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

...And from the DART came the Jem - first production car seen here with works van behind
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Delmar-Morgan raced a Mini Jem with some success. Here seen at the Nurburgring in 1966
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

After that he was mostly seen behind the wheel of his Porsche 906 - here at Brands Hatch

Thursday 2 April 2020

More on the Racing Reverend's Specials

After yesterday's article about racing Reverend Barry Whitehead (click here) a number of messages dropped in, linking to a little piece of film footage showing the reverend being interviewed. It's lovely and you can see it for yourself here.

I cut out from it the two pictures seen below and showing two of the Reverend's Mini based racing Specials - the original RBS, whicht is clearly front engined and which Whitehead himself was not particularly proud of, saying "My first car was technically a two-seater. It was an autocross special which I never wanted to cross, it was horrible, ignore that one". There's also two pictures of the later RBS 3B, which may well be the car supercharged 1100, which the late Allan Staniforth mentioned. More information would still be much appreciated.

Reverend Barry Whitehead in the first RBS - Mini powered and front engined. 'Ignore that one'
Picture source Youtube

While this rear engined racer is RBS 3B - Mini powered also and supposedly supercharged, too
Picture source Youtube

"It should be recorded that the Reverend Whitehead’s work on his car back at the vicarage changed it from being so unstable it once spun because he was changing from 2nd to 3rd on the straight, into a class winner"
Picture source Youtube

Wednesday 1 April 2020

The Racing Reverend's Special

One comforting thought may be that, while the whole corona crisis drama continues to unfold, I will continue to bother you with my articles, here at Maximum Mini. As always, comments are appreciated - I'm also just doing this on my own from an isolated converted garage after all.

So how about this car? According to Craig Powers, who posted the picture, this was the second racing car built by the Reverend Barry Whitehead and known as the Reverend Barry's Special number 2, or RBS2. Whitehead was known as 'The Racing Reverend' or 'The Flying Vicar' from Standish, who spent more than 40 years working in the Church of England. It was his passion for motor racing and building his own cars that gave him the name though. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 86.

I found an obituary, written by his daughter Eve, from which I quote here: "He read Alan Staniforth’s book, High Speed, Low Cost, and went on to build 8 of his RBS cars, which he hillclimbed and sprinted. The first was a Mini-based thing, front engine, then numbers 2-8 were single seaters. Initially they were to be numbered MBS1 and so on, for 'Mini Based Special', until someone pointed out that 'Mad Barry's Special' might be a better fit. The name was therefore hurriedly changed to RBS, for 'Reverend Barry's Special', and so it remained. We all grew up, accompanying him to race meetings and we all took it for granted that “our father builds and drives racing cars”. It was only when I started to compete and work with him in the garage, that I realized the staggering level of engineering ability which was actually involved in building a car from an empty garage floor, to one which worked, was competitive, and in my hands, had an affinity for the Armco!"

"He was also very forward thinking – initially he used Mini engines which he supercharged, giving him a great competitive edge as he was still able to stay within 1100 class. When he knew the rules were going to change to enforce 40% extra capacity for a supercharger, he changed to a supercharged 750 bike engine – thus still able to stay in the class."

The late Alan Staniforth, who's Terrapins were an inspiration to the Reverend, once added to that: “The flying vicar was creator and conductor of one of the fastest and perhaps ugliest 1100cc hillclimb cars of recent years. It should be recorded that the Reverend Whitehead’s work on his car back at the vicarage changed it from being so unstable it once spun simply because he was changing from 2nd to 3rd on the straight, into a class winner. An amateur’s mega-leap by anyone’s standards."

The Mini based Reverend Barry's Special used 1100 power with supercharger
Picture Craig Powers

'The Racing Reverend' Barry Whitehead with one of his later cars. He competed for over 45 years
Picture Longton & District Motor Club