Thursday 28 May 2020

Mystery Mini derivative (66): Mad NZ Mini Coupe

This Mini coupe could have been made for Mad Max. In fact, it was spotted by Andrew Griffiths, who wrote: "Sorry I have no details. It's a sort of evil brother to the DART, haha!" Its body is seriously lowered, deseamed and comes with raked screens, air ducts everywhere, deep-dish wheels and a much-modified nose, not to mention the supercharger sticking out of its bonnet!

So what is it? The number plate looked from New Zealand to me, so I contacted my NZ friend Graeme Farr to see if he knew it, and this is what he came up with: "I have never seen or heard of that car before a few weeks back when I saw that photo. I think it was taken in Auckland. Someone commented that they used to walk past it when they were a kid. It is really ugly! The blower looks like a Roots type one - maybe off a Commer two stroke diesel truck. They were used here mostly as concrete trucks - had lots of torque for getting up hills. Cheers, Graeme." 
Now. Who knows more about this intriguing creature from New Zealand?

UPDATE 14 April 2021: A comment from Robert Robinson: "One of my mates had one of those in the early 1970s. Known as a Chevron Vampire V6 (which they weren't), basically a chopped Mini with some custom panels front and rear. There weren't many around. They were a little light on the steering at speed and my mate took his flying off a corner on the Scenic Drive in Waitakere. He extracted it and re-built it too."

Mad Max' Mini coupe? The evil twin to the DART? New Zealand Mini is certainly special
Picture Roly Turner via Andrew Griffiths

It appears to have a big (Wade?) supercharger sticking out from the bonnet
Picture via Graeme Farr

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Sri Lanka's MiniSprint

Mini derivatives come from wide and far and if you look at the alphabetical list of labels on the right hand side of this weblog, you may see what your country's contributions to this spectrum are. Sri Lanka was not to be found on that list so far, but that has changed now that Roald rakers sent me a picture of a much modified Mini racer hailing from that country and built in the spirit of the MiniSprint, but then even more streamlined with an ultra-low nose section. I was eager to find out more and bumped onto the page of the Mini Lovers Community Sri Lanka.

According to some contributors there the car was called 'The Atom' or 'Bandicoot', but both sources mention a M. Iqbal as its builder. One source mentions: "It pretty much dominated the late 1980s and was a regular winner in Sri Lankan motor racing just about everywhere. It gave every car a run for its money. The arrival of the Subaru legacy’s finally ended its reign, which speaks volumes of its capability. One of the great iconic cars of Sri Lankan motor racing." I love stories like that.

Built by M. Iqbal and inspired by the MiniSprint, this must have been Sri Lanka's fastest Mini
Picture Mini Lovers Community Sri Lanka

Top chopped, fully deseamed and front much streamlined with just the radiator sticking out
Picture Mini Lovers Community Sri Lanka

Here at Kandy Ware Park hill climb at an unknown date, Iqbal's Mini dominated local motor sport
Picture Mini Lovers Community Sri Lanka

'The Atom' or 'Bandicoot' became one of the great iconic cars of Sri Lankan motor racing
Picture via Roald Rakers

Monday 25 May 2020

Ascender ancestor to Austria

Two and a half years ago, when work on the body shell of my Mini Marcos was still meant to be carried out in the UK (things went differently...) - I found out about a three-wheeler which looked remarkably much like the Silcoates Ascender (click here). I asked its builder, Les Brown, if there ever were two cars and this is what he wrote to me at the time:

"Hi Jeroen. This is a strange. Well, I'm not sure I DO know what's going on! I built a Mini trike around 1975 from a 1962 Cooper that had rusted past economic repair at that time - 653 UMA. I kept as much as I could of the original Mini, and the car couldn't believe its luck when completed! All that weight gone, just 3 wheels to turn, and it absolutely flew! The red car looks substantially what I had done, though it still had a Mini floor pan originally. I sold it around 1990 to one of the students who had worked on the cars and I knew he decided to 'improve' on certain aspects of the design that he didn't approve of. My chassis was not symmetrical as I used a standard Mini rear arm, which meant the tubes were offset to follow the new load paths as far as possible. He started to make a new (symmetric) chassis which looked very heavy to me, but I thought the whole lot had been abandoned and scrapped years ago. I certainly made the front end that you see, and possibly some of the surviving chassis is mine also. Just to avoid confusion, I painted them all different colours, and the one we knew as 'Ascender' was essentially a development of the red car. It does still exist and was down around the Devon area in the last 12 months, though this also had now lost the original '653 UMA'."

Fast forward to last April when I was contacted by August Thurner of Austria, who bought the three-wheeler and brought it over from the UK to his own country. He asked if I knew anything more about the vehicle and so I told him what I knew. I now understand August wants to restore the car and eventually try and get it road registered in Austria. He'd love to get in touch with the owner of the other (yellow and black) vehicle, so if you own that and read this, feel free to drop me a line and I will forward your message to Austria.

This Mini based three-wheeler is not 'a' or 'the' Silcoates Ascender but actually a forebear to that
Picture August Thurner

Originally registered '653 UMA' it used a Mini floorpan and most of its parts, too
Picture August Thurner

However, it was sold at around 1990 to a student who made a new chassis from square tubing
Picture August Thurner

The car as it was original, made by Les Brown in 1975 or '76 and used as a daily driver
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Mystery Mini derivative (65)

A real mystery from an old mid-1990s issue of MiniWorld magazine is reproduced here below. The rear-engined (or mid-engined?) car was found at the time by S. Jones of Marbury, who wrote to the mag: "I would like some help finding out the identity and history of this rare Mini with the help of MiniWorld and its readers. I need any information on the car, or possibly a photograph of the original, as I have only got the rear body section, two doors and windscreen."

Somehow that rear section seems familiar but I just can't put my finger on it. Anyone out here who recognizes it? And what happened to the car and the plans of S. Jones after the publication?

UPDATE 12:45 - The rear end section is of a Berkeley T60 three-wheeler that's been modified to have two rear wheels. Thanks Vic Price and Richard Carrigan!

Mystery car used it's Mini engine to drive the rear wheels. Only rear section of body survived
Picture S. Jones / MiniWorld

Ladder frame looks strong and rather heavy. Was it another kit car revamped?
Picture S. Jones / MiniWorld

Monday 18 May 2020

How a Deep Sanderson racer was turned into a Triumph Special

It's been some time since I wrote about Deep Sandersons, so it was good when Christopher Tamblyn contacted me about one such car. One his stepfather once owned. He wrote:

"Dear Jeroen. My stepfather bought this car around 1964/1965 from a well-known garage owner and wheel manufacturer JA Pearce of Staines Middlesex, who used to make the Magna magnesium wheels. I remember the car had a scrutineer label on the door pull but that was for a hill climb, it did have a hot Mini Cooper engine in the back with a Weber carb and it was road legal. I remember coming home from school and sitting in the car and pretending to drive it, oh what days they were.
I also remember that the rear suspension kept braking at one of the rose joints eventually putting the car and my step father through someones front hedge of their house just outside of Winchester!"

The Deep Sanderson 301 as owned by Chris Tamblyn's stepfather in the mid-1960s
Picture courtesy Christopher Tamblyn

The Deep Sanderson joined by the Jaguar XK140 of the Tamblyn family
Picture courtesy Christopher Tamblyn

From the pictures that Chris sent I recognized the car as 'AJB 150B' and had several pictures of it, too, being raced and crashed at the Nurburgring in May 1964.

Seen here in May 1964 at the Nurburgring, competing (?) a Ferrari 250 GTO
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Unfortunately, it was crashed on that day and ended in the bushes
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Chris continued: "This is just amazing, I recognize that Weber on that big inlet manifold, and the small number plates, as you say this is the car and we didn't know about this bit of history. We kept the car but he dismantled it and put the body on a Triumph Spitfire chassis with some small modification! Just stopping for a cry! This car and all of its ancillary equipment were then sold to a really nice guy called Chris Gow who was someone big in the Mini club after my father had passed away who also owned a Deep Sanderson. Around about a year later Chris had either sold his car and I had also found the chassis number of our Deep Sanderson and I think I sold that to this person so that he could have a 'proper' Deep Sanderson. I hope you have been able to follow this story and I am sorry I can't be any more specific about our car, but please keep in touch as its always nice to talk to interesting people about classic cars. Stay safe and kind regards, Chris"

The Deep Sanderson's body was eventually used on a Triumph Spitfire chassis
Picture courtesy Christopher Tamblyn

Longer and taller, re-registered and repainted in red, but still recognizable as a Deep Sanderson!
Picture courtesy Christopher Tamblyn

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Jola and Grimes Autotest Specials

Autotest champion Alastair Moffatt - who recently purchased MoBi-One - found some more interesting Mini based vehicles in his photo files. He wrote:

"Hi Jeroen. I found these pictures of an autotest car named Jola, made in late 1970s and running a Mini 1430cc engine in rear on fiddle brakes so a handbrake for each of the rear wheels to do a handbrake turn. It got stripped in 1999/2000 and all the suspension and subframes plus engine went into an ABS Freestyle as you have in one of your books. It shows it losing a wheel at the Royal Dublin show ground in 1998 on a international event."

"And I got another car for you. Peter and Chris Grimes from Southern Ireland made this Mini Special from a cut down Mini from the late 1970s. Front subframe bulkhead and floor to just behind the seat were retained and then the rear end with a made up rear beam bringing it to the same wheel base as a Mini but with no overhang. In the photo from around 1998 at Birmingham, it was running a 1380cc Cooper 'S'. A very very light car with great vision all round. It won around 8 Northern Ireland autotest test championships and 5 British RAC/MSA championships plus 3 BTRDA championships.
It is still going today but now runs a Vauxhall Nova engine in a mini subframe on 14inch wheels."

Jola Special, run by Peter Jackson, used 1430cc Mini engine at the back
Picture Alastair Moffatt

Hmm... Royal Dublin show ground 1998 - when it lost a front wheel in the heat of the moment
Picture Alastair Moffatt

Wheel found. The Jola Special used so called 'fiddle brakes' for easy manoeuvring
Picture Alastair Moffatt

And another Mini based Autotest Special - the Grimes Special, which does survive
Picture Alastair Moffatt

Monday 11 May 2020

Dutch Buggy book is a real labour of love

This is a bit of a Dutch week, here on Maximum Mini. First there was this barn find Mini Jem (here) and the Dutch-built Nieuwenhuis Special on Zandvoort (here); this time it's a Dutch book about buggies. And what a book! Authors Henny Jore and Jan van der Lit worked 10 years to get their 2 kilograms heavyweight buggy bible in print, which I know was not always easy. The 352 pages tome features anything buggy in The Netherlands and you'll be surprised to learn how many cars were manufactured or made it over to there.

The majority of these cars is of course VW powered but it wouldn't be featured here if two buggies using Mini power weren't made in The Netherlands, too. They were the Barclay Mini Bug, a Dutch version of the Stimson Mini Bug built in Helmond, and the Moonbug, which was a Dutch Siva Buggy made in Amstelveen. The authors managed to track down the instigator of the Moonbug project, Peter Pijpelink, which led to new insights and a number of pictures that were new to me.

But those two cars are just examples of an incredible variety of Dutch buggies and the work that has gone into the research for this book has been enormous. 'Buggy's, Baja's, Kitcars & Replica's', ISBN 978909032659, comes in Dutch and has forewords by American buggy inventor Bruce Meyers and British buggy authority James Hale. It is available through its own website here.

Buggy's, Baja's, Kitcars & Replica's by Henny Jore and Jan van der Lit is a massive book
Picture Jeroen Booij

The Barclay Mini Bug is the Dutch version of the Stimson Mini Bug made in Helmond
Picture Jeroen Booij

While the Moonbug is the Dutch-made Siva Buggy. New insight come to the light
Picture Jeroen Booij

Second half of book is dedicated to another 350-odd buggies and kits that were available in Holland
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday 7 May 2020

Zandvoort 52 years ago - Nieuwenhuis Special

Last weekend, the Dutch Grand Prix was supposed to take place at the Zandvoort circuit but we all know that it is now postponed. To ease the pain (to some - I am not a Formula 1 fan myself), here some pictures of the same track back in 1968 when the Nieuwenhuis Special raced there in the Formula Libre class. More about this fascinating little racer here. The pictures were sent to me by Roald Rakers. Thanks again!

Raced at Zandvoort in the Formula Libre class in 1968 - Henk's Nieuwenhuis Mini based Special
Picture K Vingerhoets / Paul Rutten

And in colour, too. Note filler cap on roof and long filler neck. Large exhaust at the back
Picture source unknown

Seen here behind another Dutch racing Special - the Havas, which was Ford / Lotus powered
Picture Henk A. Hazelaar

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Mini Jem found in The Netherlands

Last January I was contacted by a fellow (big) Marcos-owner in The Netherlands who wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I was offered a Mini Jem recently but turned down the offer because I have enough to deal with my own Marcos. Do you know anyone who might be interested? I don't know what kind of engine it comes with, but the car was put off the road many years ago, as happens so often."

Surely I was interested but it took a long time before I could actually see the car. Last weekend it happened though and the car turned out to be a Mk2 in a complete and original condition. With a March 1984 tax disc it was last on the road that year and I think it may well have been in the barn since that time. The DVLA confirms it was last taxed in 1984 also but unfortunately the registration papers for 'YBH 849J' have gone lost. I was interested in the car never the less but did not dare buying it with the difficulties of re-registering it and also my own project car taking so much of me! A missed opportunity..?

This British registered Mk2 Mini Jem has been off the road since 1984 
Picture Jeroen Booij

It's in a pitch dark barn, probably since that time - flash needed to make viewable photographs
Picture Jeroen Booij

The car will be removed later this week and see the light of day for the first time in decades
Picture Jeroen Booij

Originally painted yellow, which can still be seen at some places, and also turquoise at one stage
Picture Jeroen Booij

According to DVLA it used a 997 engine at one stage but now there's an Innocenti 1275 fitted
Picture Jeroen Booij

Correct RS - Robin Statham - M2 1125 chassis number - it's all complete too
Picture Jeroen Booij

All four arches are widened, a bit of a pity I think. Mamba alloys with tyres still fully inflated
Picture Jeroen Booij

Low rectangular rear lights with added reversing lights. Rear window has fallen in but is there
Picture Jeroen Booij

The interior is complete, too. I think these are Sprinzel Rallye 5 seats inside
Picture Jeroen Booij

The lovely Jem dashboard is still mostly intact with Smiths gauges and added switches
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday 4 May 2020

Hustler Holiday memories...

A lovely message from Vince Smith: "Hi Jeroen, Just going through some old car brochures and found two examples of Hustler 4 wheelers based on the Hustler Holiday design. Both were marketed by William Towns via his Interstyl company, but as far as I know no examples of these two kits were actually ordered or built."

"The prices shown are from 1988, as advertised on the rear page of a programme for the Combrook Rural Fair. William would host this vintage rally and craft fair every year at his home; Park Farm in Compton Verney, Warwick. Of course, as one might expect, parade events in the central show ring would always begin with a procession of Hustler vehicles, complete with tannoy narration backed by Van McCoy's 'Do the Hustle' echoing around the arena. Best Regards, Vince Smith"

With its very tall windscreen and hardly any bonnet, the Hustler Holiday certainly appears to be one of the lesser known models in the broad Hustler range, but I did find one picture of such a car. Who owns one? And to please all Hustler fans... over to Van McCoy once again! Thank you Vince.

Hustler Holiday brochure - Vince Smith found it, too, reigniting some William Towns memories
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Unusual version of the Hustler - the Holiday. Who knows of any survivors?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive