Thursday 27 August 2020

Shikari resurfaces in Winchester

After the Stimson Safari Six had been built in small numbers by Barry Stimson's company Design Developments, the project was sold and the production rights taken over by a company named Automotive Services, based in Winchester. They supposedly planned to relaunch the car as the Shikari with Ford Fiesta- or Peugeot-engine but the only evidence that I ever came across was a tiny little flyer dated October 1973 and just mentioning it. An actual car never materialized, or so it seemed. 

Wrong! This photograph was taken recently by Gary Bygrave and it appears to show a Shikari after all. Bygrave saw it in Winchester, so it certainly didn't seem to have travelled far. Note the plastic (cracked) windscreen and square headlights, which seem to be of a later era then the 1970s? 
Anyone who knows more about it? 

This certainly seems to be a Shikari prototype, as spotted in Winchester recently
Picture Gary Bygrave

Lainston Investment Services Ltd. planned the Shikari for 1974
Picture Paul Wylde / Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 24 August 2020

Unipower GT at London Concours

Last week, Unipower GT owner Tim Carpenter went to London Concours and took his faithful GT, chassis number 1, with him on invitation. Something of an honour and a recognition of the pedigree of the cars on display, as he told me himself. London Concours is an 'automotive garden party' hosted in the heart of the City of London in the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company. This year's event featured 92 invited vehicles arranged in themed displays as curated by the chaps of Octane Magazine. Tim was kind enough to send me some pictures and answer a few questions.

Maximum Mini - What did you do to prepare yourself and the car?
Tim Carpenter - I’d not been to a concours event before so I did not really know what to expect. My car gets used on the road a fair bit but I knew it had to be very nicely presented so I got to work on the worst of its road scars and then got polishing. The whole exercise took about three days solid. I don’t think the car has ever been as clean. London Concours has quite a bit of style so I got out my summer glad rags and polished my shoes too! Good job I took my full length raincoat and umbrella. It poured with rain all day on Wednesday. 

MM - What were you expecting? 
TC - A refined and elegant display of all sorts of cars in a very nice setting. I was not disappointed. The organization and hospitality of the organizers was excellent. 

MM - What kind of cars and people did you meet up with? 
TC - The cars on display were arranged in themes, for example, Lamborghinis, Convertibles, Sand racers etc. The Unipower GT was in a ‘Lost Marques’ display, which exhibited cars of manufacturers that may have deserved to stay in business but were forced to disappear. I think that most of the visitors were seriously knowledgeable petrol heads. The rest had an eye for style. Everyone was very friendly and complimentary. 

MM - What kind of reactions did you get on the Unipower? 
TC - universal enthusiasm. Lots of the visitors were very knowledgeable about the cars on display and made interesting and informed comparisons with some of the exotics at the show. I always encourage people to sit in the car at these events to really give them a proper impression of its personality. Smiles all round. They love it! 

MM - Were there any people who knew the car or had any specific Unipower related stories to tell you?
TC - A few including a couple of journalists who had written articles about the car in the past.

MM - Oh - and did you win a prize..? 
TC – Well, I didn’t actually know I was in a competition until I got there! The Lost Marques award went to a very nice Facel Vega. I guess it’s really difficult to make comparisons between such a car, an AC Ace, an Iso Rivolta Grifo, a Jowett Javelin etc etc. It was just great to be a part of such a fun event. I made lots of new friends. That’s a prize enough for me.

Preparation in what Tim calls 'The Shed' - actually an old converted church!
Picture Tim Carpenter 

And look how beautifully the water repels from the GT's body! 
Picture Chris Davies

Sun's out again. A line up of no less then 10 Dinos next to Unipower GT number 1
Picture Tim Carpenter

Judging time. 'I didn’t actually know I was in a competition until I got there!', said Tim
Picture Niall Julian - Take to the Road

No trophies but an unforgettable event and great way to promote the Unipower GT
Picture Niall Julian - Take to the Road

Spot the Unipower. London Concours took place right in the heart of the City of London 
Picture London Concours

Friday 21 August 2020

Broadspeed GT 2nd demonstrator - where is it now?

The cream coloured and now beautifully restored Broadspeed GT with registration 'EOP 89D' is known as Broadspeed Engineering's demonstrator. The Motor magazine, however, road tested another car back in 1966 and published about it in its August issue of that year. This was 'FOH 500D' and it was a dark coloured car. A second demonstrator? Or just a car that happened to be available at the time? From the report: 

"The test car, which we were allowed to keep for all four days, was the highest priced version with a tuned 1,275-cc engine. It attracted considerable interest wherever we took it even within a hundred yards of the Broadspeed establishment, which suggested that there aren't yet many of them about. (...) We did not have the car long enough to put it through our normal acceleration tests on a private circuit, but we managed to time it at 112 mph maximum in top. Power output is about 100 bhp and the compression ratio 10.5 to 1. Twin 1 1/2 SU carburetors are fitted."

Now, pictures of this car are scarce, and I wonder if it survives? A small ad in a later magazine mentions a Broadspeed GT for sale in Coventry. That car was opalescent maroon in colour with a black leather interior and 1275 Cooper 'S' engine. Could it have been the same?

UPDATE 8 February 2021: More pictures and a Swedish report of the car have emerged. Click here.

'FOH 500D' was dark in colour, possibly maroon? Note Cooper 'S' steel wheels
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It's the same Broadspeed GT as the one road tested by Motor magazine in its August 1966 issue
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But is it also the same as the one advertised for sale in Coventry for £895 here..? 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Australia's coachbuilt 'Millionaire' Mini - a one-off?

When you think of coachbuilt Minis the names of Harold Radford and Wood & Pickett spring to mind. But there have been many more companies coachbuilding Minis, in the UK but also in Italy and France. An Australian coachbuilt Mini, however, was new to me. But Leigh Sherringham made me aware of it by sending a copy of a clipping from the Melbourne newspaper 'The Age' dated February 1971.

The article by Christopher de Fraga is about a Mini, locally coachbuilt by a man named Ken Jack of Mossman. And his (Mk2 based?) creation appears to have earned its name as a coachbuilt car, including full-length walnut dashboard with lots of gauges and switches, leather clad seats sourced from the MGB, air conditioning and 'performance improved beyond that of the usual Cooper S' mated to automatic transmission. Further gadgets, hidden in a walnut cabinet in the back, included telephone, refrigerator, dictaphone, glass cabinet and electric razor. The car's rear lights are said to have been changed, too, but unfortunately this cannot be seen on the pictures.

The car is said to have been built for the director of a Sydney company at a cost of over 6,000 dollars and, interestingly, the article states that 'replicas could be made more cheaply from lessons learned in the first exercise'. I wonder if that ever happened. And how about this particular car? A survivor?

The 'Millionaire Mini' from Sydney, built by Ken Jack. What happened to it?
Picture 'The Age' via Leigh Sherringham

Monday 17 August 2020

Micron GT recollections from the boy next door

A bit more news about the recently rediscovered Micron GT. The car is now in the hands of a new owner, who plans a full restoration. He wrote: "I have you to thank for this. I knew that one had been built (it appears in one of my many books) but like you, I imagined that it did not survive. It's what the French would call 'une jolie laide', which is why it appeals to me. It hasn't been collected yet (Covid problems!) but I have to think about colour: the original British Leyland colour (Harvest Gold?) is a bit drab: I'd prefer a true 1970s colour, like orange." That's great, I think.

Meanwhile, I also received a lovely message about the car from Robert Coley, who wrote: Hello, I have been reading about the Micron GT in Classic & Sports Car magazine. This car was built just down the road from me. I was 11 years old and just getting into cars. I think it was Brian's house it was built in a double garage next to the house. Like you say it did not have the Escort rear arches and I think it was mustard. The body mock up was made in the back garden from cardboard boxes and filler. The Bray brothers told me my first car repair fact, which was to fit wheel nut fits with the chamber in to the wheel. It all stuck as I now have three Porsches a 1980 911 SC; a 1970 911T which I am rebuilding and a 1983 944 Luxe under cover just waiting to be used and a low-cost 7. I just thought I would drop you a line. Cheers Rob." Well, that is of course much appreciated, so thank you for that. If anyone knows more about the Bray brothers, I'd still love to hear from you though.

The Bray brothers, Brian and Rex, back in 1968 with their just-finished Micron GT
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Hot Car magazine

 Rex or Brian Bray behind the wheel of the car in its original mustard (Harvest Gold?) colour
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the car as found back in March 2020 by your's truly. It is now sold, a restoration is planned
Picture Jeroen Booij

Friday 14 August 2020

From the files: Stimson Mini Bug racer

I'm not too much surprised anymore to learn that a wide variety of Mini based cars have made it to the racing track. Not the obvious circuit candidates, but the more unusual ones. How about the Stimson Mini Bug? Regular readers may remember this post about a competition Bug being raced by Stephen Lawrenson - not without trouble. And there was also the CS+2 raced by John Bevan as mentioned in that posting, too. The one below has to be yet another. Unfortunately there's no further information. But perhaps you will be able to recognize car / venue / driver?

A Stimson Mini Bug being raced at an unknown venue. Registration is 'SSF 872H'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Was Australia's first Mini Jem really buried?

Australia has its fair share of Mini derivatives history, the Min i Jem being one of the cars that were built locally. Enthusiast Duane De Gruchy runs a Facebook page dedicated to Australian cars and asked himself recently what happened to the first of the Jems, registered 'RWW 019', which came to Australia and led to the Taylorspeed variant.
Jim Swan reacted and wrote: "I owned it for a few years. I traded a Cooper 'S' in in Adelaide in 1972 and drove or maybe flew the car back to Darwin. Except for putting a Weber carburetor on it I left it as it was. I had it painted a British racing Green with a lace painted bonnet. As per the photo I entered in the drags which used to be held at WW2 airstrip 33 miles south of Darwin. The car was in a shed in Darwin when cyclone Tracy came in 1974 and it was damaged by a tree but not too badly. Stupidly in 1975 I sold the car for $400 to a guy called Phil Miller and I have not heard of what happened to it. Jokingly I hope, I was told that he buried it so not one else could ever have it. If anyone has a clue as to where it is now please let me know. I only discovered the photo about 9 months ago which was in someone else's album. All my photos were lost in the cyclone."

'RWW 019' was the first (Taylorspeed) Mini Jem that was driven on Australia's roads
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car was widely advertised and used for promotional purposes
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And it was raced, too, by manufacturer John Taylor. Here at Mallala in South Australia
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And at Mallala again... a beautiful action shot which I simply had to share here
Picture Peter Knights

But where is it now? It was last seen when owned by Jim Swan, who sold it in 1975
Rumour has it the car was buried, but that surely must be a joke..?
Picture Jim Swan 

Monday 10 August 2020

Morris Beach Car barn find (UPDATED)

Yet another Beach Car has turned up in the US! And this is a bit of an oddball. Based on the data from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust we know that between December 1961 and March 1962, fourteen Minis with consecutive chassis numbers were converted into Beach Cars. All of these were Austins and all of them left-hand-driven and with destination 'USA'. Apart from these fourteen production cars, there were two earlier prototypes, but that's it.

Or not? As it now appears now there have been four more Minis converted into Beach Cars. Earlier this summer, a fifteenth Beach Car resurfaced in the US. And unlike all the others, this car was based on a Morris Mini and is believed to have been one of a later series of another four, built in November 1963. The car found was sold new to August 'Gussie' Bush junior, known for his brewing empire (Budweiser) and baseball career (St Louis Cardinals). Bush drove the car for twenty years, after which it ended up in a barn in Iowa, from which it was only rescued now.

From the Heritage certificate we learn that the car was originally Snowberry White with a Tartan Red roof in colour, with red wicker basket seats. As the owner Steve Myers says in this video, it's possible that the red seat frames were meant here? The wicker is still hidden under white covers, but certainly doesn't seem to be red. Could this one be the same car? Who knows more?

UPDATE 14:00 - there is uncertainty about the car's identity. It is a genuine Mini Beach Car but despite the Morris badging it is most probably an Austin, too, just like its siblings.

The Mini Beach Car was found in a barn in Iowa, where it had been stored for decades
Picture This Week with Cars / Youtube

Morris badging - all the other known Beach Cars are Austins. UPDATE: despite the badge, this is believed to be another Austin after all 
Picture This Week with Cars / Youtube

Believed to be 1 of 4 made in November 1963, this one was sold new to August 'Gussie' Busch Jr.
Picture This Week with Cars / Youtube

Wicker seats are hidden behind white covers. Heritage certificate mentions them being red
Picture This Week with Cars / Youtube

...the frames are, but the wicker itself seems to be similar to that of other cars known
Picture This Week with Cars / Youtube

Friday 7 August 2020

Building a Jimini back in 1977

It is many years ago when I was looking for a suitable Jimini of the first generation to photograph for my book Maximum Mini 2 and when I got in touch with Jim Meikle. Jim had built an early Jimini back in the 1970s but unfortunately he'd just sold the car when I contacted him. He did have some lovely pictures of the car's built though and sent these over. I thought it was about time to show these here after I came across Jim's old car recently as it was offered for sale once more (see the ad here - the car is hard to recognize though!). 

At the time Jim wrote to me: "These pictures were taken when I took delivery of the JiMiNi in April 1977, and when it was complete and road legal in July 1977. The last one was taken last year, after I bought my replacement - The Quantum H4 - which was the main reason that I sold the JiMiNi (Sob-Sob). Incidentally, the attached photo of my JiMiNi, being driven into a van, was taken when we 
moved home from the south of England, to Scotland, in 1983. I do have many more photos, taken over the 30 odd years of ownership, some in the original orange, and the newer blue colour."

That's how the customer received his painted shell from Jimini, ready to be built
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Jim Meikle
All you needed now was a suitable Mini to rob of its mechanicals. Jim had just that
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Jim Meikle

Et voila! A brand new Jimini, recycling the Mini's driving gear and its registration
Picture Jim Meikle / Jeroen Booij archive

And ready to be enjoyed by the whole family. This car surely looks to hav been loved
Picture Jim Meikle / Jeroen Booij archive

It went with the family when they moved from England to Scotland back in 1983
Picture Jim Meikle / Jeroen Booij archive
Jim sold the Jimini in 2013 to make place for a Quantum. The Jimini has come up for sale again now
Picture Jim Meikle / Jeroen Booij archive

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Who ever saw a Biota bonnet or boot?

Regular Rob Mellaart sent me a cool photograph that he took next to the Biota work shop in Dinnington when he worked for Biota manufacturer Houghton Coldwell for nearly two years. What we see is a chopped Mini with a Biota bonnet section grafted onto it. I wonder if it was equipped with the Biota boot also, as seen in period advertisements? Rob couldn't remember.

Apart from the ads I found in the files I came across just one more (sketchy) picture of a car which uses a Biota front and I believe it to be a Mini Marcos. Now that's a rare breed! Who ever saw any other Mini or derivative with Biota bonnet or boot fitted? 

Spotted at the Biota factory in 1970 - a chopped Mini with Biota bonnet
Picture courtesy Robert Mellaart

Here's another Biota bonnet but now it is fitted to a Mini Marcos (I think)!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'The Bonnet Beautiful' is how Houghton Coldwell marketed its Biota nose
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And another great pay-off: 'Fresh as the decade - Cars for the Seventies people'!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Apart from the bonnet, Houghton Coldwell also offered a Biota boot for Minis. I've never seen one
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 3 August 2020

The Prisoner Moke can now be yours

To get in the mood for this message, may I recommend you to watch this first? Yes boys and girls, that's the opening theme to that great 1960s series 'The Prisoner'. This series had such an impact that the very confusing ending led to troubles. The late Patrick McGoohan, who played the lead, said later: "The switchboard at ATV was jammed overnight, my children were molested coming from school and people were beating on the door with malice. We had to go to Wales for a couple of weeks with no telephones or contacts or whatsoever to the outside world." When fiction becomes fact... 

But apart from McGoohan the stars of the show were perhaps the village of Portmeirion in Wales and a couple of converted Mini Mokes. Just one of the Mokes was believed to survive until one time warp car was found back in 2011, which turned out to be the original and first one, too (unfortunately not by me but in my home country! - click here). It ended up in the possession of Phil Caunt who beautifully restored it. When it was finished the car was fully featured in MiniWorld and Classic & Sports Car magazine in 2018 and still is in an immaculate condition. Phil, however, hasn't been getting any better himself and has now decided to sell it. He wrote: "I wouldn't be selling but my health is not good. It is with a heavy heart that I have now, after 5 years of ownership, decided to sell the car."

Here's the outline that he wrote. 'The Prisoner Moke' is HLT 709C, the fully restored original Mini Moke as seen in several episodes of the series, and once showing its true registration number in the episode 'Living in Harmony'. McGoohan himself drove it in the famous chase scene on the beach in Portmerion. Indeed, it appears in most ' Portmeirion' episodes as well as the later studio based ones, finally appearing at the famous press launch at MGM Studio's at Borehamwood. Built in May 1965, and registered in June in London, the car was converted by Wood & Pickett to a design which resembled a 'beach buggy'. It is unknown who commissioned the car but the company 'Weircrest' were to market it... It was used in brochures, photo-shoots and publicity material, and by the London Hilton Hotel. One has to assume it was spotted by a member of the production crew as what they needed for the upcoming TV show 'The Prisoner'. Based on this another three Mokes were converted to resemble this one, including CFC 916C, which was owned by Max Hora the owner of the Prisoner shop in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed I owned and restored this Moke back in the 1990's, this vehicle now resides in Los Angeles with a Prisoner fan and Moke enthusiast.

HLT 709C was taken down to Portmeirion in late 1966 to begin filming, closely followed by the other three. Whilst filming it sustained damage to the front and had to be returned to London for repairs, the other Mokes covered its absence. After its fame in The Prisoner the car disappeared and its whereabouts were unknown, it appears to have spent time in the Sheffield area in the 1970's but after that the trail goes cold. It is rumoured to have been owned by a member of the production company although I have not been able to confirm this. In 2011 it was discovered in a farm building in Holland by a Mini enthusiast, still with its UK number plates, 'candy stripe roof' and Penny Farthing bonnet logo intact but obviously worse for wear. On to 2015 and the owner decides to sell and the car goes to auction. Upon taking delivery of the car ( I did not view it before buying... sometimes you just know you want it!), I assessed what was needed for a full but sympathetic restoration, keeping everything I could to keep the car as original as possible, whilst obtaining anything else to bring it back to how it looked in 1966. 

Perhaps the most famous of all Mini Mokes - converted by Wood & Pickett in 1965
Picture courtesy Phil Caunt

The car was used by Patrick McGoohan in the television series The Prisoner back in 1966
A famous scene reenacted for this picture on the beach of Portmeirion, Wales
Picture courtesy Phil Caunt