Wednesday 30 September 2020

The cars of Douglas Glover (2)

Douglas Glover of Dublin, Ireland, made just a few cars under the DGS banner and this is the second to take a more detailed look at.

After a first DGS Special, a buck / prototype for the DGS Firecrest and the first production car registered 'LZD 775' (full story here), the second DGS Firecrest became 'RZD 407'. It had a number of differences from the earlier car, for example the air intake on the bonnet and the lack of door handles. The car was used to shoot a number of publicity pictures and was seen in a few magazine articles.

What exactly happened in the first couple of years of the car's life remains unknown, but RZD 407 showed up in the hands of rally driver and hill climber PJ Wilhare in the late 1960s. By that time it used an extra air-intake and alloys, was bumper-less and was seen with a hardtop, too. Things went wrong when Wilhare entered the car at Knockalla hillclimb in Donegal in 1970. A fast left bend proved to be too much for the Firecrest and rolled at high speed. Somebody described it as follows: 'In a scene resembling an air crash Wilhare ended up sitting on the remains of the floorpan with the debris scattered far and wide.' What was left of the car was scrapped, but the crash made history as the fast left bend is christened 'Wilhare's Corner' ever since that day in 1970. Some more information on the Knockalla circuit and Wilhare's Corner can be found here.

DGS Firecrest production car number 2, seen here in a nice publicity shot
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Original caption: "Motoring in Ireland on holiday can be leisurely enough to enjoy a 
friendly chat. On the road near Kilkieran, County Galway"
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Even the donkeys are friendly in Ireland! Note standard wheel covers, an 850 base..?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Headlight covers made the Firecrest's nose even more aerodynamic. Standard Mini looks like a brick!
Picture courtesy Richard Heseltine

PJ Wilhare competed the car in a number of races with hardtop. Here at Kirkistown in 1969
Picture via Graemme Farr / Jeroen Booij archive

And here at Knockalla hill climb a year later. It was going to be the car's last outing
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Seen here with PJ Wilhare behind the wheel in the fast left bend. Things were okay here...
Picture via 'Pictures from the Past'

... But then it went wrong. This shot is taken just after it crashed - the Firecrest is surrounded with spectators and is not visible, though. Competitors were making their way back down the hill. All that was left of the DGS was the floor!
Picture Eddie Fitzgerald / O'Kane cars

Monday 28 September 2020

Unipower GT really used carbonfibre in 1969 - UPDATED

Carbonfibre may now be used everywhere in the motoring industry, but was of course first seen in motor sports. The very first structural use of carbon in a car is said to date back to 1981 when McLaren came with its MP4/1 model. It became the first F1 car to use a monocoque chassis of carbon fibre composite.

But there may have been earlier uses and I was recently sent a clipping which indicates so. Dated April 1969 the article is all about the Le Mans Essais (tests) of that year and gives some great insights. The Unipower GT famously made it to that Le Mans test day, too, and it was great to read the following: "British interests were upheld by the Healey-Climax V8 2-litre prototype and Piers Forester with his carbon-fibre element bodied Unipower 1.3." Yes. 'Carbon-fibre element bodied'. Twelve years before McLaren, that is.

Unipower aficionado Gerry Hulford had mentioned it before (here), writing: "The car had a very thin fibreglass body strengthened by carbonfibre strands laid across the fibreglass (I saw it with Piers Forester when I visited the Works in May of 1969)". Unfortunately the car itself does not survive as it was crashed and written-off at the Nurburgring in September 1970 using a Ford 1600 engine. The yellow racer that Gerry has is a replica of the Le Mans car (which I didn't know when Maximum Mini 1 was published back in 2009!) 

But back to the use of carbon fibre, if only it was for that very early date. I have asked a little around and Michael Cooke came back with the following: "Although it was invented in the 1950s as a stable consistent filament, it was a research laboratory in England that first made a workable form in the mid 1960s, I'm sure it was a division of Courtalds that managed to weave / produce the sheets. It is possible that they teamed up with or sold to the motoring industry, but my knowledge is not motorsport based. But motorsport has always found uses for other industries developments, eg - aluminium honeycombs, titanium, inconel et cetera. Most of the initial development was for industrial and defence uses but motorsport is always is very quick to capitalise on the developments of new materials. Earlier carbon composite materials are quite different from later/modern composite composition though."

An interesting article shows the Unipower GT at Le Mans Essais in April 1969... 
Picture courtesy Henk A. Hazelaar

...and mentions it, too, as: the 'Carbon-fibre element bodied Unipower 1.3'
Picture courtesy Henk A. Hazelaar

Forester and his Unipower GT had no luck at the test day in April 1969, last in this list
Picture courtesy Henk A. Hazelaar

UPDATE 1 October 2020 - Not one, but three messages from Gerry Hulford, added below. I have edited them mildly by only taking out the more personal stuff in order to shorten them a little.

"Dear Jeroen, I read your blog about the use of carbon fibre by Unipower back in 1969, which is of course very true as the Unipower GT was an innovator in a number of ways back then. However, firstly where did you ever get the idea that my car is a ‘Replica of the Le Mans car’? I bought my car in 1976 and it was both the first Unipower GT car sold by Universal Power Drives (UPD) in January 1966 and the first chassis constructed by UPD. It was also sold and built as the first ever competition GT version of the Unipower GT and delivered to its customer in April 1966. For various reasons following another Unipower owners’ untrue claims as to the provenance of his car, my car’s history & provenance was recently legally documented and authenticated by Ernie Unger, the founder of the Unipower GT sports car. It has always been a competition GT version, and was raced by John Miles for its first owner before being bought back by Piers Weld-Forester the then co-owner of UWF Automotive Engineering, the second company to manufacture the Unipower GT. Piers raced the car in the UK as a UWF factory entry before, following the participation of the two only other factory competition GT cars in the World Sports Car Championship in 1969, to be co-driven by Piers in the last two races that year, being the Nurburgring 500kms and the Barcelona 12hrs, again as a factory entered car. The car bears all the original patina of its international history, carefully maintained during its sympathetic refresh in 2014 and it displays many unique features in its construction, that date its documented history throughout its life. So thank you for mentioning my commitment to the marque, but please do not refer to my car as being a ‘replica’, as this does not do service to the Unipower GT marque. There was I admit some confusion many years ago, supported by early corroboration from ex-members of UPD, that my car had been used for the Le Mans test day in May of 1969 for the Le Mans 24hrs attempt that year. However I always had my doubts, despite the obvious potential status for the car, and following extensive research by myself with the benefit of employees from the UWF factory over many years, found that the confusion had been caused by the test day entry never ‘officially’ having been built and recorded in any factory records and as my car was being raced by Piers, it was ‘assumed’ it had been used by him. He being also the only driver to drive the car at that test day. As to the carbon fibre story, indeed this material was in its infancy in those early days. The ability to work with such a material was being learnt, hence the rather crude, by today’s standards, use of the material affixed in ‘strands’ formed into a matrix to the underside of the conventional but much thinner fiberglass layup on the Unipower GT built specially for the June Le Mans 24hrs attempt. This I did indeed see when I was first shown the car by Piers Forester back in early 1969. Regards, Gerry Hulford" 

"Hi Jeroen, Thank you for your reply. Indeed as I clearly stated in my email, I took the judgement of past members of the Unipower factory that my car had been used by Piers Forester on that test day in May 1969. However, I like to think to my credit, I still had a nagging doubt. In some respects for the promotion of the marque, that a car still existed from that event was good news, but you will see that I did not take it to lots of shows and make a big thing about it although various journalists liked the association. After many years of finding more photos and researching the paint layers (the initial colour and then many coats of yellow before another colour on the car when I bought it from the owner after Unipower), specific body features, as well as further in depth conversations with its designer and workshop manager and some close friends of Piers, I came to the conclusion that the car used that day, was built specially and never officially existed. I have much more detail around this story which will be in the book. All this I have authenticated from multiple conversations with ex-Unipower staff who thankfully are still alive. So the history of my car is as I stated in the email to you, with the added fact that, and once again now fully authenticated by the designer present at the testing and the driver of the car, the discovery and first use of air dam was done on my car in late 1966. Again I have the full story in a verbal transcript from the ex-Unipower source to confirm this as well as photographic evidence, also in a signed document. Regards Gerry"

"Hi Jeroen. Just also on your calling my car a ‘Replica’, this implies to your readership that my car is a ‘Fake’ and that it has been built as a copy of another car. Even, as in the definition of the term replica, that the car was not originally built by Unipower. I’m sure you will see how damaging such a statement can be to the Unipower marque and indeed to myself. So once again, thank you in anticipation that you publish my comment, but a small retraction/clarification from yourself I think is also in order, so as to remove the doubt that the ‘replica’ statement would have instilled in some people’s minds. Regards Gerry" 

My replies (also slightly shortened): 
"I will update the article with your comment but am still very much confused about your car since you told me with great determination that it was the number 53 Le Mans car many years ago. It is not that, I believe now. As the owner of a genuine historic Le Mans car I know very well now that you have to be careful with claims like this."

"Personally I would never claim a car to be a certain racer when I’d have a nagging doubt but, hey, that’s me. Best, Jeroen"

Friday 25 September 2020

Deep Sandersons at Le Mans

In my everlasting search for photographs I came across a whole bunch of pictures of the Deep Sandersons at Le Mans recently. You'll find a selection of them below. Enjoy them and have a great weekend!

Full story of the Deep Sandersons at Le Mans in 1963 here.
Full story of the Deep Sandersons at Le Mans in 1964 here

July 1963 - the first Deep Sanderson appears at the famous circuit of La Sarthe
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

All in the nose: the long-range petrol tank, battery and spare. Some unusual positioning
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

The car used a Downton tuned 997 Mini engine. Note steel wheels. JA Pearce designed mag wheels followed a year later and eventually made it to my car - the '66 Le Mans Mini Marcos
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

The car didn't finish. "It was really very good in the corners but along the straight it was truly awful"
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

Le Mans Essais (test day) in April 1964. Chris Lawrence behind the car, still on steels
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

Almost the same spot, but now during the the 24-hours race in July, when two cars were entered wearing numbers 66 and 42. Note mag wheels fitted now
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

Its 1295 cc Downton prepared engine had hardly been run in. Driver Gordon Spice was quoted: "Forget about testing it before the race, we all knew that straight out of the box we had a winner on our hands". Unfortunately did not finish either
Picture courtesy John Wheatley / Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Taylorspeed Mini Jem moulds for sale - UPDATED

The moulds to produce bodies for the Taylorspeed Mini Jem have made it to the market in Australia. Phil Huxtable, who offers them for sale got in touch, writing: "Hi Jeroen. My moulds are the Australian built ones from a Jem imported from the UK. They are Mk1 Jems and all cars made here are obviously Mk1's. I have had the moulds for about 20 years and I have made 2 cars. In total 12 cars have been made from the moulds. They are complete with a drilling jig and roof holding frame. There are many parts to the moulds including dash, doors (2 sets), bonnet (2 different styles), seat, inside, under and various bolt-in parts. There are about 33 separate mould parts of various size. This is the only complete Mk1 set in the world. I am only getting rid of them because being 70, I can't see me using them much more. I estimate there is over A$7000 in fibre glass alone plus labour to make frames for main mould and drilling jig. Also you may notice that I have removed the bulge in the tunnel for the 850 starter button. Makes a neater plan."

"I also send you some pictures of my 2 Jems, made out of the moulds. The orange Jem has a 1300 Mini engine, the black one a 1300 turbo twin cam Toyota engine and 5-speed gearbox. Phil."
Parties interested can get in touch here.

Two Mini Jems made by Phil from the Taylorspeed moulds he now offers for sale
Picture Phil Huxtable

Plan to built Mini Jems yourself? Then this set of moulds is a must-have 
Picture Phil Huxtable

Just 12 Mini Jems have been made from this set, which seems to be still in a good condition
Picture Phil Huxtable

With the set of moulds also comes a drilling jig and all the parts necessary 
Picture Phil Huxtable

According to Phil the set consists of about 33 separate mould parts of various size
Picture Phil Huxtable

Nose section can be fitted with two different bonnet styles, both available
Picture Phil Huxtable

Wide wheel arches come separately also, so it's up to you to fit these on the car 
Picture Phil Huxtable

One of the two cars that Phil built from the set uses a 1300 Mini engine...
Picture Phil Huxtable

...While the other one comes with Toyota-sourced 1300 with turbo and twin cam 
Picture Phil Huxtable

UPDATE 24 September 2020
I've had a number of enquiries and got back to Phil about these. His reply: "Actually it is all happening quicker than I imagined it would be. I would like to do a couple of things prior to it going. I need to pop out a spare body for me. Hopefully my cars will remain damage free so the spare will just sit in the corner. I have had enquiries for an order for a body from down here in OZ. However we are just talking.  I also wanted to test the Japanese market for the moulds. So I would like to advertise there too. My neighbor is Japanese and she is going to write an add for me to send to Japan (your article may well end up in Japan anyway). So I can't see me letting the moulds go before the end of the year. I am in a position that if I get a good fair price I would be willing to sell them. I am in no urgency to sell. Some people may say does he want to sell them or not. I'm open to selling them, HOWEVER I'm not bothered if they sell or not. They can sit in my new shed, undercover, on concrete, covered over and secure. I'm not going to give them away. As for the price, is very hard to put a specific price. Many opinions and suggestions. I have a price in mind, just think of it as a reserve that I don't want to disclose at the moment. I will let the market dictate a value. That is, the moulds will be sold by offer. You have done great work and I appreciate it, you were very interested and efficient, as I have dealt with people who normally take months to get things done. People can contact me directly or through you. Depends on whether you want to be bothered. I thank you for all your help and assistance with this."

Friday 18 September 2020

The cars of Paul Banham

In the last few weeks a couple of cars from the Banham Conversion stables made it to the market and I thought that made it about time to show some of the creations of Paul Banham here also. I believe that Banham ceased trading by this time, but he used to be a particularly prolific designer who pumped out a great of number of kits and conversions, ranging from Aston Martin- and Bentley convertibles to Porsche 550 Spyder and Ford RS200 replicas. 

Best known became perhaps his clever Banham Sprint which replicated the Austin-Healey Sprite Mk1 and closely resembled it, too, despite having a Mini base. Banham reputedly found out that the Sprite Mk1 was originally meant to be Mini-based, which gave him the idea. Banham reputedly sold some 300 kits, making the Sprint one of his best sellers. There was also the Mini speedster, which was a pretty straightforward conversion to turn any Mini saloon into a two-seater with chopped down roof, A-pillars and windscreen plus twin roll-hoops and removable rear cover panel. 

The Mini Metro was another Banham favourite and could be turned into the Banham Superbug (a open buggy style car), the Banham X99 (Audi TT concept-inspired Coupe and Convertible), Banham Bat (futuristic-looking development of the X99). I went to Paul's workshop in Kent in 2013 to see and drive his latest (Jaguar based) creation at the time and spent a lovely day with the man full of great stories.

Paul Banham with the Jaguar based XK180 several years ago when we had a great day out
Picture courtesy Pieter E Kamp

Sprite? Nope, it's a Sprint. That's the Mini based Banham Sprint to be exact

 Banham is believed to have sold around 300 Sprint kits, making it one of his best sellers
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The original Sprite uses an A-series engine, but not placed like this one in the Sprint

 The Banham Speedster was a Mini saloon turned into a two-seater roadster 

 While the Banham Superbug was perhaps a beach buggy for the 2000s. Not many were made

And how about the Metro based banham Bat? Its styling was certainly unique

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Crayford in Knokke

This smart Crayford Mini Sprint in Tweed Grey was spotted this summer in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. I believe it could well be the car that was sold at Coys' Fontwell sale in 2017 (click here). It was registered 1070 PP in the UK at the time and right hand driven, while this one is lhd. The same car..?

Smart Crayford Mini Sprint, as seen in Belgium this summer
Picture via Jacques de Wever

Monday 14 September 2020

Ultra-rare Ogle Mini GT flyer

Many of you will know the brochure and / or flyer for the Ogle SX1000, which both must have been printed in relatively large numbers. But I recently learned there was also a 6-page flyer for the Ogle Mini GT - that's the SX1000 before the Mini name was banned. Quoting from my first book: "BMC - which had initially refused to supply new parts (...) soon agreed to supply parts, but insisted that no mention of the word ‘Mini’ was used in promotional material." 

This rare flyer must have been printed early in 1962 and I have never seen one, other than the lo-res front of it copied in below. I'm now desperate to have one! Who can help? 

You may know this brochure for the Ogle SX1000...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

...But how about this one for the Ogle Mini GT..?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 10 September 2020

The cars of Douglas Glover (1)

When a new picture of a DGS Firecrest was posted to me recently (thank you Graeme), I was kind of surprised to find I never wrote about these cars here before. And since I'm in a good mood I thought I'd do a little write-up here on all the DGS cars that I know of, starting with the first one now.

DGS stood for Douglas Glover Special, with Glover being the man responsible. He was in fact production manager for Lincoln & Nolan in Dublin, which were Austin agents and assemblers for Ireland. They also link to what is possibly world's very first Mini-derivative, too (click here).

Anyhow. Glover had built a Mini based Special in 1963, which became a forerunner to the Firecrest. More on that later - let's focus on the Firecrest for now. A buck for a new body and a mould were made by maintenance staff of Lincoln & Nolan, with fibreglass monocoque production bodies to follow. The car's sides certainly seemed Midget/Sprite-inspired, and the windscreen, side screens, soft top and rear lights were sourced from that model, too. A Midget or Sprite hard top could be fitted also, but may have been altered. The front used double round headlights were placed further back with the possibility of putting Perspex covers over them.

The first production car was registered LZD 775 in 1963 and is said to have used Austin Cooper running gear. Wheelbase and track were similar to that of the original Mini. Just two more Firecrest followed, more on these soon.

The buck for the DGS Firecrest, made by the maintenance staff of Lincoln & Nolan
Picture courtesy Bill Bell / Jeroen Booij archive

The sides were clearly Midget / Sprite inspired and the (altered?) hardtop fitted, too
Picture courtesy Bill Bell / Jeroen Booij archive

Wheelbase and track, however, were similar to that of the Mini itself
Picture courtesy Bill Bell / Jeroen Booij archive

The first DGS Firecrest production car was registered LZD 775, here on a great PR shot
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Double round headlight were certainly distinctive. Sprite / Midget screen and sidescreens 
Picture courtesy Richard Heseltine

The car is seen here in Phoenix Park, Dublin during a 1963 MG Car Club trial
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 7 September 2020

Mystery Mini derivative (68)

This car fits in perfectly in the series of DIY Mini Coupes from exotic origins: a fastback Mini from Ecuador, built from a Mini Pick-up and said to be photographed in 1970. Unfortunately that's also just about all we know. The picture, posted by Richard Baltus, is not clear enough to make out the driver's name. Guayaquil is a city in Ecuador - can we assume that it originated from there?

There are not too many racing tracks in Ecuador, or so I understand and best known is Potrero de los Funes but that didn't open before 1987. There is also the Autodromo Yahuarcocha, which opened in 1970 so that could be it. However, there must have been various road races also and this shot looks as if it may very well have been taken on one. Who knows..?

Ecuadorian Mini Coupe seen at around 1970 and supposedly based on a Pick-up
Picture Richard Baltus

Thursday 3 September 2020

Wood & Pickett promotor - who are you?

Some photographs have been seen so many times that you take them for granted. But they may still be worth a closer look. This famous Wood & Pickett shot is definitely one of them, having appeared in a great number of publications. The Mini seems to be the one owned by comedian Laurence Harvey, but who's the man next to it? He always reminded me of actor Richard O'Sullivan, but I later read it was ex-hairdresser and Twiggy manager Justin de Villeneuve, which seemed to make sense. De Villeneuve must have been really close to the coachbuilt Mini scene in the late 1960s and seemed just the man who would drive one around London at the time. His hairstyle fitted in perfectly, too.

But then I saw a new magazine clipping, which mentioned not Justin de Villeneuve but John Paul as the man in the picture. And the caption added quite some detail with it, too. It mentioned: "John Paul, proprietor of the 'I was Lord Kitchener's Valet' group of boutiques, found that his Buick Riviera was too wide for narrow Carnaby Street. He was therefore specially 'fitted' for a £2,700 tailor-made Mini Cooper S by Wood & Pickett Limited, who specialize in luxurious Minis for luxury-loving folk. The Mini is painted Bahama Yellow to Rolls-Royce finish, and has a black, padded sliding roof, darkened glass, special racing wheels and tyres, stereo radio, etc... and four anti-theft devices!' Another clipping shows John Paul with a coachbuilt Mini - which certainly seems to be very special, although not Bahama Yellow...

So... Who is the great Wood & Pickett promotor on that well-known groovy picture? Is it Justin de Villeneuve, John Paul or Richard O'Sullivan after all? Please step forward!

UPDATE 6 November 2020: W&P is confirmed to be John Paul! More here.

Famous photograph: measured up to have a bespoke Mini coachbuilt by Wood & Pickett
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Several sources mention the man as being Justin de Villeneuve, who famously managed Twiggy 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But not this one. It's said to be John Paul here, and the caption is rather detailed, too
Picture via Tony Hatchback

Justin de Villeneuve was Twiggy's manager and very much a fashion man
Picture Getty Images

Twiggy was of course an icon of the 1960s... and she drove a coachbuilt Mini
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But de Villeneuve was into cars, also, or so it seems. Here stepping out of a Toyota 2000GT
Picture Getty Images

Over to John Paul, who ticks all the boxes, too. He ran a fashion shop in Carnaby Street, London, which was a favorite among all the stars in the late-1960s and early 1970s...
Picture Shutterstock

...And he was definitely a motoring man, too, who did own a coachbuilt Mini, 
as seen here together with his Lamborghini Espada
Picture via Tony Hatchback

So... John, Justin or Richard after all?