Wednesday, 30 September 2020
Monday, 28 September 2020
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."
Friday, 25 September 2020
Tuesday, 22 September 2020
UPDATE 24 September 2020:
Friday, 18 September 2020
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
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..?
Monday, 14 September 2020
Thursday, 10 September 2020
Monday, 7 September 2020
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..?
Thursday, 3 September 2020
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.