Friday 30 October 2020

Le Mans 1966 - Mini Marcos

This is my 10th anniversary present for you, dear reader. All the film footage I have found of the Mini Marcos at Le Mans in 1966 put together to make this one video. There were 24 clips in which it was seen, some several seconds, others just a fraction of that. Together with some more general Le Mans '66 material it makes some 3 and a half minutes of footage. I hope you'll like it - don't forget to turn on the sound! Oh and if you can't see it - click here.

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.

Video Maximum Mini / Juriaan & Jeroen Booij

Thursday 29 October 2020

Solved after 10 years - the mysterious Gnat

10 Years ago today I made the first posting on what would become the Maximum Mini weblog and it was about a mystery Mini derivative named Gnat. See the article here. Imagine my surprise when the designer and builder of that particular car contacted me earlier this year! I thought it could make the perfect article to publish today - exactly a decade after my plea for information. This is what I received: 

"Hello Jeroen, I have seen your name in the classic car magazines with reference to Mini Specials. Here are some photos of the Gnat, a 998cc based Mini Special I built 1990/91. I sold it about 1994 but have not seen or heard of it since. The DVLA records acknowledge its existence but it has neither current road tax or SORN. The latter is a shame because it means it will have difficulty getting back on the road. If this is of interest to you I could give you more details and photos of the build. Regards Franklin Woodcock."

That name did ring a bell, but from what or where? Then I remembered: Franklin D Woodcock was a contributor to Peter Filby’s kit car titles in the 1980s and I always thought that had been one of Filby's 'noms de plume'! Franklin: "I was born soon after Franklin D Roosevelt died in 1945 and my folks were big fans. A guy at school said “With a name like that you’ll get a job anywhere”. His name was David White, which he thought was a handicap. I can’t say he was right but at least it’s memorable. I was in email contact with Simon Taylor recently and he thought exactly the same as you about it being a Filby nom de plume!"

Franklin continued with his recollections of the car: "I had the foolish idea that in 1990 the world needed another Mini based kit car. Wrong! Twenty years too late. Anyway, together with a friend who was a technical illustrator I went ahead. His drawings show a credible idea of what a 1990s Mini special should look like but unfortunately my body building skills did not match up. I had built 3 one-off specials prior to this but they were 1930s style jobs. That really is my thing, I started in 1963 with a 1933 MG L2 Magna and today I drive a Marlin Roadster which I have owned for 20 years and it’s the best car I have ever had. Back to the Gnat, I started with a mid-70s 850cc Mini with a poor body but sound mechanics. I scrapped the body and kept all the essentials. I 'designed' and welded up the chassis in my single garage and made the crude bodywork from plywood, MDF and filler (lots of it). The gear lever has an extension because I didn’t want the bonnet to be the usual stubby style as with most Minis and Mini based kits. I tack welded the pieces together until I was sure everything was okay, then I finished it off and painted it. I didn’t touch any of the mechanical parts, I just bolted them all on as they worked okay in the original car. If you look at the rear view chassis photo you can just see the bolt heads of my 'tappet' adjuster for the rear suspension inside the triangulated corners. I made these because I didn’t know what the ride height would be. By rotating the bolt it would push on the disc pressing on the rubber suspension trumpet and raise or lower the car. To make it look more credible I fitted 12” wheels. It was sprayed professionally in Porsche Guards red. The bumpers and spoiler were narrowed Marina and Metro items and I think the spats were from a later Mini. The grill was made from plastic curtain rail and the centre badge moulding was a ceiling light rose with a badge made by a graphic designer mate. The seats were plywood with homemade cushions. Although I am not very proud of the body design I think my detailing was good, especially the dash which tells you exactly what it is. Because it was designed by me, for me, I have to say it was one of the most comfortable cars I have ever driven, it fitted like a glove. I used it for work on nice days but never got round to making any foul weather gear. When I first drove it I had a shock as it was gutless. There was nothing wrong with the original car but this thing seemed to be lacking 'go'. I put it on a weighbridge and found out to my horror that it weighed about the same as a standard Mini! I had grossly over-engineered it. From 1992-97 I worked for Midland Autotrader mag and I sold the car to one of my clients. I saw him about 10 years ago and asked after the car, he told me he sold it to another car dealer way back so I have no idea where it is now unfortunately. I think that just about covers it. Bye for now, Franklin."

As he'd found me through the print media, I directed Franklin also to Maximum Mini online, which opened another world: "Now you’ve started something! I knew there were a lot of us Mini special builders out there but I didn’t realize how many. This will occupy me for ages, thanks for that. In the early 1980s Filby asked me to edit a mag on one-off specials as I was 'the specialist'. After I had got most of the stuff together he pulled it as on 2nd thoughts it would not be a good seller. However, he did suggest to me that I might like to do it on my own at my own expense. Foolishly I took it on with the hope of making it a quarterly publication. After a lot of heartache, money and work my wife and I launched it in 1983. It ran for the one issue and obviously I lost money on it BUT it got it out of my system and it was well received by those who bought it. My attic creaked with unsold copies for years until I committed them to the council tip about 15 years ago. I still come across a few when rummaging in the attic. Bye for now, Franklin."

Thank you very much for all that Franklin! It's very good to hear from you even if it took a decade. Proof that perseverance pays! Now, wouldn't it be nice to learn that the car survives..?

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.

There it is! The Gnat mystery has finally been solved thanks to its creator
Picture Franklin Woodcock

Inspired by the Mk1 Sprite, Franklin asked an illustrator friend to come up with a design sketch
Picture Franklin Woodcock

Franklin: 'He was a keen designer and car enthusiast but not a mechanic - he didn’t realize that his nicely sloping bonnet would not suit the high, forward biased engine package of the Mini'
Picture Franklin Woodcock 

"His drawings show a credible idea of what a 1990s Mini special should look like but unfortunately my body building skills did not match up"
Picture Franklin Woodcock

The car's body was made from plywood, MDF and filler ('lots of it')
Picture Franklin Woodcock

 The chassis was designed and welded up in a single garage
Picture Franklin Woodcock

 The 'tappet' adjuster for the rear suspension inside the triangulated corners is just visible here
Picture Franklin Woodcock

'Although I am not very proud of the body design I think my detailing was good, especially the dash'
Picture Franklin Woodcock

Grill made from plastic curtain rail, badge moulding was a ceiling light rose with a badge made by a graphic designer mate
Picture Franklin Woodcock

The seats were homemade, too, and again plywood was used, furbished with homemade cushions
Picture Franklin Woodcock

Wednesday 28 October 2020

This is a special announcement from Maximum Mini towers. 

Tomorrow it will be 10 years since this weblog got its little place in the world wide web. Ten years! I started it after I didn't know what to do with the photographic archive left from making Maximum Mini volume 1. Little did I know then! In 10 years time 1,204 articles and thousands of photographs were published here. I have been derided for doing it, but also appreciated and even praised. Hey, it was all with a love for the Mini based car in mind. 

But why and for who? I often wonder about that myself! Do drop me a line if you have feedback, whatever it is, as that may keep me going for another while. Another drive is the cars that keep on coming out of the woodwork. I can assure you there are more to come. I've got some exiting articles ready to be posted, with two special ones for tomorrow and Friday, it is an anniversary after all.

Last but not least I might just as well ask you for a favour. If you enjoy what I do here on Maximum Mini and if you would like to help me continue to do so for years to come, then I would very much appreciate a donation to keep this blog going. Maximum Mini cannot exist without you, dear reader. 

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Mini Mouse of Chuckles the Clown found

Now this is a find of a different kind! A Mini-based three-wheeler that was used by a clown! Maximum Mini fan extraordinaire Tony Bucknall, whom I visited earlier this year (click here and scroll down), dropped me a line recently: "Good afternoon, I hope you are well? Do you have any images of the Mini Mouse? Picked one up less the windscreen surround, but have no idea what it should look like..."

You bet I knew the Mini Mouse, and if you look up the entry on the model in Maximum Mini 3 you will read "(...) Another one with a home-made hardtop was equipped with a speaker system for use by Chuckles the Clown throughout the UK! All seven were supposedly sold fully built. One was unearthed in 2011 in a derelict state, but other survivors are unknown."

And there was no doubt that Tony's latest purchase was in fact Chuckles the Clown's car. Tony added: "The fibreglass has been hacked through along the base line and the chassis is typically 1970’s kit car. The mechanics are late 1960’s magic wand gear stick and early electrics. But it’s registered as a Leyland 3-wheeler so that’s a key part. This one was registered on the 13th of July 1983. I’m thinking the circus had to get it registered to use it on the road for promotion purposes but I bet some clown MOT’d it just using a Mini ref they found at the time!"

Anyone here who ever saw it in action in a circus or parade, at a festival or carnival?

Bright colours, flowers and clowns figures - there can only be one Mini Mouse like that
Picture Tony Bucknall

Moulded-in windscreen and hardtop are gone, but Tony is just the man to repair this
Picture Tony Bucknall

From the files: same car as used by Chuckles the Clown. This must be before being registered in '83
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The simplicity of the Mini Mouse becomes clear when the body is taken off
Picture Tony Bucknall

Typically 1970s kit car chassis, says Tony. Mechanicals are 1960s though with magic wand gear
Picture Tony Bucknall

Single rear wheel uses modified Mini wheel suspension, too
Picture Tony Bucknall

Tony wonders how this one needs to be restored. I say: keep it as a tribute to Chuckles the Clown!
Picture Tony Bucknall

Mini Mouse parked next to Tony's other Mini based cars and projects. Quite a few!
Picture Tony Bucknall

Pleasing the crowds. Did Chuckles the Clown also use the Mini Mouse in his act?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The circus probably didn't register it until they wanted to use it on the road for promotion purposes
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 26 October 2020

Mk3 Mini Marcos for sale in France

A particularly good looking Mk3 Mini Marcos has just made it to the market. It's a 1967 car (with the pretty dashboard layout) and correctly registered as such. The car has been restored in the last two years without cutting costs and now comes with full integrated roll cage. See it for sale in the Maximum Mini Market here

Road registered in France and ready to be viewed by FIA for historic racing
Picture Nicolas Pinon

This Mk3 Mini Marcos has just been restored over a two-year period
Picture Nicolas Pinon

This Mk3 comes with the early dashboard layout and fully integrated roll bar
Picture Nicolas Pinon

85hp on the wheels - proof is there, as well as a full history and restoration file
Picture Nicolas Pinon

Wednesday 21 October 2020

The cars of Douglas Glover (3) UPDATED

Over to another DGS Firecrest, built by Douglas Glover of Dublin, Ireland in the 1960s.

The first Firecrest was described here in detail recently (click here) followed by the second car, which was used for PR activities and later raced and spectacularly crashed on a hill climb in Donegal (click here). This is number three of which unfortunately not much is known other than that it is supposedly a coupe. 

'KZE 999' is a Dublin County registration, issued somewhere between May 1963 and June 1964. Apart from having a closed roof the car is wearing different headlights then the other two with large chrome surrounds plus spotlights (Facel Vega!?). The picture below is unfortunately the only one that I have of the car.

UPDATE 24 October 2020: Eddie Fitzgerald dropped me a line as he knows more about 'KZE 999': "I have a memory of seeing it in the mid 1960s. Glover started a business a few miles from where I lived, I think the roof section may have been a one-piece moulding fitted onto the shell like a hard top. I have seen this photo before, and it is the only one I have seen of the car, which was either stolen and never found or written off in an accident with a truck. Regards Eddie."

The number 'KZE 999' belongs to DGS Firecrest number three
Picture Jeroen Booij archive, source unknown

Monday 19 October 2020

Mystery Mini derivative (70)

A little ad from a 1974 Cars & Car Conversions magazine was sent over by Rachel Nelson, who wondered if I knew it. I don't. The car is advertised as 'Mini based Special - one of three only' but I have never come across anything similar or it must be the DART, which has perhaps some hints of this creature. The ad further states '41 inches low, less engine and box. Must go now, getting tatty so best offer secures', followed by an old London number. I can't read the registration well ('GBP 801C' perhaps?), but maybe it rings a bell to anyone here?

Mystery Mini derivative from London as seen in a 1974 ad and said to be 'one of three'
Picture Cars & Car Conversions via Rachel Nelson

DART has perhaps hints of it, but can't have anything to do with it, can it?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday 15 October 2020

Gitane GT still missing, new picture found

People keep on alerting me when Mini based cars come up for sale or when new automobilia or pictures emerge, which is great. And when a previously unknown photograph of the long-lost Gitane GT comes to the light, it's a perfect opportunity to write about that car once more. It's shown here in its second guise, as modified by Tony 'Podge' Dealey in what has to be a hill climb. This is the first picture that I see of it wearing no wire wheels. So is it earlier or later than the other photos that I have of it? Hard to say as it also came with a radiator opening in its aluminium nose in a later stage, but still used wires then.

The car was initially registered '947 GEA' but later wore the number '232 HWD'. More information is naturally more than welcome. I still hope to find the West-Bromwich-built Gitane one day. More on the beautiful GT in articles from 2011 (here), from 2015 (here) and from 2018 (here).

The Gitane GT being hill climbed with, I think, Tony 'Podge' Dealey behind the wheel
Picture Jeroen Booij archive, thanks to Scott Barrett

The elusive Gitane GT as seen in Motor magazine when it was new in 1962
Picture Motor, colourisation Jeroen Booij

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Lotus Fisher GT found! (2)

The Lotus Fisher GT is found (click here) and here is the second installment of the car's discovery, where new-owner Dan Stokes tells how he found it. Over to Dan!

"Friday 3rd October 2020. My father-in-law was round my house and told me he had been with my mother-in-law to her friend's house and seen an old car sat in the garden. They had asked what it was and the then-owner mister Burke had stated how it was something Lotus and a sort of kit car, he also just wanted it gone. From what I am told they instantly had looked at each other and said 'Dan'. Both knowing how mad I am on all sorts of vehicles and the depths I go into with them both personally and at my garage they knew this would be a car for me."

"On Monday the 5th October my mother-in-law had come round for my wife’s birthday and text me mister Burke’s number so I could arrange collecting the car from him. Which I am so glad I did. On Wednesday the 7th October at around 10:30 am, my friend Shane and I arrived at mister Burke’s house in Southampton for the first time. Having opened the gates on the driveway to allow me to examine the car, mister Burke came out and passed me a folder of paperwork - the logbook stating 'Fisher' as the make. I instantly knew the name and expected it to be a race car as I'd read about Fisher’s some time ago. There was also a few letters in the folder stating it had been raced along with some magazines. The car was clearly in a very sorry state, stacked full of parts with odd wheels, flat tyres and the screen, which just sat loosely in place."

"I asked mister Burke about his ownership and how he had come across it. He stated he'd purchased the car some 20 years before to save it from certain bad fate from a lad in his late teens in Portsmouth. He bought it with good intentions as planned to restore it to its former glory but with a very busy work life of long days along with renovating his home the years had unfortunately just passed by leaving it in the sorry state it already was."

"Although the car had sat outside mister Burke's already full garage, he had kept it covered as best he could. He also asked me to clear an Austin Metro and has since very kindly offered to sell me his own late mothers 1951 Ford Prefect which I really look forward to also getting back together. The Fisher's true origin was unknown to him though. He was aware that the vehicle's engine was from a Mini and there was some sort of Lotus base. It seems he was not aware it was the race car she once proudly stood as. The steering wheel was inscribed 'Lotus Fisher GT'. We used brother straps attached to the rear frame and a winch to begin removing the car. Initially, none of the wheels turned, however, tapping each wheel with a hammer eventually freed them, making it easier to load onto the recovery vehicle. (One of the track rod ends was detached, so caution was needed as the car, at times, had a mind of its own). The nose cone was detached, which made loading easier."

"Once on the recovery vehicle, it was simply a matter of replacing the nose cone, the loose windscreen, seat and other ancillary parts, all of which were secured using ratchet straps. When we got back to my garage, Aldsworth Garage Ltd. in Aldsworth near Emsworth in West Sussex (click here for details), we wasted no time on unloading her and getting her into the spray booth so in the warm and dry."

"Later that day we emptied the Fisher out, cleared up the rotten wood that laid on the aluminium floors and found that mister Burke had beemn 100% correct in stating most of the original parts were with it inside. The lights, a number plate and even four wheels nut covers with an 'F' for 'Fisher' on! Once the car was empty, we tried to turn the engine with a ratchet and socket. To all our complete surprise after what has probably been over 30 years sitting it turned and had compression."

"Obviously it will need a full rebuild but it was a great start. We googled the words 'Lotus Fisher GT' from the steering wheel and found the article ‘The many faces of the Fisher’ written by yourself, which clearly shows my car's registration number and pictures of the car's build and being raced etc., which is what led me to contact you. I have since been in contact with other people regarding the car also but have stated nobody is to post about it including any pictures I have taken. As it was your article that led me to finding what she truest is, I wish for you to be the one to write about her fist. From your pictures I was shocked the car isn’t in a lot worse condition to be honest and that mainly she is complete still holding the Lotus parts you show. I would like it on record although I truly am extremely grateful that Mister Burke was so kind as to gift me the Lotus Fisher GT and I fully intend to get it back and road going. He is the person who is responsible for saving this iconic car when I was just a teen myself. I have already been asked by various people if the car is for sale and I must state it currently is not. But I am happy for people to contact me at my email Best regards, Dan Stokes."

Most parts are there. Registration 'ASG 182B' is still on the car and will be in Dan's name soon
Picture Dan Stokes

Lotus Elite boot lid seen here - with the same number - before the Mini engine was placed
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The Lotus Elite used to build the Fisher GT outside Jack Fisher's garage in Canning Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. The car next to it is a Lotus 12 that was owned by Fisher at the same time
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The car's inside during its build. Were the original Elite bucket seats retained?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

I'm not sure wether this is a detail of the Elite's frame or the Fisher made space frame when just being built, this must be the car's rear I reckon
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This photograph was taken at the East Fortune Airfield Sprint in May '64. Fisher came 5th overall

ASG 182B as the Fisher GT. Dan would love to know the car's original colours. He's found traces of green, anyone who knows more? Note flared arches here
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Action shot made in the mid-1960s. Jack Fisher sprinted and hill climbed the GT
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Canning Street in Edinburgh where the car was built. Seen here in March 2018
Picture Alastair Brown

Dan made a little walkaround movie of the Fisher GT as it sits in his workshop today
Video Dan Stokes

Monday 12 October 2020

Lotus Fisher GT found! (1)

In the last few weeks I received some great messages about long-lost Mini based cars being found. The one I got from Dan Stokes ticks all the boxes of mystery and intrigue, originality and desirability. 

It started with an e-mail from Dan a week ago, when he wrote: "Hello Sir, I found your most interesting article regarding the Lotus Fisher GT attached (see it here). I rescued this car today with registration 'ASG 182B' and am looking to restore it to its former glory. Would you happen to have any further pictures? Or details as I’d love to get it just as it was when raced. Also would you be interested in pictures from the restoration process?"

Of course I was interested. But knowing something about the history of the cars built by Jack Fisher of Edinburgh, Scotland, I was quite sure Dan's find was for the Fisher GT's (Lotus derived) body alone. This as I'd found out that the car had been modified into the Fisher Spyder throughout the years. How wrong I was! 

I exchanged information with Dan and sent him a couple of historical images. When he dropped me another line, now adding some photographs of his find. And, boy, I was in for a grand surprise! There was no doubt that the car was still intact, up to its original space frame, body made from a Lotus Elite with Lotus 23-nose section and even its Mini engine placed at the back. Wow! 

And so I took another deep breath to see what I'd missed in my earlier researches. Work on the Fisher GT was started as early as in 1959, with a very early 850 Mini engine and a Lotus Elite body shell cut in half in an accident as starting points. Jack Fisher had built a space frame picking up existing door pillars and windscreen tubing. He'd kept the Lotus Elite's boot intact, with the space frame made into that, to have the Mini engine fitted. A Lotus 23 nose was modified to fit and Sprite wheels & drum brake assembly were used to put the car on its wheels. When finished it was sprinted and hillclimbed in a number of events in Scotland and northern England, after which the engine was changed twice. First to a 1000 with an MG head, then again to a 1071 Cooper 'S'. Later a new space frame was constructed using Lotus 23 suspension, discs, wider wheels but still using the 1071 engine while a new body was also made now using Lotus 23 nose and the body centre section of the ex-Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro. I think it must have been at this point that the original Fisher GT was not actually modified but put aside with the new car replacing it. The Fisher GT in its second guise was later modified into the Fisher Spyder, which I photographed with its then-owner Peter Speakman in 2011. Speakman had a great file of the car and had done thorough researches on it. He also believed his car was a development of the original car 'ASG 182B'. We were both wrong.

I now understand from Dan that the original GT was sold to Southampton in 1981 with it just being tucked away. It hasn't been moved in the last 30 years or so and it was there that Dan found it. There is a lot more to tell, as Dan wrote in detail the whole story of its discovery and even sent me a video of the car in his workshop. Together with more historical pictures of the car, I'll keep these for tomorrow, though, as this article would become too long. So enjoy the pictures of Dan's fantastic find for now and watch this space tomorrow for more!

UPDATE 13 October 2020. Second installment with video here.

Yes. That really is the original Fisher GT or Lotus Fisher GT. It survives!
Picture Dan Stokes

The car hasn't moved in the last 30 years or so and languished in Southampton since 1981
It uses a Lotus Elite body on a spaceframe made by Jack Fisher of Edinburgh
Picture Dan Stokes

It's complete right up to its interior and 'Fisher Lotus GT' steering wheel
Picture Dan Stokes

With the he Lotus 23 sourced nose off, the suspension, petrol tank and radiator are exposed
Picture Dan Stokes

This is a photograph of the car during its built in 1963 or '64. Note that not too much has changed
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The engine in the spaceframe behind the seats. Still a Mini but I'm not sure if that's the 1071 Cooper 'S' engine it was last known to have? Anyone? (UPDATE: confirmed to be an 'S' engine-JB)
Picture Dan Stokes

And again back in 1963-64. By that time it was still using an 850 engine, and a very early one too
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Finished and ready to race somewhere in the 1960s, it was definitely a very low car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

In action somewhere in the 1960s. Jack Fisher raced, sprinted and hill climbed the car 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Beautiful action shot. The Fisher GT was one of the last cars I'd believed to have survived!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive