Monday, 14 June 2021

Return to the scene

It seems that slowly but surely the action is returning to the classic car scene with several events returning to the calendar and actually taking place! Below is a selection of pictures sent to me and found online from Mini derivatives that could be seen in the last week or so.

60 Years of the Mini Cooper was celebrated at the Circuit de la Châtre in central France last weekend,
 with lots of Minis and Mini Coopers attending as well as this Mini Marcos, seen here early 
morning in the pit street
Picture Gérard Zanol

And it wasn't the only Marcos attending the sunny event. Two more of them seen here front row
Picture Gérard Zanol

And two more Mini Marcoses, both Mk4s seen at the National Mini & Metro Show at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon. The yellow car is owned by Des Bennett and the orange one by Richard Porter, who both built it from new and still own it after more than 40 years!
Picture Richard Porter

London Concours was one of the few events that took place last year. It returned to the city for 2021 where it took place at the fields of the Honourable Artillery Company from June 8-10. Stunning place with some stunning cars. See the Unipower?
Picture Tim Scott 

Last year Tim Carpenter's Unipower GT was on display here; this year it was Gerry Hulford's car, looking ever so good in the sun. Remarkably, the wing mentions Stanley Robinson and John Blanckley as drivers who, as far as I know never drove this car. Very confusing!
Picture The Sporting Minis

Derek Wilkins brought his ex-Cars & Car Conversions Cox GTM over to Shelsley Walsh last weekend, where 60 Years of Jaguar's E-type was celebrated together with the Mini Cooper Register
Picture Ian Hunt

Jamie Crudgington is having fun in the gorgeous Mk1 Mini Jem of his father Pete. They brought it to a track day at Mallory Park a few weeks ago and will be racing it at Donington soon in an action-packed field
Picture Pete Crudgington

Another track day, another cool Mini derivative. That's Guy Loveridge with the Ogle SX1000 in between a wide variety of other racing cars at Blyton Park in Lincolnshire on June 2nd
Picture Guy Loveridge

The National Mini Cooper Day at Beaulieu took place last weekend, too, and saw things turn back to as they were two years ago. Seen here a particularly nice MiniSprint, a Stewart & Ardern built car? 
Picture Richard Porter

Another rarely seen Mini derivative at the National Mini Cooper Day and like the MiniSprint it's another Neville Trickett design, too: a Siva Mule of which 12 were made in the 1970s
Picture Richard Porter

Friday, 11 June 2021

Biota returns to Harewood - and meets an old friend

Biota owner and Maximum Mini fan of the first hour Tim Harber was in for a surprise last weekend at Harewood. He wrote:

"I wanted to go to Harewood two weeks after Prescott, which was my ultimate goal after 10 weeks of changing power unit and gear change etc etc. (Didn’t fancy hitting a bank with the sheet of aluminium with a bit of padding as a seat and a lap seat belt so we fitted an old race seat and harness). At Prescott I'd not been allowed to run competitively as the Biota doesn’t have a current spec roll cage – they chose to use some stricter rules so I just got to do a 'fun run' - so not timed and not supposed to go fast! They even wouldn’t let me wear my helmet as it might make me keen to go too fast!" 

"Harewood was where Chris Seaman won the 1972 BARC Hillclimb championship in the 'works' Biota. I e-mailed Harewood to transfer my entry to my circuit racer as I imagined they wouldn’t let me run the Biota and it got sent to their technical dude. He replied saying I could run! Even better – it was Chris Seaman himself who is the Technical one even now!"

"I got there late Friday night for nice sunset pics and did my runs the next day (not quick as it’s got a standard 1275 with a long (3.1) diff, but happy enough to get there and take part. Got to meet Chris and chat and take pictures (he was the hairy one in the original pics). So, the scene is now set for next year to get a beefy power unit with an LSD to take me nearer the front of the class. I was last this year in the sports car class so all to go for. I did 78 seconds up the hill whereas I had done 71 seconds in my 1965 blue racer before so I was really happy with the handling considering it’s on its original rear (motorbike derived) shocks and springs. Onwards to final victory!"

"I have been emailed some other Biota owners to encourage them to go next year with as many others as can be dragged there. If we manage a picture with 3, it will be a world-first! All good fun. Tim"

Now isn't that a lovely message! Thanks again very much Tim and let's see who else will make it to Harewood in the next year.

Tim Harber (left) with Chris Seaman, who won at Harewood in 1972 in a Biota
Picture courtesy Tim Harber

There's the winning car in the centre, Chris Seaman with long hair in it
Picture courtesy Tim Harber

Biota promotional flyer: Chris Seaman 1st overall, John Houghton 3rd overall
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Early morning, beautiful view. "I imagined they wouldn’t let me run the Biota"...
Picture courtesy Tim Harber

But then Tim found that Chris Seaman was Harewood hillclimb's "technical dude"!
Picture Phill Andrews

He made it in 78 seconds up the hill with some room for improvement
Picture Phill Andrews

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Ranger Cub 4, new and unbuilt...

A rare Ranger Cub 4 has just made it to the market. While the three-wheeled Ranger Cub proved to be a hit for a short time in the mid-1970s, the four-wheeler version wasn't. Just four of them were sold and it seems that this one was never built. It's an empty shell which will need all the necessary Mini parts to turn it into a car. It's for sale in Sunderland, north-east England.

Remarkably, two other Ranger Cub 4 have been seen for sale in the last few years. There was another empty shell, also black, in 2014 (see here - it's not the same is it?), while a red car turned up in 2016 (see here). There was also the black car built by John J. Thomas and registered '524 NOA' that was used for some promotional pictures also. The red car may have been the one shown at the London Speed Show in 1975? Bot Cub4s can be seen in the pictures below. 

UPDATE 17:30: The two black shells are the same after all, or so I have been told by two different readers. Thank you chaps!


A rare Ranger Cub 4 is offered for sale in Sunderland, Tyne & Wear
Picture Ebay

No engine, no suspension, no mechanicals whatsoever. It's never been built
Picture Ebay

Just four of these Cub 4s were made and it seems that at least two of them were black
Picture Ebay

Brand new shell! Building it up will need plenty of drilling and a donor Mini
Picture Ebay

The Ranger Cub 4 was a miniature pick-up, the later Ranger Pick-Up was far more popular
Picture Ebay

'524 NOA' was built by John J. Thomas and used for promotional causes
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

London Speed Show 1975. Behind the black Ranger Cub is a red Ranger Cub 4 and a Ranger Pick-Up
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Another ABC Tricar found

More and more people manage to find Maximum Mini with Mini based car they find in barns, sheds, hedges or overgrown gardens, undisclosing information about cars that have sometimes been long lost.

Latest is Grant Cox who stumbled upon an ABC Tricar that was previously unknown to me. He wrote: "Hello Jeroen, I snapped BFD 131J this week, buried in stuff! Okay to use my picture but please credit me! There isn't much I can tell you as it was a chance find, while looking at the green Citroen Dyane in the picture which was visible from the road. I will trust your discretion on revealing it's exact location. It may be hidden for a reason!"

No problem with that Grant, as it is much appreciated in the first place. I have added 'BFD 131J' to the list of known ABCs now (click here), but perhaps somebody knows more about this particular Tricar? 

There really is an ABC Tricar hidden there. It's registration is BFD 131J
Picture Grant Cox

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Camarotta now for sale

Looking for a little Mini-based roadster to enjoy this summer? Look no further. The one-off Camarotta is now for sale. The car was designed and built by Dave Ratner in the 1990s, who followed a KAD course and built a proper jig to do so. Dave told me: "There was no rush and it took me about two weeks just to do the door hinges." He was very happy with the finished car, though, and said he could let the steering wheel go at 85mph. 

Current owner Lars Lagisse of Germany bought the car two years ago and managed to sail through TÜV testing, so it is on German plates now. He also fitted a catalyst converter as well as new side screens. The engine is a 1275 sourced from a 1979 1275GT. Interested? See the ad here.

The Camarotta derived from Dave Ratner's earlier Berkeley based cars
Picture Jeroen Booij

The car now has TÜV approval, is on German plates and... is for sale 
Picture Lars Lagisse

It uses the engine from a 1979 Mini 1275 GT, placed slightly lower in its subframe
Picture Jeroen Booij

Monday, 31 May 2021

Dutch Biotas meet

A lovely message from Biota owner Peter Niessen: "Hi Jeroen, Our Biota is (almost) ready for the season. We carried out a couple of upgrades: new tyres (street legal slicks, also very suitable for track days) and a part-new stainless steel exhaust (previous one had too much of a vacuum sound). The Biota of my brother-in-law is now also ready and MOT-tested (it's the ex-Rob Mellaart 'Mk1½'). Enclosed a couple of pictures: when do you see two Dutch Biotas brotherly next to each other? Hopefully we can start looking forward to join a few events when the pandemic situation starts to clear up. A 50th anniversary would be a good target anyway! Kind regards, Peter"

Thanks Peter, absolutely love it! I would certainly be in for a 50th anniversary meeting - who else is..?

Two Biotas which spent all of their lives in The Netherlands: 
Peter and his brother Jos' yellow Mk1 and Steven van der Stroom's orange Mk1½ behind
Picture Peter Niessen

"When do you see two Dutch Biotas brotherly next to each other..?"
Picture Peter Niessen

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Solved: Mystery Mini Estate

Another mystery solved. This pretty Estate turns out to be the work of Les Clarke, who was a 29-year-old work study engineer with the commercial division of BL at Longbridge back in 1973. That's when his car was featured in Terry Grimwood's column 'TGs Home Brew' in Car & Car Conversions magazine. 

Clarke had bought the 1964 Traveller for 100 pounds and used it some four years before the transformation started. That rear door is not a fibreglass unit as several were offered in the 1970s. No, Les took the rear end of a Mini Pick-up, welded that on the lower part of the Traveller door space and made the top opening door from a piece of heavy-duty tinted Perspex in an aluminium frame. The rear window is a heated Smith screen, the rear wiper from another Mini and with Imp bonnet stabilizers to hold it up when opened. Rear light units were indeed sourced from a BMW 2000 T. Lux. 

Inside there were re-upholstered Cooper recliners and a leathercloth covered dashboard with home-made centre console. Clarke also fitted a 1275 engine with Innocenti cam, Sprite head, lightened flywheel, tuftrided crank and high-compression pistons as well as disc brakes. Graeme Farr was the man to dig out the article. Terry Grimwood added: "Hah! You'd think I would remember. Must be an age thing!" A massive thanks to Graeme and Terry! Now, over to the next question: does it survive..?

BNP 858B was a standard 1964 Mini Traveller before Les Clarke started work on it
Picture CCC magazine via Graeme Farr

"At one time he was all set to scrap the lot and fit a non-opening screen. Luckily he persevered"
Picture CCC magazine via Graeme Farr

The lower part is from a Mini Pick-up, while the rest was fully home-made
Picture CCC magazine via Graeme Farr

Les Clarke with his special Mini Estate back in 1973. Do they survive..?
Picture CCC magazine via Graeme Farr

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

More GTMs in Belgium..?

One thing often leads to another, or even a series of things. After I found this Cox GTM in Belgium, more things GTM from the same country were soon to follow. There was a Heerey GTM (here) and a GTM Coupe also (here). That last was even bound to become the start of a European GTM concessionaire in the 1980s - it wasn't meant to be.

But did I know there had been another venture for selling Heerey GTMs in Belgium? I did not until I bought some brochures recently. One of them mentions a Belgian GTM agent in Brussels - Jacques de Bres - and a coachbuilder in Lier - Carrosserie Stoelen - which supposedly built and sold these cars for Belgian customers. I think it dates back to 1969 and the prices as well as the specs are interesting and include BRT tuned engine and 5-speed gearbox. Is the car pictured left hand drive? It's hard to say.

I asked Howard Heerey, who lives in Australia now, if it did ring a bell. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen, I do recall a Belgian guy coming over to Hazel Grove and trying to work out a deal as an agent. My father was dealing with him and I remember he frightened my dad to death when they went out in our demonstrator on the wrong side of the road! I think my dad followed up with a visit to Brussels where somebody got run over and dad came home in a hurry."

"I’m sure no deal was ever done and we never gave anybody the manufacturing rights. Maybe their plan was to buy kits and build them into complete cars? I did take a complete GTM to Finland for a guy who was going to agent them in Helsinki. He had Hanno Mikkola lined up to promote it. I left the GTM there - never got paid and had to pay to get it back. So no joy with agents and they really were a distraction which didn’t help the course at all. C'est la vie! Cheers, Howard."

I'd love to hear if Jacques de Bres or Carrosserie Stoelen ever did manage to build or sell any cars in the Low Countries though. As always your comments will be much appreciated.

This 1969 Heerey GTM brochure from Belgium is different from the ones I knew
Picture Jeroen Booij

British variant from the same period seen behind it here
Picture Jeroen Booij

Belgian agent is Jacques de Bres of Brussels, manufacturer is Carrosserie Stoelen of Lier
Picture Jeroen Booij

Three versions were offered for sale. Specs include BRT tuning and 5-speed 'box
Picture Jeroen Booij

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Nimbus Coupe prototype freed from the brambles

Report from the bramble bushes in Somerset. Remember this find of a Nimbus Coupe formerly a prototype car and later raced by Gary Shillabeer? Well, it has finally been freed from the brambles by Simon Denman. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I can tell you my late father was best mates with Gary Shillabeer and that’s who he got it from.  I honestly can’t remember much about when dad got it from Gary, but I seem to remember some tension between my mum and dad when he bought it - hence why it was probably left in the orchard with the initial plan of waiting til mum calmed down!"

"Sadly Gary recently died too so I can’t ask him. I’m trying to find the other open top kit car which might be in brambles too which must have come from Gary at about the same time. I’m pretty sure I know where the front clam is - as for the main middle but I’m not sure my memory is it was bought from Gary at the same time and I think the main tub was green and the front clam was primer grey, it might of had scalloped sides but I haven’t seen it since I was a kid. We are clearing up the farm and are selling it all, so the Nimbus will be up for sale. I have also got a lot of other bits including a series bits - none of which I believe came from the Nimbus though. It would appear there is much of a Mini in pieces in one of the sheds! Including a complete 850 lump and Mk1 boot lid etc! I will be in touch with photos of what I can find of the other one. If you know anyone interested in the Nimbus feel free to point them my way before I stick it on eBay. Speak soon, Simon."

It sounds as if the open car could be that other Ian Shearer design - the Boxer Sprint. But then Ian told me years ago there was just one made (this one), so it has to be something else..? We'll see when Simon finds it, I reckon. In the meantime, let me know if you are interested in the Nimbus Coupe and I'll get you in touch with Simon.

That's the Nimbus Coupe prototype as it was raced by Gary Shillabeer in the mid-1980s
Picture Simon Denman

But Q304 NYA was also the car used at the Nimbus Coupe's press launch back in 1984
Picture Simon Denman

Shortly after the launch it must have been bought by Shillabeer and transformed into this
Picture Simon Denman

Shillabeer campaigned it briefly before it disappeared only to turn up last year
Picture Simon Denman

The car will need lots of work, interior seems to have been stripped also 
Picture Simon Denman

Last on the road in 1986 means it has been on the road (and track) for two years only
Picture Simon Denman

There used to be an engine built by Avonbar Racing fitted, but the engine bay is empty now
Picture Simon Denman

The car in its heyday, raced in 1984 at Cadwell Park with Shillabeer behind the wheel
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

While earlier that year it was used at the press launch in East-Sussex, seen here
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 21 May 2021

ESC's Edgar Salwegter speaks (2)

Following yesterday's discussion with Edgar Salwegter of ESC (here), I was eager to find out which of the Status Minipowers had been the one that made it over to New Zealand. Edgar recalled it was red and was seen in a book. There had been two red Minipowers in a number of publications, wearing the registrations 'PNG 433M' and 'VCL 738K'. We found out it was the latter, as seen in Peter Filby's 'Amazing Mini'.

Edgar bought the car in The Netherlands, took only the chassis to New Zealand and... scrapped the body! Edgar: "Then it became the white ESC in NZ. At least you know what happened to it. I will try and find out what happened with the next chassis in the jig."

A couple of days later he came back: "Hi Jeroen, I spoke to Angus Fogg and he has the jig for the chassis, but he does not know where the spare chassis went to. We have an all-Brits and Euro car show this weekend I will have a look and see for any new things pop up in the mini section. Angus also said he has had a few e-mails from you before."

That's right. I'd contacted Angus before about one car in New-Zealand in particular, which I had labeled as a Minipower also (this one) and showed Edgar the pictures, too. He replied: "It does look like a Status chassis from the pictures, looking at the top arm and chassis. The chassis was ahead of its time back than, with the inboard suspension. But we can rule it out as an ESC." That makes two Status Minipower-related mysteries in New Zealand. Who knows more about them..?

'VCL 738K' was a Status Minipower demonstrator that was used for a number of publications
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Peter Filby famously drove it for several of his articles, but it was also seen in a brochure
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Here it is when it was owned by Edgar - just before the body was sent to the scrappers..!
Picture courtesy Edgar Salwegter

The chassis was re-used in the first ESC, now with an aluminium body
Picture courtesy Edgar Salwegter

The wherabouts of the car remain unknown today. Do you know where it is..?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive