Friday 29 January 2021

The forgotten Midas Mini Marcos prototype

This is a story that I don't think many people will know about. It's about a once planned rebirth of the Mini Marcos under the Midas banner, probably in the mid- to late-1980s.

Fact is that a buck was made from an existing Mk4 Mini Marcos shell to make moulds for the new car. That never happened and the unfinished prototype / buck ended up in New Zealand after a Kiwi mechanic purchased it from the Midas factory and brought it back home with him with the idea of making something similar in NZ. And once again it was Graeme Farr to find out more about it. He even owned the thing for a while. Over to Graeme then: 

"I bought it from a lady in Auckland who got it when she bought a house. It was under a deck which you can see in one of the photos. She was going to use it for a Guy Fawkes bonfire and I think she was lucky she didn't try! I paid $100 for it. It had been there some years before to look at it. The guy then said it was built with the idea of re-introducing the Mini Marcos under the Midas name. Hence the alterations. They had moved the hatch up the body a bit too. This was done in the UK by D&H Fibreglass Techniques. The Kiwi mechanic who'd purchased it was going to modify it further. I think he had gone to the factory with the idea of buying a Midas - but the Marcos was virtually free so he took that instead. I think he was a tenant in the Auckland house I brought it from - and I went to see it but it wasn't for sale."

"Then a year or two later I went to see if he was still there - and the lady said he had long gone. I said I had seen a car there - and she said it was still there! She said I could have it but I gave her $100 to have it clear that I bought it. She said the guy had gone back to the UK I think. I rang up a furniture removal company and they put it in the truck and brought it down to Wellington. I already had a Jem and always wanted a Marcos. But then another really original blue pre-hatch Irish Mk3 came up for sale and I bought that as well. So I had three of them! I sold this one to a mate for a few hundred dollars. He took off the body putty and moved back the the hatch to the original location. He fitted the Midas flares as I think some of the originals had been cut away, but it wasn't too bad as it was essentially a new shell. But he then sold it to Mini racer Robin Greenland who finished it as a classic race car. I think its painted Gulf colours now." 

Unfortunately that means that every trace of the modifications once carried out by Midas Cars Ltd. to make it fit in with the Midas family have been removed. So this is the only evidence we have of what the Midas Cars Mini Marcos Mk5 would have looked like. It would be interesting to learn which car exactly it is, though, as that may help to put a date to it. A big thanks to Graeme Farr once more for sharing this information.

UPDATE 30 January 2021: I have been told the blue car (picture added below) is believed to be the same car today. Still unregistered, it is for sale too.

UPDATE 1 February 2021: Graeme confirms that the car wore no chassis number: "Yes it definitely is the same car as the blue one currently for sale. Robin who is selling it is a friend of mine. And also the shell had no chassis plate/number - and no evidence of where one had been fitted. The guy who bought it out from the UK said it was a shell they made specifically for the prototype buck as I think production had already stopped. That is why the Midas flares were the same colour."

It's a Mini Marcos but not as we know it. This shell was turned into a prototype / buck by Midas Cars
Picture Graeme Farr

An existing Mk4 shell was used and modified to make it fit in better with the Midas family
Picture Graeme Farr

See the similarities to the Midas? It never happened though and the thing came to New Zealand only to be rescued from a bonfire by reader Graeme Farr
Picture Graeme Farr

Back modified heavily also, even the hatchback door was repositioned and moved further up
Picture Graeme Farr

Graeme took it over in 1996, started a build but then sold it. All the mods were taken off later 
Picture Graeme Farr

It must have been a late Mk4 shell, supposedly now a running car in NZ. Who knows more?
Picture Graeme Farr

UPDATE: This is believed to be the car as it is today. Note cage and modified floors too

UPDATE 13 April 2021: The car now has a new NZ owner who has finished it and took it to a show
Picture Tim Neal

Thursday 28 January 2021

More snow bound Mini derivatives

Keeping with the snow-theme (Tuesday's Canadian ice racer here) let's have a look at a few more Mini based cars which were used or meant to be used in snow. First photograph comes from Scamp-boss Andrew MacLean. He added: "It's a publicity picture of one of the most successful Mini based RTVs, bought by Scottish Hydro-electricity in 1987/'88. Mini 1000 Automatic running through a pair of Triumph differentials with slightly modified and beefed up Mini suspension, LHD steering rack with extended arms and... drum-brakes all round! 15x15" Dunlop Treadlight Flotation Tyres leaving a footprint of only 3psi, so ideal for snow, shale, sandy beaches and mud!" More recently this car has been fully restored. 

Second there's the Mini-Trac expedition vehicle, designed and built in 1965 for the Australian researchers based at the Wilkes Antarctic Station: one of the coldest and windiest places on earth. The Mini-Trac was built by Terry O’Hare who ran a coachbuilding company in Sunshine (!), just outside Melbourne. O’Hare used an Austin 850 and removed its original driveshafts, universal joints, hubs and suspension and had drive sprockets fitted to the differential output shafts, providing its 850 power independently to both tracks via chains. Two more Mini-Tracs were built, one went to New Zealand and the other to Canada, but all three haven’t been seen for decades. The Wilkes base was abandoned in 1969. Could they survive?

Last in line here is the Stimson Snow Bug, as it was drawn in 1969 or 1970 by the great Barry Stimson (he can't remember exactly). Barry was approached by an Austrian company to design a snow vehicle that could carry four people over snow and that would be cheap to build. Barry: “Snow mobiles were out there but they could only carry two persons. I did it as simple as I could make it. It would have had two rubber based tracks and to make it turn left you just put the brake on the right hand wheel, or the other way 'round'. Unfortunately it never left the sketch stadium after the Austrians lost interest."

The RTV used by Scottish Hydro-electricity in the 1980s - 'Ideal for snow'
Picture courtesy Andrew MacLean

One of three Mini-Tracs, built for expeditions on Antarctica, in New-Zealand and Canada
Picture Jeroen Booij archive via Craig Watson

The Stimson Snow Bug never materialized. The request came from Austria
Picture Jeroen Booij archive, courtesy Barry Stimson

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Mystery Mini Derivative (71) - Ice Racing edition

So far it's not much of a winter here. In Canada it's a different story. In Huntsville, Ontario night temperatures reach -20 degrees now. Huntsville is where this Mini based ice racer was seen decades ago. From what I have been told it was photographed there, probably in 1966 while the picture appeared in print in 1967. The world wide web is remarkably quiet about a possible event there. Who knows more about it? 

More ice racing? Another interesting Mini based ice racer was seen here a couple of years ago. Also: the Swedish Mini Marcos importer was an ice racing champion in his home country  (here). And then there's the story of an Ogle SX1000 being used for ice racing as well... Enjoy the winter!

Mini based ice racer seen in Huntsville, Ontario in the 1960s. Who knows more?
Picture International Motor Racing Book 1967, via Jan-Bart Broertjes 

Friday 22 January 2021

54 Years ago - Racing Car Show 1967

Regular contributor Karsten Stelk came across another great photograph of the London Racing Car show of January 1967, this month 54 years ago, and he was kind enough to share it. In the center of the picture we see the Marcos Components stand with three Mini Marcoses on display. I believed the show on which Marcos built a car at the spot took place in 1968, but I seem to be wrong after all as these photographs by Tommy Jaggerwal who was there, certainly seem to be taken at the same venue. Thank you Karsten!

National Hall, Olympia, London January 1967. The Racing Car Show is in full swing
Picture courtesy Karsten Stelk

That certainly looks to be the Marcos Components stand with three Mini Marcoses on display
Picture courtesy Karsten Stelk

More to see here. Which stand is that with the Minis? Deep Sanderson 301 far 
Picture courtesy Karsten Stelk

Wednesday 20 January 2021

New Zealand MiniSprint: Crashed, rebuilt and... disappeared

Graeme Farr's messages always bring a smile on my face, and the one he sent recently did so, too. He wrote: "Did I ever send you this cool period photo of Tony Gilbertson's car after he crashed it in '67? It was rebuilt as good as new. Still hunting for the car... It's the genuine Trickett built car Tony imported to New Zealand in 1966. Best, Graeme"

As always with Graeme he had more to show, adding later: "The two photos of it in blue but without the racing livery is the rebuilt car."

That is indeed an amazing photo and it looks like the smash was one easily forgotten also and I was amazed to hear that Gilbertson walked out with only minor injuries. Who knows what happened to the rebuilt car..?

Original 1966 MiniSprint imported from the UK was crashed heavily in NZ in 1967
Picture via Graeme Farr

Crumpled up seriously - amazingly driver Gilbertson suffered minor injuries
Picture via Graeme Farr

This must have been before the race - the 1967 NZ Grand Prix at Pukekohe circuit
Picture via Graeme Farr

And another period colour photograph. Venue unknown
Picture via Graeme Farr

And again at a NZ racing venue. The car was rebuilt after the crash but where is it now? 
Picture via Graeme Farr

More from Graeme's scrapbooks. Top two pics show the car as he last saw it
Picture via Graeme Farr

Tuesday 19 January 2021

The adventures of a happy Scamper

Over the years I spoke to many people involved in Mini based cars, but had strangely never got in touch with Scamp boss Andrew MacLean. This while the Scamp has been in production since 1969, of which the last four decades or so under MacLean's wings. So it was about time to catch up. It finally happened last year when traveling wasn't that difficult yet. And I wasn't disappointed. Andrew invited me for a full day at the Scamp headquarters and workshops in Surrey, interviewing the man, driving his works demo and with full access to the Scamp files also.

It was a lovely day with Andrew being such a fantastic storyteller also. Did you know he built Scamps in Nigeria and Jamaica as well as Jiminis on Barbados, where they were called the Evolution CariMoke? His stories were both fascinating as well as hilarious and sometimes unbelievable. Complete Kit Car magazines had such an interest in these tales that the editor decided to publish the interview in two installments. First about the history and MacLean's involvement in the Scamp Motor company (which came out last summer); the second about his adventures overseas. That has just come out now and can be found in magazine stores or here now. I'm sure you'll like it.

Andrew MacLean in an RTV that is undergoing full restoration at the Scamp works
Picture Jeroen Booij

A brand new galvanized steel Scamp chassis, ready to go to the customer
Picture Jeroen Booij

Andrew welding up another new Scamp chassis. He's built hundreds of them
Picture Jeroen Booij

This machine has been used to make all the body panels of all the Scamps since 1969!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Production abroad started in Nigeria where MacLean got to work under Chief Doctor M.O. Akinrele
Picture Jeroen Booij archive courtesy Andrew MacLean
Next overseas adventure was building the Scamp in Jamaica, which proved to be a real disaster
Picture Jeroen Booij archive courtesy Andrew MacLean

MacLean tried it once more by building Jiminis on the isle of Barbados: 'Lovely'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive courtesy Andrew MacLean

Friday 15 January 2021

GRV Project X is not a Hustler. But does it survive?

John B. Orson is the membership secretary of the Midas owners club, but was involved as a teacher with another one-off Mini based car 38 years ago and he was kind enough to share its story. He wrote: 

"Jeroen, I messaged you about a car one of my students made. The car was built in 1983 by Simon Goodliff who at the time was taking his GCSE exams, so 15 or 16 years old. The car was built mainly at the workshops of GRV in Littleborough near Rochdale. Simon's father Jeff built the Vita Mini hill climb car amongst others. Simon's car was quite heavily influenced by William Towns Hustler in terms of chassis construction having a top and bottom half. Using components from a Mini Van with another rear subframe and components sourced to match the design, the car was completed in just under 12 months. The car was delivered each week on a trailer to an area outside the school workshops for some of the construction work the rest being done at GRV."

"Models were made of both the chassis and body to help finalize the design. The body panels were resin bonded ply, finished with a two-pack paint. The Tee bar roof was an interesting feature, maintaining structural strength yet giving an open topped feel. I had a very simple arrangement with both Simon and Geoff that I could turn up at GRV to check progress at any time, ensuring the project would be all his own work. The car went with Simon to his interview for a technical apprenticeship at Ford (where he still works)."

Of course my first question to John was wether he knew of the car's survival. He came back: "It looks as if the car no longer exists. It was last taxed in 1990 and has no MOT record with the DVLA. The car, as you may have guessed from the pictures, was called 'Project X'" 
Not to be confused with the Project X from Australia, which was finally found last year and became the Maximum Mini Best Find of 2019 (click), I wonder if there is anyone who knows more about this British Project X?

This is not a Hustler - GRV Project X was a one-off made by student Simon Goodliff
Picture John B Orson

Simon's father Geoff Goodliff had been involved in a number of infamous Mini (based) cars, too
Picture John B Orson

The car was built at the workshop of GRV in Littleborough near Rochdale in 1983
Picture John B Orson

Body panels were resin bonded ply and finished with a two-pack paint
Picture John B Orson

HVH 844N is believed to have been lost. You may know different though?
Picture John B Orson

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Mini Marcos Mk1 competition car started (well... almost)

When I was looking at Mk1 Mini Marcoses with competition shells lately I came across this video in the files, which I'd totally forgotten about. What we see is Gary Marlow's incredibly original car, which remains just about similar to what it looked like in 1966. I visited Gary some three years ago to see the Marcos' rear wheel arches as the ones on my car were too far gone to be saved. Gary suggested to start it up and I thought it was an idea to film that, expecting some very noisy moments with its side pipe. Well, the Marcos didn't start and Gary's neighbors remained friends. A nice snippet never the less!

Mk1 Mini Marcos remains just as it was raced by Barry Price in 1966. It didn't start though...
Video Jeroen Booij

Monday 11 January 2021

Ben and the Dutch Peel Viking GT

One of the first to phone me up in the new year was Ben Konst - the man who'd imported the Peel Viking GT to The Netherlands in the 1960s, and who bought back his old demonstrator some two years ago now (several articles here). 

Ben, 79 years at the moment but ever so spritely, had a few questions. He will be going to the Dutch authorities later this week to get the car's registration back on track. As I was around a week later I thought I'd pop in to say hello. And I was pleasantly surprised. The last two years or so Ben had several other cars to work on, but by this time he has started work on the Viking and has managed to buy several parts that had gone missing after we found the car in a German shed. Among them a correct engine with 'magic wand' gearbox, since it had been fitted with a later Innocenti engine with remote type gearbox. 

He is still looking for some parts, among them a set of Mk1 Cosmic wheels, as his car now comes with just one, so if you happen to have a few lying around and want to part with them, let me know. For now: best of luck at the registration office!

UPDATE 14 January 2021: Approved!

Ben Konst, 79 years young, has now started work on the Peel he built 54 years ago
Picture Jeroen Booij

He owns the Healey on the left about as long and raced that throughout Europe
Picture Jeroen Booij

Rear lights and rear window were modified by Ben in '68. He sourced them from a Fiat
Picture Jeroen Booij

Cleaned up now, the interior is still just like it was, including the 'Classic Ten' radio
Picture Jeroen Booij

Innocenti-engine that was fitted is now out. Subframes will soon be painted black again
Picture Jeroen Booij

Ben already found a period correct engine with the 'magic wand' gearbox
Picture Jeroen Booij

This decal can be found on a much-worn rear side screen. Anyone who knows Ronald Lagarde?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Ben bought a set of Mk1 Cosmic wheels in 1968 and fitted them to the Peel, but three of them are now missing. Who can help him out?
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday 7 January 2021

ABC Tricars - how many left?

When I was looking for a proper ABC Tricar to photograph for Maximum Mini 2 ages ago, I made a little list with cars known (see it here). But as this is some 10 years now (!) I thought it would be time for an update, as there is much more known now and with recent Tricar activity stirring it up, too.

So here we go. This is the list of cars that I know of now - a total of 15 cars, while 24 were supposedly made. Who can ad more?

TFD 47G - The prototype. This car has been found and is under restoration now. (more here)
XFD 90H - This was the company's demonstrator. I understand it survives but haven't seen it
AFD 95J - Bronze yellow - previously owned by Robert Bradley, supposedly had a racing engine
BFD 41J - Bronze yellow - no further information
BFD 131J - Red - Hidden in a garden (location known) but no further information (more here)
BFD 88J - Red - Clubman nose, owned by ABC's Bill Powell's son Trevor when new (more here)
CFD 39J - Light Blue - body almost unrecognizably modified
CFD 40J - Red - No further information
EFD 469K - Red - owned by Mike Rogers in the 1970s, then sold to a man in Upminster (more here)
EFD 654K - Green - Clubman style nose. Advertised in 2011, under restoration (more here)
HFD 601K - Red - fully restored by Roy Kirkham, featured in Maximum Mini 2 (here)
JFD 358L - Originally Bronze Yellow, now bright yellow and fully restored (more here and here)
LFD 504L - Bronze yellow - now in the USA in a brighter yellow colour
LFD 984L - Green - Rear end after crash in the late-1970s
Unknown black car - Said to be a Tricar but I'm not sure
Unknown red car - Seen for sale in France in August 2021 (more here)






BFD 131J



EFD 469K

EFD 654K

HFD 601K

JFD 358L

LFD 504L

LFD 984L

Unknown car, believed to be a modified ABC Tricar also

Another unknown and modified car, seen for sale in France