Friday 30 April 2021

What exactly is this Mini based motor caravan?

Planning your summer holiday locally this year? Then this Austin Mini Clubman based campervan / motor caravan is perhaps just the ticket. 'You wont have seen it, unless you know us', writes the seller, Well, I've seen it, but I don't know you guys! In fact I'd been wondering what happened to it for years.

The car was advertised in the early 1990s, too. Back then the ad stated that it received a new body in 1984 and was then built as a camper. So I'm not too sure about it being 'Registered from new as AUSTIN MINI CLUBMAN MOTOR CARAVAN' either. And was it really built by a boat / small motorhome company on the Isle of Wight? I don't know, but did find two more pictures of 'TJU 219N' in the files, sent to me years ago by Ian Whitehead. It's still in white on these pics with 10" wheels.

It's a lovely little camper never the less of which I'd love to learn a little more and which no doubt will bring lots of fun to a new owner. See the ad here

Austin Mini Clubman campervan surely seems to be a one-off
Picture Ebay

Registered 'TJU 219N' I knew I'd seen it before
Picture Ebay

All you can wish for, including swiveling front seat, but still a classic Mini
Picture Ebay

This early 1990s ad states it was converted in 1984 with a new body shell
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

More old pictures of it were sent to me by Ian Whitehead years ago
Picture courtesy Ian Whitehead / Jeroen Booij archive

So... who built this cool motor caravan? A company on the Isle of Wight?
Picture courtesy Ian Whitehead / Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 29 April 2021

Maxi Austin features French GTM

The UK is not the only country with specialist magazines such as MiniWorld and Mini Magazine, France, too, has a large following of Mini enthusiasts and its own share of Mini related journalism. Last week I was sent two recent issues of Maxi Austin - le magazine des anciennes Mini (the magazine about old Minis) and found some most interesting reading about Mini based cars in these, too. 

There's a page about a Mk1 Mini Marcos that is being prepared for Le Mans Classic, a spread on GTM history and most interesting of all is a feature article about a French registered GTM. This car was offered for sale in Brittany, France last year (see here) but it remains a bit of an enigma. According to Maxi Austin it was imported from the UK and was 'more or less confirmed to be registered EBL 249K'. I had a picture of that car in the files for them while there's another one on the internet (here). In France, the car was converted to left hand drive and restored over a 10-year period. It certainly does look good and is registered as a 1968 Cox GTM now, although I am convinced it's not a Cox. Perhaps somebody recognizes it and knows more about its history?

Food for thought anyway, just how I like it. Maxi Austin-team - keep on going!

Maxi Austin is the French magazine for enthusiasts of the classic Mini
Picture Maxi Austin / Jeroen Booij

This GTM is featured in the current issue. It remains a bit of an enigma
Picture Maxi Austin / Jeroen Booij

This is believed to be the same car, registered 'EBL 249K' in the UK previously
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

More Mini derivatives in Maxi Austin magazine - Mk1 Mini Marcos and GTM history
Picture Maxi Austin / Jeroen Booij

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Mystery Mini derivative (75)

A Mini derivative that keeps on turning up for sale remains a mystery to me. The car has made it to the market several times in the last three years or so, and I have asked the various sellers for more information about its background. But it remains mostly shrouded in mystery. 

All we know is that the car was based on a 1973 Mini Clubman, came with an 850 engine, a tube chassis clad with plywood and aluminium and distinctive looks. Is there a Hustler underneath? I first saw it for sale in Summer 2018 when it was in Hornsea, Lincolnshire (included in this listing). It supposedly stood for 20 years then and I managed to contact the seller. He wrote: "I understand it was a totally home-built example, but I will have a word with my brother and see if he can remember who he bought it from, to see if there is any history. Will let you know. Cheers, Barrie." 

Unfortunately Barrie never came back to me. A few months ago the car was offered for sale again, now in Nottingham and missing its headlight covers and looking rather more rusty. I got no reply whatsoever to my message and don't know what happened to it. Anyone who does? 

'FBT 518L' is registered as a 1973 Mini Clubman with 850 power. But who built it?
Picture Ebay / Jeroen Booij archive

Tube chassis clad with marine plywood and aluminium, canopy made by a boat company
Picture Ebay / Jeroen Booij archive

Said to be 'totally home built' or could this car have been based on a Hustler 4..?
Picture Ebay / Jeroen Booij archive

Last time it was seen for sale it was missing its headlight covers and had become rustier
Picture Ebay / Jeroen Booij archive

Simple interior. The wedge shape makes for an unusually shaped dashboard 
Picture Ebay / Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 22 April 2021

For sale: the Scamp Motor Company

This came as a surprise! 'Happy Scamper' Andrew MacLean (62) has decided to sell his beloved Scamp Motor Company. Back in 1987 he took the business over from founder Robert Mandry and started in the old vicarage of his dad. He soon expanded and built around 400 cars since. Robert Mandry built at least 2,000 between 1969 and 1987, making the Scamp the Mini derivative built in the largest numbers. 

Andrew wrote: "Hi Jeroen, It is the hardest decision of my life so far to be parting with the Scamp Motor Company. Hope you can share my sad but also exciting news on your excellent Maximum Mini website. Loss of premises is the main reason. But I do think it has a lot more to offer, perhaps a lightweight electric quadricycle might be a way forward. There are many restart (post Covid-19) small business grants available, which might be encouraging to the new owners. I am also hopeful to sell on the RTVs. I actually own the manufacturing rights to it and a huge quantity of Mini based RTV spares. Kind regards, Andrew"

Last year I asked him what four decades of Scamp building brought? “Fame, not fortune!”, he laughed. "Well, it brought me many happy memories and also some sad ones. But I’ve learned to make the best out of things!” All the best to you Andrew, and that the Scamp may have long to live, too!

Contact Andrew directly on or (+44) (0)7719-816493.

Early (Mk1) Scamps ready for transport to Spain. The company is now for sale
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Andrew in one of the last Scamp chassis he made, photographed March last year
Picture Jeroen Booij

And another... He owns the company since 1987 and built some 400 cars
Picture Jeroen Booij

The workshop with a Mk2 chassis under construction. Tools will be included
Picture Jeroen Booij

That's what it could look like fully built. This demonstrator will be included with 2 others, too
Picture Jeroen Booij

As will be the machine that's been used to make all the Scamp body panels since 1969
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Gordon Murray's IGM Minbug explained

Gordon Murray's car collection has been the subject of numerous articles in motoring magazine in recent times after the designer held an exhibition called 'One Formula' to celebrate being 50 years in business. You can still find the virtual 3D exhibition online here

The footage below was made by Top Gear magazine in which Murray tells a bit more about the IGM Minbug as well as his Midas parked next to it (from 45:45-on). Although he has the original Minbug, the one seen here actually is a replica made a few years ago. I'll write more about the discovery of the real car soon. Enjoy this one for now!

Video: Top Gear / Youtube

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Alto Duo remains a real rarity

The last time I wrote about the quirky Alto Duo was 10 years ago (a Guinness book record car! click here), so I think it's about time to put it in the spotlight here once again. 

Incredibly perhaps, the Duo was offered for sale from 1984 up until 1998, originally by its designers Tommy and David Gornall of Goosnargh, Lancashire but later also by Automotive Concepts of Portsmouth and Antoni Offert of Rhino Engineering in Lancashire. Under all those wings and in all those years, still just 18 materialized. 

I could only find a few different cars in the files, with one registered 'Q469 JWW' seen below. DVLA tells us it's a 1986 car with 998 power and blue in colour, but it was seen in an orangey-red hue when offered for sale in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland back in 2009. This while the pictures of it in a sort of camouflage print were sent to me last year only. Whatever happened to it..?


The Alto Duo was offered for 14 years, with just more than 1 sold per year...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Hardtop was a factory option and the Duo could be supplied as a two-seater or a 2+2
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'Alto Duo' mean 'Tall Two' and you can see where that name comes from
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Same car some 11 years later, different hue but work is still not finished 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Where is this? Those are Vauxhall Cavalier rear lights in case you wondered
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

‘ALTOgether a better deal’ said the brochure, but the Alto Duo remains a real rarity
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 16 April 2021

Gitane GT - a bit more information

Tom Kenny is as eager as I am to find out more about the Gitane GT, of which just occasionally a snippet or a pictures comes up (see here). Could it survive? We shared information to see if that would bring up something new. It didn't. But Tom asked around in hillclimbing circles, which did bring a few insights that I'd want to share here, too, hoping they may get another ball rolling.

David Brown wrote to him: "I seem to remember seeing it in the early 1970s fitted with a supercharger? My initial thought is to say it was at Blackbushe, 1972-ish or possibly at Greenham Common. If it is the car I am thinking of something happened to the installation (the supercharger was mounted high up and I seem to think it came loose), it was a long time ago!" 

John Opie added: "I remember seeing it at Trengwainton hillclimb in West Cornwall around the mid '60s, and was impressed by it. I believe that it was converted from a fastback shape to this notchback."

Tom continued: "A follow up from Malcolm Mitchell led to Linda Collins. Turns out she was the daughter of the doctor who was an official at the events at Trengwainton and donated the programs on the death of her father. Only one was retained with entrants." However, nothing about the Gitane was found.

Meanwhile I was sent a link to a most interesting article on Joe Saward's F1 blog (click here). Joe wrote about Gitane instigator Gordon Fowell, who later made a career in Formula 1. This is what he wrote about the Gitane GT: 

"George Fowell Ltd was a company based in the unglamorous Birmingham suburb of Smethwick. It manufactured small plant machinery: dumper trucks, mini steam rollers and cement mixers. These were branded GF. The founder’s oldest son Gordon began working for the family business in the late 1950s, designing dumper trucks. In his spare time he competed with a Lotus Eleven sports car. The arrival of the Mini in 1959 gave Gordon Fowell an idea: why not diversify the business and have GF build a lightweight GT coupé, based on the Mini sub frame and running gear. It was in the same era in which Lamborghini was transforming itself from being a tractor manufacturer to becoming a supercar company so perhaps there was sound logic in the idea. The only difference was that Lamborghini had more money to play with. The GF coupé was given the rather exotic name of Gitane, the French word for gipsy. Creating the prototype proved to be sufficiently difficult to convince GF to give up on the idea, although the Gitane that was built was use quite successfully in hillclimb events in the late 1960s."

It goes on about Fowell's later adventures in selling audio tapes of racing engine sounds under the Goral name, designing F1 cars for Martini under the Tecno name and for Chris Amon plus the later Sana Formula Atlantic car and eventually the successful PowerJog running machine.

Although interesting it doesn't bring us much further. I'm sure there's more though, so if you happen to read this and know about the car, its checquered past or any Fowell relatives (Gordon Fowell died in 1999), do not hesitate. 

The Gitane GT seen in its later 'notchback' guise at Prescott Hill, now supercharged
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It's engine in its original fastback styling and without the blower. That's a 997 with Weber
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Entered at the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres in May 1962 where it did not arrive. I spoke to 2nd driver Dan Margulies not long before he passed away in 2010. He said he'd never even seen the car!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Gordon Fowell went on to design this in the early 1970s, followed by the PowerJog
Picture Rainer Schlegelmilch / Motor Sport

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Maltese Mini Marcos Mk1 now restored

When you ever make it to the island of Malta, be aware of two proper Mk1 Mini Marcoses there hitting the isle's twisty roads. I wrote about the purple one owned and restored by Kenneth Spiteri not too long ago (click here); Kenneth's friend Frank Agius has now finished the restoration of his Mk1 also. And it's a car we've seen here before, too, on old pictures taken by my late friend Rens Biesma in the 1980s (click). I've also seen some shots of it before the restoration was started and this car certainly looked to have led a hard life, so Frank did a fantastic job. 

He wrote: "Hi, after 4 years of restoration of this Mini Marcos Mk1 chassis number 6100, now I can say that it's nearly ready to start enjoying it, as my previous owners used to, when it was used as the first Mini Marcos raced back in the 1980's."

Well done to you and I hope you will be able to enjoy the car for many years to come Frank!

Then and now: there's about 40 years in between these pictures but it's the same car
Pictures Frank Agius (top) Rens Biesma (bottom)

Frank worked four years on the car's restoration and kept the wild and wide looks
Picture Frank Agius

Engine is a freshly restored 1300 with Weber carburetor 
Pictures Frank Agius

Wide arches have been retained, but the Alfa-Romeo lights it had in the 1980s have disappeared
Pictures Frank Agius

Interior is unrecognizable from what it was. The signature Mk1 dash had gone already
Pictures Frank Agius

Tight fit - roll cage and bucket seats don't leave too much room but must make it a dream drive!
Pictures Frank Agius

Monday 12 April 2021

AC Donington found in a barn

From Maximum Mini 3, page 8:

"Although it wore the AC name, the Donington is believed to have had nothing to do with AC Cars of Thames Ditton which was producing the AC 3000ME when the Donington was seen in 1982. It came in the shape of an aluminum-bodied three-wheeler, which used most of the Mini's mechanicals, including a 998 engine. The car was displayed in summer 1982 at a kit car show with a notice that replicas could be built from £2,000 by a company named Fraser Engineering. The Donington’s body was individually styled with swooping wings and rectangular headlights beside a pointed bonnet. It used a Mini windscreen as well as a cut-down Mini grille that was placed below the front bumper. Nothing more was heard of it and it is unknown whether it survives."

Well, well, it's been found! David Lees is the man who sold it last weekend, but without knowing what it was. I was away in the weekend and found loads of messages questioning what it could be only this morning, but recognized the three-wheeler as the mysterious AC Donington. I contacted David, who was very helpful although the reason for him selling the Donington was sad: "I don't know anything about it as it was my brother who owned the car and has now sadly passed away, leaving no records and just an awful lot of mess and bits all of which I have let go..."

David didn't know it was ever registered either. From the DVLA we learn that the registration 'TRR 672X' dates back to April 1982, last taxed in October 1984 and last issued in February 1993. David: "I would imagine the last V5C was when he bought the car. There were three registration plates in the garage but not the one on your picture. It did have a 998 engine plus an aluminium body and fibreglass front. I didn't get any pictures of the front as the it was kept separate but it looks exactly like the one you sent. I wish I had spoken to you three days ago. I would have kept it and worked on it and learnt how to rebuild it. Hopefully the guy who bought it will do the work it needs."

I hope the same of course, so feel free to get in touch when you are the new owner. Meanwhile the search for information about its conception goes on...

What's that..? Well, it's the only AC Donington built in 1982 and vanished soon after
Picture courtesy David Lees

A company named Fraser Engineering was behind it. Who knows more..? 
Picture courtesy David Lees

998 engine, aluminium body and fibreglass front end. I don't think production was ever started
Picture courtesy David Lees

Rare picture of the Donington when it was new and seen at a kit car show in 1982
Picture Chris Rees / Jeroen Booij archive

This is how David found the Mini based three-wheeler in a barn after his brother's death
Picture courtesy David Lees

Friday 9 April 2021

Mystery Mini derivative (74)

Another week, another Mystery Mini Derivative. And this one really is a total mystery with no clues other then that it was supposedly raced in Australia. It looks to me that it was shot in the 1960s but other than that I have no ideas whatsoever. Anyone..?

A mystery Mini based racer seen here being chased by a Frogeye Sprite
Picture via Roy Millham

Zooming in: widened Mini wheels, pop riveted body, side pipe and... central seating..?
Picture via Roy Millham

Thursday 8 April 2021

A Unipower for Easter

Unipower GT owner Tim Carpenter drops me a line occasionally, which is always a pleasure. This time he spent a good Easter Sunday with a few friends and cars. This is what he wrote:

"Hi Jeroen, How are things going for you? How’s the Marcos coming on? I’ve been messing about a bit with my car. I retired the 50+ year old magnesium Minilites and replaced them with aluminium repro ones. I feel a lot safer now. I was worried about what was going on under the paint. I did not want one of them to let go underneath me. It was cheaper to buy new than to strip, crack test, chromate and repaint the magnesium ones so it was a bit of a no-brainer really. I’ve also fitted the Yokohama 145/80R10 69S tyre which was recently added to their range. They balance a lot better than the Aquajets and feel a lot more taut too. I’ve not yet had the chance to test them out properly. Hopefully the sun will shine and I can get the car out on track again."

"Meanwhile, I was invited to spend Easter morning in glorious weather in the garden of a petrol head friend. He has quite a big garden with a number of garages in it. We gathered around the barbecue for hot dogs and a cup of tea in a socially distant sort of way. There were a couple of MGs, an XK120 an an Alfa. Plus me in the Unipower GT - and a GT40! Well, I could not resist the temptation to park alongside to compare and contrast with the Unipower GT’s ‘Big Brother’ being as how they were drawn be the same person. This is a picture of me comparing the total height of the two cars – 40½” both of them. The GT40 really is a lovely but fearsome thing. It’s hard to imagine how variants of both cars would ever have been able to be on track at the same time. Crazy days."

"I’m lining up a few events already for this year, mostly hill climbs rather than static displays. I hope they go ahead. I’ll keep you posted. Cheers, Tim"

Tim with Unipower GT and Ford GT40 - more in common than just their heights!
Picture Mark Faulkner

Wednesday 7 April 2021

John Lennon's Mini - green and a hatchback

The disappearance of John Lennon's Mini remains a great enigma. I wrote about it years ago, and judging by the number of clicks it keeps on receiving the article remains a Maximum Mini favourite (see it here).

All we knew for sure was that Lennon's Mini was a Radford De Ville, based on a 1965 Austin Mini Cooper 'S', registered LGF 696D and painted black. But now it seems that even that must be reconsidered. Keith Hawkins dropped me a line with two images attached, taken from film footage shot by John and Yoko themselves at John’s home ‘Kenwood’ in Weybridge, Surrey in 1968. This was done for a film project named 'Look at Me', which was recently remastered and published. Keith wrote: "Hi Jeroen, here they are, taken around 1968 I would think. Lovely colours, Lennon had great taste, regards Keith."

That surely must be John Lennon's Mini. But it's painted green and cream here, with golden Cosmic wheels like George Harrison's. What's more: it's clear now that the car came with the Aston Martin DB5 rear light units as Paul McCartney's Mini had them too, and with a hatchback door as Ringo Starr's! The best of all combined into one vehicle..?

UPDATE 27 January 2023: a replica of the John Lennon Mini is now in the making. Click here

John Lennon's Mini, shot by Lennon himself. Green, with Aston rear lights and a hatchback door
Picture 'Look at Me' via Keith Hawkins

These are film stills from Lennon's and Yoko Ono's 1968 project 'Look at Me' 
Picture 'Look at Me' via Keith Hawkins

Friday 2 April 2021

Ranger Cub seen for sale

Day 5 of Three-Wheeler Week at Maximum Mini with a nice Ranger Cub being offered for sale in Gainsborough. That's the village where I used to spend the nights when the Mk1 Performance / Maximum Mini Action Day was held at the nearby Blyton Park track (not this year unfortunately), so a pity I didn't know about it earlier as I would have loved to see it in person.

The seller states: "This example of the Ranger Cub has outlived most simply because the owner/builder lost interest and left it the garage. Buff log book included." I wondered if it's the Jet Black car bought new by Andrew Gourlay in April 1975. Andrew provided me with some great Cub information and pictures many years ago, but unfortunately I couldn't reach him now. But the seller told me: "Sadly its not the same car. I have the invoice etc and it is not the same name." I'm still not totally convinced though and would love to learn a little more! See the ad here.

Have a great Easter weekend for now.

UPDATE 6 July 2021. It's not the same vehicle. John Langley is restoring the Cub now. More here.

Ranger Cub offered for sale in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire looks complete
Picture Ebay

Just about 20 Cub three-wheelers were made by Ranger Automotive
Picture Ebay

This one seems to come with automatic transmission
Picture Ebay

Classic Morris Mini engine, I think most Cubs came with an 850
Picture Ebay

That's Andrew Gourlay in the flared fashion of the time, working on his Cub
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Not the same car? I hope you are doing well Andrew!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And a copy of the original invoice that Andrew shared with me
Picture Jeroen Booij archive