Tuesday 31 August 2021

Hubert Giraud passes away

It is with great regret that I heard of the passing of Hubert Giraud on July 19 after being contacted by his son Alexandre yesterday.

Giraud was the last of the original team members who raced the Mini Marcos car at Le Mans in 1966. The two original drivers (Jean-Louis Marnat & Claude Ballot-Lena) both passed away many years ago, while the man who’d originally built the car, Jean-Claude Hrubon, had sadly died just days before me securing the deal on the car. His first mechanic, Claude Plisson, had also followed after I had just tracked him down...

That made Giraud the last man to find, and again it took time, but fortunately I did visit him and his wife Christine in their beautiful house on the outskirts of Paris a few years ago. Giraud had not only been the team's boss, he was also the man who'd sacrificed his Morris Cooper ‘S’ to have the Marcos built and the man who paid for all the expenses! 

He was 81 when we met in December 2018 and his memories about the events were crystal clear. He'd also kept records in little notebooks writing out all his expenses for every year. We found both the Cooper 'S' base vehicle as the Mini Marcos shell back in them easily enough. Giraud even had the original Marcos brochure with prices scribbled in French francs on it. Next came out a map with documentation, pictures and letters. Some of these were from Marcos boss Jem Marsh, who wanted to have the car on display at the 1967 Racing car Show. With Giraud speaking hardly any English and Marsh hardly speaking any French, communication between the two men proved a challenge, but it worked out well thanks to Marsh' secretary - Miss SM Davis - who spoke French. She wrote these letters with Marsh simply signing them off and the car made it to the show (I'm still looking for more photographs). Monsieur Giraud allowed me to copy all of the correspondence, including a hand written list of all the other people involved at the Le Mans project. His brother was one of the ‘chronos’ and they had some people standing along several corners of the track to keep on eye on the little car. 

Last but not least he told me they had overalls made with Mini Marcos patches sewed on them. I’d seen these on a few historical photographs and had thought of remaking these also, but now he showed me two of the original spare patches, one that was handed over to me. It was a truly wonderful meeting.

With Hubert Giraud's death a chapter in the Mini Marcos' rich racing history has ended. I wish his wife and children all the best. Repose en paix a un grand monsieur.

Giraud with a model of the 1966 Le Mans Mini Marcos. He was the team boss and backer
Picture Jeroen Booij

Giraud in 1967 with his brother Bernard and the two Le Mans cars built by Hrubon: the 1966 Mini Marcos and the 1967 Hrubon Thélème on the right. The Marcos was repainted at this stage to match the Hrubon
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A letter from Marcos Cars to confirm the Marcos' appearance at the '67 Racing Car Show
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Hubert Giraud (right) with his wife Christine and myself just outside Paris in December 2018
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 30 August 2021

An ABC Tricar in France

Another ABC Tricar has resurfaced, this time in Cazouls-lès-Béziers, southern France, which makes it the second that I've heard of outside of the UK. The car comes with a massive Roadhog front spoiler and is offered for sale in one very curious ad. The seller writes:

"ABC manufactured 17 to 24 (3 first partially steel prototypes, 4 with Clubman style nose and 17 full fiberglass bodied cars) Minis with three wheels." I have no idea where that information comes from and I'd love to be educated here but as far as I know there was just one steel prototype (more about that here and here).

But let's not get carried away and continue with what the seller writes:
"I have the French CG (carte grise - the French registration paper) in my name. I never intended to sell it (there is restoration work on it) but I could well use the money for a real estate project. I don't have a lot of photos because I prefer people to come and see for themselves. The price (or close offer), is of course given its rarity and originality (and because it's more durable than a Mini given the fiberglass body). All enthusiasts know that the older the Mini, the more rust, the higher the price... this will not be the case here." Again, I'm not so sure about that and can only ad that the 15,500 euros asking price seems rather steep!

And he goes on: "Do not contact me hoping for a new vehicle, if ever this is the case with a Mini? It's the paperwork that's worth the money, not so much the restoration, which is not expensive for an enthusiast who does not count his hours, but very little in relation to its rarity and the fact that it is beautiful and correctly registered in France. As such it is not a kit car (impossible to register a foreign kit car for years, otherwise I would have had a bunch!), but a brand / an officially recognized manufacturer. An obscure tricycle is not necessarily worth much even if it is super rare, but here it is the fabulous Mini, one of the most popular cars of all time. It took me 6 years to find one (found it 5 years ago) and none have appeared for sale since. I was planning to put a classic front (and get rid of the wide kit) and paint it in a pearly white with gold accents and rent it out for weddings for Mini fans."

How about that? It's good to see it never the less and I have now also added it to the list of ABC Tricars that I know of (here). Thanks all for the tips.

A modified ABC Tricar is seen here in southern France. And it's for sale, too
Picture Leboncoin

Friday 27 August 2021

Bulanti straight from the moulds

A rare picture taken in Annangrove, Australia in 1971, where Brian Rawlings built his Bulanti at the time. Rawlings' workshop Bulant Motors was located next to Amaroo Park raceway in New South Wales so track testing wasn’t too much of a hassle. 

Apart from the aluminium prototype only two more production cars were made with fibreglass bodies and I think the one seen here has to be one of these. Is the white car on the second pictures the same? The last picture was sent to me some years ago and I don't know its source, so do let me know if it's yours. More Bulanti articles can be found here. 

A rare Bulanti is made in Annangrove, Australia in 1971
Picture Mark A McGuire / Aussie Independant Car Community

Same car or another? Just three Bulantis were made 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Thursday 26 August 2021

Crayford Cameo: any survivors?

Crayford Engineering of Kent were the number one in Mini convertible conversions, building them from as early as 1961 up until as late as 1983. They turned a number of Mini Clubman's in convertibles in the early 1970s also, which they called the Crayford Cameo. From their press statement: 

"The Cameo is the latest convertible variant based on the Mini theme. It is the result of many years of development and production by Crayford and utilises the very latest chassis installation to ensure maximum torsional rigidity. The rear windows remain in place in their original form with opening clasp permitting full ventilation as on the original saloon, and the convertible top folds down in one easy action." The conversion alone came at 195 pounds.

I have some PR pictures of the car but have never seen one in the flesh. Are there any survivors at all?

The Crayford Cameo convertible was based on a 1970s Mini Clubman
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

A black hood was standard but all the cars I have pictures of have white ones, like this FHV 167J
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

The same car again, now with Crayford boss David MacMullan posing in 1971
Picture Crayford Convertible Car Club

And yet another, judging by the colour. But who ever saw a survivor of the Cameo?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday 20 August 2021

Making the Mini Shark (2)

Yesterday you could see pictures showing the building process of the one-off Mini Shark, designed and built by Terry Lee between 1969 and 1974 (here), today some more information on that car.

Lee made the body design in carton board but chose fibreglass to make the real thing. That was something he regretted afterwards, or so he told me: "It was an awful lot of work and the insurance didn’t like it”. It's also the reason why the later Mini Beavers that he built came with steel bodies. 
But with its yellow paint, square headlights and a sharply chopped-off tail with Mk1 Escort lights and painted in contrasting satin black the finished Mini Shark did look rather nice.

Once Lee had it on the road the Mini Shark was tested and received a brand new registration in 1974: 'OWT 694M'. Lee used it for several years before he sold it and he told me he believed the car no longer exists when I visited him in Leeds some 10 years ago. However, a picture of it did appear in the 1990s, when the car was supposedly found in Glasgow, Scotland, in a stripped state. Could it still survive? Who knows more about it? 

Once finished Mrs. Lee naturally had to pose with the car her husband designed and built
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

The Mini Shark's body was made of fibreglass - something mister Lee regretted afterwards
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

OWT 694M - the only Mini Shark - is seen here together with a Mini Beaver, also built by Lee
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

The car's Mini engine was a 1000 sourced from a Mini Van and placed at the rear
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Flip back and flip front. Behind the latter the petrol tank and battery hid
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Interior with lots and lots of switches, gauges and lights. Note Shark logo on wheel, too
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Terry Lee 10 years ago in August 2011, when I interviewed him about the Mini Shark and Mini Beaver
Picture Jeroen Booij

This picture shows the car survived in Glasgow as late as in the 1990s. Where is it now?
Picture Autopuzzles.com

Thursday 19 August 2021

Making the Mini Shark in 1969 (1)

Back from holidays and ready to treat you to more exploits, new and old, from the land of Mini based (sports) cars. How about the one-off Mini Shark? It was built between 1969 and 1974 by Terry Lee of Leeds, who was later also responsible for the Mini Beaver in a quantity of seven. 

Work on the Shark started with the acquisition of a much-corroded Mini Van in '69. Lee took the mechanicals out and placed the front subframe with its 1000 engine now placed into the back of a chassis frame he’d welded from square tubing. Next, he started making a body from carton board, at first in the shape of a coupe with gullwing doors. Construction these to work properly proved to be a bit too difficult and Lee decided to turn it into a roadster with tiny little doors and a soft top instead. The eventual body was made in fibreglass and did materialize, too. More on the finished Mini Shark later this week.

The base for so many Mini based cars: a tired Mini Van bought for scrap money
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Get rid of that rusty body and re-use all the bits that are still okay. It's easy! Well, to some
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Lee made a chassis from steel square tubing and started work on a body in carton board
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Gullwing doors were very much the fashion of the late 1960s, so that's what he needed, too!
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Mrs. Lee posing with the mock-up body in carton board, still with its gull wing doors...
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

But these doors proved to be one little bridge too far for the young designer / builder...
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

...And so the Mini Shark was to become a roadster with tiny doors and a hardtop instead
Picture Terry Lee / Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Happy holidays!

I'm off on holidays and won't be reading my messages for some time. Only call me when you've found the Lawther GT or Saga, the Killeen K16 or one of the Butterfield Musketeers. Well, okay, you can call me when you found any long-lost Mini derivative. I hope you will enjoy the summer, happy Holidays!

Metal flake orange in the sun - a gorgeous Siva Buggy on the beach
Original picture by Nick Broom, imaging by Jeroen Booij

Monday 2 August 2021

Sludgerunner and the Summer of '76

One of the people I've been corresponding with for years now is Tim Harber, who's owned more Mini derivatives than most of us and some of them were real oddballs - take the Sludgerunner. It's been described in Maximum Mini 3, but here is some more straight from Tim:

"Hi Jeroen, I’ve had other Mini derivatives over the years but none as epic as the car known as the Sludgerunner that I had from about 1976-1990. In the mid-seventies the guys at Club Equipment in Mitcham in Surrey were well into Minis and made some special tools for the car like clutch pullers. They decided to do the Lands’ End to John O’Groats trial and constructed the car - within a week! It had a tubular spaceframe with alloy skin pop-riveted on, with two Mini subframes, with the engine in the back connected to the gearchange by routing it underneath the motor via a rigid rod with the remote housing turned back to front. This lost it valuable ground clearance but it was high in the air as the suspension arms had been lengthened to give about a foot (30cm) of wheel travel with adjustable height cones. This also made the suspension quite soft, which was in turn a blessing as the seats were just square tube frame with alloy skin covering and a thin waterproof cushion offering a small degree of comfort but were surprisingly comfortable. The whole car was made very solidly with strong mudguards so it could get pulled out when it got stuck in a hole. It did the trial successfully but by the time I encountered it in about 1976, it had passed to another owner who took it to Malta. It had been abandoned in the open for a while, so I had to get everything unseized and recommissioned. One of the things I did fit for ease of entry was a Momo quick release steering wheel which was tinged with sadness as I had got it from the workshops of Graham Hill after he died. I was working for Fiat at the time and we were helping out with his F1 team efforts. All the top team members died and I was let loose in the workshops to buy anything I wanted. I also remember having a speedo cable made (which had never worked in its life due to lack of cable) – it was 9 feet long as the gearbox was in the back. For headlights I bought a pair of dipping Oscar headlights from John Brown wheels as I worked round the corner from them at one stage."

"In the hot summer of 1976 when it didn’t rain in most of the UK for months and several reservoirs dried up, my girlfriend and me set off with a borrowed WW2 tent, camping stuff and some tools. I fitted three extra storage boxes and a trunk on the roof. We aimed on going to the Lake District and then to Ben Nevis and beyond in Scotland. However, the rain gods on the West side of Scotland had not been informed of the dry summer. And boy, did it rain. The tent leaked for England so it turned into a bit of an endurance test, especially as I had had a hood made that directed the rain inwards along the top of the windscreen. After several days, we decided to drive to the drier east side of the country and having got through Edinburgh central okay, we headed off. In the countryside east of Edinburgh, the main rear suspension shaft broke, probably as a result of carrying an extra 10kg of water on top of all of our luggage. This dropped the car down in one corner and presented me with a big problem as it was a non-standard part. I was able to phone Club Equipment from a call box a mile away for advice as to what to fix (no mobile phone or breakdown service available). We camped the night by the side of the road and I got a bus into Edinburgh the next day to get a suitable bolt - not quite the right spec but it did the job and we got running again. We saw some epic sights in the North East of England which made up for it a bit, but we never attempted a long trip again. I kept it for quite a while until in about 1987 a customer friend asked if I wanted to sell it. I didn’t but I agreed to lend it to him. He fitted a 1380 motor and painted it red and fitted Weller wheels so it remained fairly funky but in a more 80’s mode. By the late 1980’s I had four children and had moved to the countryside in Gloucestershire and hadn’t used it for quite a while so I let it go to a customer called Julian who I knew as he had opened up a Mini spares shop in Surrey and it quietly moved out of my life. Something tells me it must be lurking somewhere!"

Summer of '76 - sun still shining here as in most of the UK. But not where Tim and his girl went to...
Picture Tim Harber

Sludgerunner had been built in a week by Club Equipment in Mitcham, Surrey. It had done Land's End-John O'Groats and a trip to Malta before Tim took it over
Picture Tim Harber

"The whole car was made very solidly with strong mudguards so it could get pulled out when it got stuck in a hole"
Picture Tim Harber

"We set off with a borrowed WW2 tent, camping stuff and some tools. I fitted three extra storage boxes and a trunk on the roof"
Picture Tim Harber

"Boy, did it rain. The tent leaked so it turned into a bit of an endurance test..."
Picture Tim Harber

Never afraid to own daring vehicles, Tim also had a half-share in a TVR Griffith at the same time
Picture Tim Harber

By the late 80’s a man named Julian who ran a Mini parts shop in Surrey took over Sludgerunner. Where is 'FMP 714B' now?
Picture Tim Harber