Saturday 31 December 2022

Barry Stimson dies at 82

A real shocker on the last day of the year: Barry Stimson died at the age of 82 yesterday. Barry was the man behind a great number of designs, many of them Mini based. Best-known of these was the Stimson Mini Bug, but there were also the Stimson Safari Six, Stimson Scorcher, Stimson Trek and many more. Apart from cars there were also boats, camper vans, bikes and even the odd amphibian or tracked vehicle, most of them coming to life in the 1970s and 1980s. He once told me: "Oh, there were plenty of other plans, I mean, I had some sort of design diarrhea at the time." Some of his ideas never reached production while others made it to the prototype stage. But apart from being a very prolific designer, he was a lovely and funny man in the first place who was always happy to see you and dish up some good stories from his many travels and all the vehicles he used on them.

Barry's wife Caroline told me that in September he'd had a stroke and had to have a blood clot removed from his brain. This morning she wrote: "Hi Jeroen. Just wanted to let you know that Barry passed away peacefully last night" I will start the new year with a series of articles about this very special man. Meanwhile, I wish all the best to Caroline and the rest of the Stimson family.

Barry Stimson with one of his more controversial designs: the 1976 Stimson Scorcher
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

He designed anything from amphibians to six-wheelers, here the Stimson Safari Six with its creator
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And working on the Stimson Trek here: his personal favourite vehicle design
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This was his best-known and best-selling Stimson: the Stimson Mini Bug
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

 But there were many more, not all of them Mini powered and not all reaching production
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Apart from cars Barry had a great love for traveling. Here at age 17 in Venice on his way to Africa
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Caroline and Barry a couple of years ago at their home in Portsmouth. He will be much missed!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Friday 23 December 2022

Happy Christmas 2022

2022 Is almost over and it has been another interesting year. We've seen the return of several events, which was rather nice after a long break. Also: exiting Mini derivatives continue to be found in barns, sheds and what else have we. Regarding the Maximum Mini stables there is unfortunately very little progress on the Le Mans Mini Marcos project. The Ogle SX1000 on the other hand is coming along very nicely.
For now I wish all of you a happy Christmas and the best wishes for 2023. Thank you for your support and please do bring out your vote for the 'Best Find of 2022' here. Happy Christmas!

Not one but two Australian Buckle Monacos in conditions they are unlikely to meet!
Original photograph Planai Classic, picture editing Jeroen Booij

Thursday 22 December 2022

Maximum Mini now in MiniWorld magazine

If you've read MiniWorld magazine's latest issue, you may have come across editor Karen Drury's foreword: "We welcome Jeroen Booij to the MiniWorld team with the first of his From the Archives articles on significant and unusual Minis. The first article focuses on the Humberstone Design Mini Clubman. One of these Minis was supposedly commissioned for Julie Andrews by husband Blake Edwards, which is really rather cool"

Yes, I am now a MiniWorld contributor and Karen's words do make me feel very welcome. There are some great stories to follow: ones that I've always wanted to write but never found the right outlet for - too long for the Maximum Mini books and -weblog, too specialized for the non-specialist motoring magazines. So it was about time to team up! The Humberstone story is a good example and Karen and the team have taken out no less than 8 pages for it. Another cool feature in the same issue is that of the German-built Broadspeed GT replica. I'd say: buy that magazine to do yourself a little favour for Christmas this year.


MiniWorld's January 2023 issue features a lovely Broadspeed GT replica...
Picture Jeroen Booij

...As well as my first 'From the Archives' article. This one about the Humberstone Mini
Picture Jeroen Booij

It's an intriguing story about a 'what could have been' challenger to the W&P Margrave
Picture Jeroen Booij

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Lynton Racing's Unipower GT demonstrator

When I bought some brochures and other old paperwork recently, I was surprised to find it included a brochure from a company named Lynton Racing. That seemed a familiar name, but from what again..? 

I learned that Lynton Racing was set up by Colin Lyster and Paul Brothers in 1967. The company focussed on motorbikes in the first place and even developed a 500cc two-cylinder bike engine with double overhead cams for grand prix racing, of which the block originated from... a Hillman Imp! Lyster and Brothers knew their Imps, or so it seems, as they also tuned a number of cars using engines with sixteen-valve heads. Conversions of the Imp engine in several stages of tuning were marketed in the late 1960s. 

But - here it comes - they were a Unipower GT agent also. I found a 1968 ad, which mentions: "Appointed North London Agent! For this most desirable car. Demonstration car available." The folder I purchased contains a version of the Unipower GT brochure I'd never seen before, but also a letter dated July 1969 to an insurance company which apparently had no clue and asked them for more information about the Mini based sports car. Lynton Racing wrote to them: "As regards repairs, etc., the cost of these is not expensive as the construction is fibre-glass, which is cheaper to repair than metal" Ha! The letter also tells us the car concerned was the 998cc Cooper powered variant, but it remained a mystery to me which car exactly it was about.

And so I asked Gerry Hulford, who runs the Unipower GT Owner's Club & Register. He wrote: "Lynton Racing were not very successful in selling any cars, in fact they only sold their own demonstrator. So just one sale I’m afraid. The registration number was YLN 4G." That seems to make sense as that car was registered in July 1969, the same date as on the letter. Gerry owned the car himself at one point but it had a 1275 engine, which makes him wonder if it is the same after all: "They did not specify any particular car and indeed based on the quote being for a 998cc Cooper engine car, would not have been for their demonstrator, which was 1275cc Cooper 'S' powered. So to make such a link would be unsubstantiated. This is how misunderstandings are created. The current owner wishes, as another couple of owners also have, to remain anonymous. They kindly trust me to respect that wish." 
Well, that's it for now then.

A nice little brochure from Lynton Racing of Fortis Green, London, dated July 1969
Picture Jeroen Booij

It contains correspondence to an insurance company regarding their Unipower GT
Picture Jeroen Booij

Lynton Racing were Unipower's north London agent but they didn't sell many cars
Picture Jeroen Booij

Lynton Racing concentrated mostly on motorbikes, developing this 'half-Imp' engine with DOHC head
 Picture Cycle World magazine

They also offered tuned Imp engines, just like Roger Nathan did, who's workshop was 'rear of Lynton Garage' as mentioned on the Costin-Nathan's brochure

'YLN 4G' was Lynton Racing's Unipower demonstrator. But also the only GT they sold?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Here it is from a magazine clipping. Unfortunately I have no further info about this picture
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

In the early 1990s it was seen in public several times, here at Prescott Hill I think
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And at Syon Park in 1991 where it joined three other Unipower GTs for a meeting
Picture Tim Carpenter

The car survives but hasn't been seen in public for a long time. It was last taxed in 1990
Picture Tim Carpenter

It's a lovely car and good to hear it's still around, although the owner wishes to remain anonymous
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday 19 December 2022

I'll be home for Christmas in a Jiffy

Got the Christmas shopping sorted? Thought of the Christmas crackers, the candles? brandy sauce? tooth picks? You may need to get some final preparations done to the car also, before embarking on the journey to family or friends. Colin McMullan took this picture last year in Portrush, Northern Ireland, while on his way to the MOT station with his Indespension Jiffy. Did he pass the test? Of course he did. Safe travels for now.

A Jiffy in snowy surrounding in Northern-Ireland's very north
Picture Colin McMullan

Friday 16 December 2022

Reptune Gullwing still in Canadian woods

Many years ago pictures of a Reptune Gullwing in a very sorry state were sent over to me (click here). The car, or what was left of it, was found by George Allen of Canada who stumbled upon it in the woods near Flesherton, northwest of Toronto. I wondered what happened to it and asked wether it could still be out there? 

Well, it is! Avid reader Miguel Plano, who lives in Canada himself, spotted the car being offered for sale together with more Minis and Mini parts all lying in the same wooded area. The seller is somewhat limited in his information, writing: "I have these Mini shells for sale, these are parts cars. Please send a message if you want parts or a complete shell." For the enthusiast, the asking price of 100 Canadian dollars cannot seem bad.

The Reptune's creator, the very colourful Dennis Prophet, passed away at the age of 87 back in 2017. Click here for a full obituary.

Still there: a rare Reptune Gullwing as made by the late Dennis Prophet
Picture Mark Adams

This may well have been its engine and front suspension, which were in last time
Picture Mark Adams

It is not the only Mini seen at the forest, north-west of Ontario in Canada
Picture Mark Adams

And there are more parts also. These are all for sale for just 100 dollars now
Picture Mark Adams

Another engine in what seems to be a shed or barn is included in the sale also
Picture Mark Adams

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Find of the Year 2022: the candidates

One of the traditions after almost 13 years of Maximum Mini online (!) has become the election of the 'Find of the Year'. Many barn-, shed-, garden- and field-finds have come along since day one and I've selected another five cool discoveries for this year's voting. 

As every year: to vote simply drop a message below or send me an e-mail if you like. The car with the most votes wins the prestigious title 'Maximum Mini Find of the Year 2022'. So... over to the 5 candidates:

Rare Mk1 Stimson Mini Bug, one-family owner since the early 1980s
Full story here

Unbuilt TiCi in the USA with links to some great Mini motoring heritage
Full story here

One of two Unipower GTs that were freed after long-term storage, this one in the UK
Full story here

Camber GT first heard about in 2011 but now finally photographed in its barn hiding
Full story here.

A one-off Hooper Mini Moke built for a knighted racehorse breeder
Full story here

Friday 9 December 2022

Mystery Mini derivative is a Napier. But what's that?

First there was this sketchy group picture with a bright green Mystery Mini Derivative (click here) in which reader Colin Baines recognized himself. Then there was a better picture of the thing dug up by Kees Plugboer which gave the registration away and with that a bit more info, too (click here). Now it's time for another shot, from Kees again, showing the rear of the car. 

The DVLA previously learned us that 'Q412 NTR' used to be registered as a 'Tourer' of 'Other British Makes' in July 1984, but by this time the system has it as a 1300cc Napier! Does that ring any bells to anyone here? I also noticed that it is remarkably close registered to another Mini derivative: a Langridge Navajo with the number 'Q413 NTR' (more here) and in an equally bright green colour, too. A coincidence? Or do these two cars have something in common after all?

First picture of the rear end of 'Q412 NTR', which turns out to be a Napier 1300
Picture courtesy Kees Plugboer

The only pictures of the thing date back to 1984 - also the year it was registered 
Picture courtesy Kees Plugboer

This Langridge Navajo must have been registered on the same day. A coincidence?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Mini Jem Estate: it still lives

Many years ago I wondered where the Mini Jem Estate could be that was also described in the Maximum Mini books and here on this very weblog. It did take another two years before I received an answer from the car's then-owner Steve Padfield, who wrote: "I own the prototype Mini Jem Estate you have listed, that I bought from Mike Brown. It is still safe and I hope to restore it one day but as usual there are more projects than time. I plan to paint it light blue once I have tackled the crazed gel coat as I have an unfortunate history with motor vehicles painted white. The interior will be light grey. Knowing it is such a rare car I will be restoring it as far as possible to original specification. Retirement is in the near future so perhaps then."

But it seems that Steve never got 'round to do it. I recently learned that the car was sold again with the new owner now also planning a restoration. It's still in the UK and it's not the only exiting Mini based car the current owner has. More to follow.

Mini Jem Estate is believed to be a factory-built prototype
Picture via Paul Wylde

The car has been languishing for ages, but the new is planning a restoration
Picture via Paul Wylde

The last pictures I saw of it date back to the 1990s. These are from this year
Picture via Paul Wylde

A Fellpoint car with chassis number RS M2 1076, which makes it an early Mk2
Engine was in last time I saw it (on photographs)
Picture via Paul Wylde

Friday 2 December 2022

The fantastic four

Not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 fine coachbuilt Minis are lined up in the showroom of Woodham Mortimer in Essex now, or in their own words: "The finest Collection of Minis in the world has now landed at our Chelmsford HQ". All four of them are stunning cars which certainly don't come cheap. If they do sell for the prices mentioned they will break all records. The cars are:

BGJ 947B
1964 Austin Cooper 'S' based Radford de Ville hatchback, sold new to the UK and seen in a number of period publications. Asking price £240,000.

1970 Morris Cooper 'S' based Radford / Freestone & Webb Mini de Ville hatchback, sold new to France. Asking price £155,000.

YYU 292H
1969 Morris Cooper 'S' based Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave, owned by a number of celebrities in the UK. Asking price £140,000.

LCV 236E 
1968 Morris Cooper 'S' based Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave, left hand drive and originally sold to the US. Asking price £140,000.

The fantastic four: coachbuilt Minis join at Woodham Mortimer's shop in Essex
Picture Woodham Mortimer

Thursday 1 December 2022

Ogles in Japan (2)

Allright, over to the Ogle SX1000s that can be found in Japan these days. To kick off with the first of them we can simply start with chassis number 1. This is the deep dark blue car registered 'BOO 799' that's been in the Mini Maruyama collection in Tokyo for over 30 years now. It is the ex-John Whitmore car (who bought it for his then-wife) but the car's early history is not for now. 

It was purchased in the late-1980s by mister Maruyama, who told me he bought it in restored condition from Church Green Engineering in Dorset, which some years later famously built replicas of the Broadspeed GT. Not everyone agrees though. One man told me: "I believe the person that owned it, when Miles Wilkins of Lotus Elite fame restored it, might have been a director of Church Green but that was a few owners before Maruyama acquired it." The engine is supposedly Downton tuned or at least it wears a Downton badge. It certainly remains a lovely car with its light interior and can be seen in Japanese classic car meetings occasionally.

UPDATE 2 December 2022: Neil Griffin adds: "The restoration of 'BOO' was undertaken by David Barraclough according to the Classic and Sportscar May 1983 article. Apparently it was bought from 'A lady in Pinner' in a somewhat dilapidated state."

'BOO 799' - chassis number 1 and ex-John Whitmore - when it was new
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Restored and shortly before embarking on a journey to Japan in the late-1980s
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Distinctive face with triple headlights! 'BOO' was upgraded to 'Super spec' at one stage
Picture via Colin Baines

Downton tuned or not? This is the car's engine bay as seen in Mini Maruyama's shop
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Reclining seats were unique to the 'Super' version. These were reupholstered recently
Picture Yutaro Onuki

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Mallalieu's Microdot - what could have been

It was only this week that I was made aware of an interesting article in the Oxford Mail dated 2017. An extract from it:

"Forty years ago in a garage in Wootton near Abingdon, a team of visionaries designed and built a hybrid electric car on a Mini chassis. They created the car of the future – then a Tory government adviser damned it to the annals of history. Noel Hodson, who lives in Headington with his wife Pauline, was managing director of Mallalieu Cars when in 1977, Aston Martin designer William Towns came to them with a new dream: building a car that would run off a battery. Mr Hodson said: "He was 30 years ahead of his time, but we had the men who could build these things by hand and there were very few workshops in the country that could." The team worked his designs up over the next two years. The result was the Microdot: a three-seater, petrol-electric hybrid measuring just 6ft 6ins long. In 1980, Mr Hodson said Mallalieu hosted a meeting with the Post Office Pensions Fund and other potential investors. But because Post Office pensions were at stake, the government also sent its own scientific advisor. Mr Hodson recalled: "He came along to this important meeting with all our investors and essentially he said 'this car couldn't work because it contravenes the second law of thermodynamics'." 

Click here for the whole article. 

Of course I wasn't there at the time when Towns and Hodson teamed up, but I believe the Microdot was already there when Towns approached Mallalieu Cars in the first place. As a matter of fact the car was unveiled at the 1976 Earls Court Motor Show in London as a styling exercise or ‘a bubble car for the 80s’. It was meant to use either Mini- or electric power. But it seems that Towns couldn't find a party to get it into production. Then in 1979 the collaboration with Mallalieu Cars was announced. They decided to relaunch the Microdot, now with Mini power and renamed Mallalieu Microdot. From a 1979 clipping: "Mallalieu Cars are to build a short run of prototypes for evaluation purposes. Intended to be running by mid-summer, the first of these new Microdots will feature a redesigned front to make room for a Mini power unit. Power units under consideration for further cars are a two-stroke marine unit and the small light-alloy Reliant four-cylinder. Electric power is no more than a faint possibility." Prices between £4- and £7,000 are mentioned.

Interestingly, the original prototype still exists and I photographed it in a beautiful condition several years ago, still unregistered and still in pristine motor show condition. But what happened to the Mallalieu Microdot prototypes? Thanks to Andrew MacLean as well as Tony Bucknall I did find out a little bit more. While Tony sent me a copy of an ad in which two of them were offered for sale from many years ago, Andrew had a few pictures of the cars taken at Mallalieu's premises in the early 1980s. One of them wears a plate 'DDD 29G'. What happened to these vehicles?

UPDATE 1 December 2022: "Hi Jeroen, thanks for the photo mentions on your Maximum Mini blog pages. Firstly, I think we aught to put a date with the advert cutting from Autotrader 21st-27th September 2000. Further to, a wee bit more technical info on the two unique battery-electric William Towns 'Golf Buggies' that I owned for a short while. They do bear a similar resemblance to the Microdot and use both front and rear Mini subframes with three rather large 12 Volt storage batteries stowed under the 3-abreast bench-seat. No doors, no heater, no lights, no windscreen wiper and but a simple lightweight plastic windscreen, no rear screen! Electric drive was supplied by a 10hp 72Volt DC Motor bolted directly on top of a Triumph Herald differential, which was positioned on a framework welded into the Mini front subframe! A cogged-cambelt type belt provided drive to the differential and thus to conventional Mini Automatic short driveshafts, hubs and brakes. It's top speed with just 36 Volts was somewhat pedestrian, but ideal for the golf course! The DDD registration number was borrowed from a Daimler 250 that I owned at the same time and placed on the Towns Golf Buggy for the photos. They were obviously never intended for road use! Hope this helps? Kindest regards, Andrew MacLean." It certainly does. Thank you very much!

This is the original 1976 Microdot concept car, designed and made by William Towns
Picture Jeroen Booij

I found it surviving in highly original state in a garage in Sussex several years ago now
Picture Jeroen Booij

This is a period picture of the very same car. It never reached production 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

But it nearly did! This is a prototype made by Mallalieu Cars of Oxfordshire
Picture courtesy Andrew Maclean

A number of power units were mentioned, among them the Mini's. Test rig seen here
Picture courtesy Andrew Maclean

But it all led to nothing. This ad offered 3 bodies and 2 chassis' for sale - 'Ideal petrol beater project'!
Picture through Tony Bucknall

Noel Hodson worked for Mallalieu Cars in the late 1970s when he was approached by Towns
Picture The Oxford Mail

What could have been: Microdots parked on the street next to a new apartment block
Picture courtesy Ahzar Architects