Thursday, 27 January 2022

Faded beauty: a Mini Margrave in Italy

Palmer Caputo of Rome is a great Mini enthusiast who built a number of luxuriously equipped Minis for the Italian market under the Palmerspeed name. He told me many years ago he also owned a Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave and I have been pestering him about that ever since. And so it was a great surprise when last year he finally sent me some pictures of the car!

The blue Margrave is fully deseamed and comes with ivory leather interior but - it must be said - is looking pretty sorry for itself, too. Palmer added: "It is necessary to make a complete restoration because it has many rust problems!" It is registered 'PGP 920Y', which tells us it is based on a 1979 Austin Mini with 1275cc power. Colour scheme and some details make it look quite similar to Elton John's car, but that was registered 'NOB 209M', which surely has to make that a different car..? Who knows more about this faded beauty?

UPDATE 14:00 - Jens Christian Lillelund writes: "Elton John's car was scrapped many many years ago - great shame he gave it away in a raffle. The glass fiber wheel arches survived on another coachbuilt Mini - not sure were the rest ended up? Some hoarder or on a fake car - who knows..?"

   

Palmer Caputo's Wood & Pickett Mini Margrave in Italy. It has seen better days!
Picture courtesy Palmer Caputo

It's registered PGP 920Y, which would make it a 1979 Austin Mini. Clubman GT base surely?
Picture courtesy Palmer Caputo

The same car when it was still in the UK. Who knows more about it?
Picture courtesy Palmer Caputo

Elton John's Mini Margrave, as spotted by Alfred Bielefeld in London in 1976
Picture Alfred Bielefeld

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Status 365 - let's register them

When a Status 365 is being offered for sale it causes a bit of a storm in my mailbox, which was the case last week. Thanks all for letting me know! Maximum Mini-fan, 365-Owner and overall good guy Richard Hawcroft was one of them and he also sent me a list of cars he knows about. We compared it with what I collected over the years and thought we'd share the information here. 

Richy wrote: "As far as I know, the last time a Status 365 was taxed for use on UK roads was 1995! A proper registered Status seems to be a rare thing. Maybe you should put a shout out on your site to see if anyone has photos, reg numbers etc. It might wrinkle a few more out the woodwork!"

Good idea. Indeed it does seem that quite a few Status 365s were bought but never built. Apart from Richard's info and mine I also found something in Status boss Brian Luff's old files, which I copied years ago, giving another few records: two of them in one and the same place: Newtownards in Northern-Ireland plus one in Bridgewater, Somerset. I'll see if I can find out more about these, too. Meanwhile, if you have more information on any of these cars or on any other Status 365, please let us know.

UPDATE 1 - 10:30 - First result in! The owner of the empty shell that’s seen with the Scamps, John Keith Halliday, drops a line. It is properly registered as a 1977 Status also. Reg: 'PJG 291S'. Thanks John!

UPDATE 2 - 26 January 2022 - The owner of 'ALJ 517K' calls in, too. He writes: "Hi Jeroen, Status 365 'ALJ 517K' is in my garage and might even see the road one day if I ever find time and bother. It does drive, but still wants a lot of work before it'll go on the road. So let's call it a project for now"


'AMH 415A' is a Status 365 that's for sale right now. Again
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Ebay

'ALJ 517K', also seen for sale several times in the last decade
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

This is supposedly David Paden's car and registered '7445 GZ'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

'BUT 18B', a mystery rally car as raced by a Peter Banham in 1976
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Cars & Car Conversions

'OO 5973' is owned by Colin Carvel of Cornwall and is mid-engined!
Picture Jeroen Booij

Previously on the road but not anymore. Gerard 'Gez' Hughes' car
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Gerard Hughes

Kevin Murray did a wonderful job in restoring his car!
Picture Tony Bucknall

An empty shell, seen on Ebay in 2016. Where is it now?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Ebay

'SMJ 487R' is the car of Richard Hawcroft, properly registered as a Status
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / Richard Hawcroft

Factory demonstrator, brochure car - once seen with registration 'THS 553'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive / The Filby Files

This shell has never been built - it's owned by Tim Harber now
Picture Jeroen Booij archive/ Tim Harber

Unknown shell seen in a garden with two Scamps! Who knows more?
UPDATED: Owner: John Keith Halliday, registration: 'PJG 291S'
Picture John Keith Halliday

Newtownards, Northern-Ireland supposedly hides two more Status 365s
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

As there is one in Bridgwater, Somerset also, registered 'NWO 824R'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Friday, 21 January 2022

Mystery Mini derivative (80)

Mystery Mini derivative number 80 (!) comes from regular contributor Scott Barrett and it's as mysterious as can be. He wrote: Hi Jeroen, Somebody with better eyesight than me has put the registration number (CRE 263K) of this unusual buggy-type car into the DVLA computer, and it says it is a 1971 998cc Austin, so quite possibly Mini-based. Any ideas? Best, Scott" 

I have no idea whatsoever but certainly do like the looks of this creature. The picture was made by Klaus Hiltscher at London's Piccadilly Circus in 1976 and Klaus was kind enough to share it online. I have also zoomed in on the car and brightened it up a little on the computer and I do believe the registration is indeed 'CRE 263K'. Who knows more?


A bright and sunny day at Piccadilly Circus in 1976. But what's that car?
Picture Klaus Hiltscher

It seems to be registered CRE 263K, which is allocated to a 998cc Austin of 1971...
Picture Klaus Hiltscher

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Mick Jagger's Mini Margrave - shrouded in myth

Let's have a look at yet another celebrity owned coachbuilt Mini that appears to have gone up in thin air: Mick Jagger's 1967 Austin Cooper 'S'. It's a car, which received the Wood & Pickett treatment in 1967. Oddly there aren't any photographs of Jagger with the car showing the registration but the Mini is widely believed to have been 'OGO 668E'. It was painted black (ha!) or a very dark colour and apart from the usual W&P bells and whistles came with full Webasto roof, shadowlite glass and chrome trim on its sides not seen very often.

There's a well-known picture of the car being parked outside Wood & Pickett's premises and I happen to have another shot of the same car at the same place. The only few pictures of Jagger with the car were taken on 18 April 1967 when he arrived at London Heathrow from Athens, but these don't show very much of the vehicle. Then there's a number of photos taken on 1 August '67 taken outside the law courts in London where Jagger was heard for drug possession, but these only show his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull with the car. It is believed to be Jagger's but that's not confirmed and again there's no plate visible. Have a look at the pictures below and let me know if I missed out on anything here. 

Below also some links to other articles about celebrity owned coachbuilt Minis that appear to have vanished from the earth...

John Lennon's Radford Mini here
Lady Di's Daly Runabout Mini here
The Beach Boys' Mini Surfers here
The Bee Gees Broadspeed GT here
Roy Boulting's Radford Mini here
Cliff Richard's W&P Mini here
Françoise Sagan's Mini cabriolet here


Wood & Pickett Ltd, early 1967. The car nearest to the camera is believed to be Jagger's
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

 OGO 668E again, now in a frontal shot at W&P's. It's an Austin Cooper 'S' 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

18 April 1967: Mick Jagger at London Heathrow with his Mini. Webasto roof is just visible
Picture Daily Mirror / Jeroen Booij archive

1 August 1967. Marrianne Faithfull with supposedly Jagger's Mini
Picture Alamy

Please pose! Webasto roof clearly visible again as well as Cosmic wheels and chrome trim
Picture Mirrorpix

And now smile, love! Shadowlite glass gives no clue about the Mini's inside...
Picture Mirrorpix

...Or does it? Is that a black interior? Note Faithfull's cigarette also
Picture Mirrorpix

Oh, how many pictures do you guys want to take?!
Picture Mirrorpix

Another Wood & Pickett (Morris) Mini but with some striking similarities including the brightwork
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And yet another with the same chrome side strips. Plus shadowlite glass, wing mirrors, Webasto...
This one comes with more modifications though, including deseaming and rectangular headlights. Jagger's car in a later stage, made to look like a Mk2 and re-registered..? Who can tell..?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Monday, 17 January 2022

The cars of Alexander Fraser: Lion buses and more

Over to the third (and last for now) installment about Alexander 'Sandy' Fraser's vehicles, with some more great inventiveness from Lincolnshire. For Frazer didn't just build the AF Spider (click here) and Grand Prix (click here), there was quite a lot more. It started with a fire engine loosely based on a 1934 vehicle and built for children's rides. I don't have any pictures of that, but I understand it was used for many years "And to the best of my knowledge it is still doing just that!", Sandy told me in 2009. Who knows it goes even on today? 

The fire engine was followed by a steam engine but things become of interest here with the build of a 1928 Hants & Dorset Leyland Lion PLSC3 single deck bus, made by Fraser in an approximate 5/8 scale. This was powered by a Mini engine and used as the Fraser's family transport for a number of years! Taking it out with the family must have been something and it proved to be such a hit that several more similar vehicles were made. The next four were open topped Leyland G-type double deckers of which Fraser had used a picture as the only reference. There was also a model of the B-type double decker as built by the London General Omnibus Company in 1910. A hybrid of the two types of buses followed, too.

But there was also a WW1 RAF Leyland truck and this came in a slightly larger scale then the previous 5/8 projects. Last in line was a duo of miniature AEC Matadors. Sandy said: "Quite a small scale, but boy, could they pull! This was down to a 1275cc Mini type engine, very low gearing and 4-wheel drive" Yes - four-wheel-drive! I'd love to see how that worked. 

Last but perhaps not least I've had some comments about the picture credits used in my previous Alexander Fraser articles, and hope to have amended these now to anyone's approval. I must add though that back in 2009, when I visited Sandy Fraser to photograph one of his cars and interview him for Maximum Mini 2, he was kind enough to let me copy much of his own files and photographs and so that is how they came into my possession. It goes for the pictures copied in below too.


This gives you a good idea about the size of these buses - that's Sandy Fraser with the 
Leyland Lion single decker - the Fraser's family car at the time!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

There's the basis for it under construction, with the Mini engine clearly visible 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Next step: frame looks about ready to be clad with an aluminium body. Test drive first!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And the finished product: the 1928 Hants & Dorset Leyland Lion PLSC3 single deck bus...
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

...But now in an approximate scale of 5/8th. Detailing is superb and it is road registered
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Mind you: this was the Fraser's family car for a few years in the 1980s!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Imagine being brought to school in this! That's Fraser with two of his three children and dog
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And there was more to follow. Lion Omnibus on the left and AEC Matador in the middle, I think
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

I think this is one of two AEC Matador miniatures built by Fraser. Mini powered and 4WD!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And this is the 1910 London General Omnibus Company B-type double decker  
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And why not tow one Mini based miniature bus with the other?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Two of Sandy's buses made it to television also. I think this was for Blue Peter?
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

And he kept on inventing. This February 1982 clipping mentions his invention of the automatic petrol pump key, which may well have been the very start of unattended petrol stations 
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Sandy Fraser was a truly lovely man and a fantastic engineer also
Picture Jeroen Booij

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Eat this! The Mini powered Opel prototype

Now this is an unusual story! It's about an Opel that was originally planned to be built in Romania under dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's reign after a 675 million dollar investment in a new factory that would produce 150.000 of these cars a year. That's a weird story on its own. But how about the prototype being powered by a Mini drivetrain..?

My German colleague Frank B. Meyer found out about this fascinating tale, researched it, interviewed some of the people involved and got it published. I read it and simply had to drop Frank a line the other day. He was kind enough to send me the only remaining picture of the prototype and allowed me to quote from his article, especially from the now 84-year old former chief design at Opel George Gallion. Gallion worked in Rüsselsheim under Alexander Cunningham - the big Opel boss at the time and designed several milestone cars such as the original Manta and Monza. And then there was this Mini based prototype, meant to persuade the Romanians in investing hundreds of millions in a new factory. Gallion about building it in the early 1970s: "We bought a scrap Mini for 200 German Marks or something like that. We got rid of all of the body parts and fabricated a new car around the Mini's chassis. It did run and drive, as we drove it around the place." One of his colleagues dared taking it up to the headquarters to the great GM-boss of the time: Bob Lutz. Gallion: "Lutz was kind of impressed, but what we really needed was a go from Detroit. And Cunningham knew that chances were small that they would get that. Gallion: "To impress the GM bosses we had an advertisement agency make some sort of promotional little film about this compact Opel. Cunningham would show it upon his next Detroit visit, together with 1:5 and 1:1 models, saying "The boys in Rüsselsheim have been playing around with this idea". And so it went. Cunningham showed them all to his superiors in Detroit. Gallion: "And, bingo! They loved the idea and gave us the green light!". And so Opel's team was sent to Romania in the winter of 1975 or 1976, met a governmental delegation in one of Ceaușescu's hunting castles, drank lots of slivovitsj brandy and were accompanied by a long-legged 'tour guide' named Natascha who turned out to be a spy. But nothing more was heard from Romania after the trip and the whole Romanian project was eventually canned. Opel didn't give up though and many years later, the car did see production: it had become the original Opel Corsa, built in a new factory in Spain.
 
A small footnote came from Frank B. Meyer when he sent the image: "Dear Jeroen, the history of the image is a little complicated: it's a screenshot from the film that Opel people produced in order to convince GM to build a small car. George Gallion had the film at home; Lutz Keiss, a journalist, borrowed it, took the screenshots – fortunately, because Keiss told me that the film was later destroyed during a flood in his basement. Stay safe and curious!" Thank you very much Frank!


This is the Mini powered Opel prototype, built for the planned Romanian Opel factory. The picture is a screenshot from original film footage that is lost forever
Archiv George Gallion

Opel man George Gallion with one of his designs: the 1975 Opel Manta GT/E
Picture Opel PR


UPDATE 14 January 2022: One keen reader knows of another picture of this car on the world wide web, which I have copied in below. It's not very clear but does give another good view on the car with the Mini engine visible. The source is a website about the Opel Corsa A-series' history, click here

Another picture of the prototype, found on a website dedicated to the Opel Corsa
Picture opel-corsa-a.com

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

The cars of Alexander 'Sandy' Fraser: AF Grand Prix

Over to the next step in Alexander 'Sandy' Fraser's career as a motor manufacturer. After the AF Spider (click here) came the AF Grand Prix. That car was built in the same spirit but slightly differently designed and more cost-effectively made, making it also cheaper in price. Where the Spider had been offered for £850, the Grand Prix came at £650. 

Fraser: "I did not redesign the new car very much. It was just a matter of keeping the costs down by making a few subtle alterations. I was really trying to aim for a younger type of market than before. Previously it was really a rich man's fun car". The most notable changes were the round cycle wings, the rounded-off back, a different hood design and a bench seat rather than two separate bucket seats.

Sandy told me he made four Grand Prix three-wheelers plus one four-wheeler variant. The second three-wheeler was a customer-built car and he told: "It was the quickest car that I built, with 0-60 timed at just over 5 seconds. According to the owner 9000 rpm in top was achieved once just to see what it would do. This corresponds to 156 mph at which the airflow was said to be 'most uncomfortable'!" Now, let's have a look at the cars that I have found pictures of. I'd love to hear from you if you own any of these, or the one that I seem to have missed out on.

YTL 37L - AF Grand Prix - Green

NMR 179R  - AF Grand Prix - Blue

CMR 266V - AF Grand Prix - Red

CMR 267V - AF Grand Prix 4-wheeler - Maroon


Sandy Fraser with daughter and three of the five AF Grand Prix' he built, the 4-wheeler at the back. This lovely image reminds me very much of Roald Dahl's great story 'Danny the Champion of the World'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

May 1972: the AF Grand Prix is launched and makes it to the local press
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Nine years later Sandy was still offering them, as this March 1980 clipping proves
Picture Jeroen Booij archive 

Motor test drove the AF Spider in July 1971 when Sandy told them about his plans for the AF Grand Prix. The magazine's artist Brian Hatton then made this drawing
Picture The Motor / Jeroen Booij archive

This is the AF Grand Prix brochure car, seen with garage plate '157 DD'
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

YTL 37L - AF Grand Prix. Is this also the brochure car / demonstrator?
Picture Peter Frost

NMR 179R - another AF Grand Prix, originally blue, later blue and black
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

CMR 166V - Cooper 'S' powered AF Grand Prix, beautifully finished in red
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

CMR 267V - the only AF Grand Prix with four wheels
Picture Jeroen Booij archive